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2 August, 2012  ▪  Bohdan Butkevych

Letters from Angels

Cancer is a terrible diagnosis faced by hundreds of Ukrainian children every year. Shortly after they find out about their disease, they end up in cancer treatment facilities where they endure long, painful and challenging treatments. Cancer removes children from their normal lives and most friends forget about them; only their stressed out parents and doctors remain. All this happens at a time when each positive or negative emotion can tilt the scales to one side or another.

Letters From Angels is a volunteer initiative launched in Kyiv in 2010. Its activists are people who become friends to children undergoing lengthy treatments in hospitals. They send the young patients supportive letters and small gifts, come to hospitals to play games with them or help them financially, if they can afford it. Apart from helping children, their support aids parents who are often much more stressed out by their child’s disease than the child.

EMINE, CRIMEA: The girl had an osteosarcoma in her right upper arm. Following the surgery, she can hardly move her arm, so she often talks to her “angel” Liya on the phone

Once a week, a personal “angel” sends mail to the young patients. Little kids often get letters from their favourite cartoon characters. They believe in the friendship and see a fairy tale come alive. Older children and parents understand that the letters come from ordinary people. Still, they often find it surprising that a stranger cares about their problems, is willing to support them and does not disappear for long periods. The volunteers say that most children with cancer are much more courageous and confident than average children their age. And they love to have fun, although their jokes may sound far from funny to an outsider.

SEARCHING FOR A PERSONAL ANGEL: Every hospital involved in the project makes a waiting list of children who need support

The project covers five hospitals, including the National Cancer Institute, Kyiv City Hospital, Chornobyl Center, Kyiv Oblast Hospital and OKhMatDyt, a special children’s hospital in Kyiv. At the end of 2011, nearly 170 families had their own “angels.” Volunteers meet every Thursday. The project is on the web at

MIRACULOUS HEALING: Liuba from Ternopil Oblast (left) had throat cancer. Despite the fact that this type of cancer kills virtually everyone who has it, the girl was cured, although she is still in supportive therapy. Liuba is a wearing a mask because her immune system is very weak following chemotherapy

DRAWING TOGETHER: A visiting “angel” entertains a young patient of the National Cancer Institute with a catheter. Some “angels” write letters to children and meet with them if the little patients desire

BAGUETTE THE DOG: Volunteer Olena writes funny stories about her three dogs to a boy who loves canines. The angels’ key purpose is to entertain kids and lift their spirits during their battle with the fatal disease

CELEBRITY TIME: Liuba poses in a wig pretending to be an actress. Most children, especially girls, are extremely upset about the loss of their hair, so they wear hats or headscarves 

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