Ukrainian family escaping war moved to tears by Northampton man's fundraising for diabetic daughter

Dasha Makarenko, 10, who has type 1 diabetes and urgently needed medication after she fled Ukraine Credit: John Rice

A girl who escaped the war in Ukraine will be able to take up dancing again after a British man raised more than £5,000 to treat her diabetes.

John Rice, 56, opened up his home to her and her family after they were forced to flee their home in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine.

He set up a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of an insulin pump for Dasha Makarenko, 10, who has type 1 diabetes and urgently needs medication.

After the original fundraising goal of £5,000 was met in just seven days, he said Dasha’s father, Yehevny Makarenko, 39, was “visibly shaken with relief”.

Mr Rice, who is from Northampton but has lived in Slovakia for a decade, has since decided to increase the fundraising target to £8,000.

He said: “I was amazed we reached our first target so quickly.

“The whole family are stuck in what I call the refugee cycle now, because it’s hard to get a job without residency and impossible to get health care unless you have a job or you’re resident – so you can see how difficult it is for them to fund Dasha’s medication themselves.”

While escaping Ukraine, Dasha, her father and her mother, Svetlana Makarenko, 45, travelled by car for five days with their two cats, before they settled near Trencin, Slovakia.

The family almost ran out of food and Dasha’s parents had to stop eating to ensure there was enough left to raise her blood sugar levels when needed. She has to have at least four injections of insulin a day, but doses given with syringes mean she sometimes receives too much or too little, and risks falling into a hypoglycaemic coma.

Svetlana Makarenko with her daughter Dasha, 10, who has type 1 diabetes. Credit: John Rice

The money raised will mean they purchase an insulin pump which, combined with a continuous glucose monitor, will automatically deliver exact doses at the right time.

Mr Makarenko said: “As soon as we reached the first fundraising goal, my first thought was - now my child can have a life like other children.

“She will be able to sleep well at night without having to check her glucose levels every two hours.

“Before her illness she attended dance lessons and performed on stage, the disease put an end to that but now she will finally be able to take up dancing again.”

The Makarenko family have remained close to Mr Rice, despite now having moved into their own home, and Dasha has been enrolled in a local school.

Before the war Mr Makarenko was the head of key accounts for a large Ukrainian electronics store and Mrs Makarenko worked in an accounts department.

Mr Makarenko was allowed to leave Ukraine because he is his daughter’s carer, but her dependence on her parents has made it difficult for them to find work.

“Due to the fact that we are on the territory of Slovakia as refugees, we are not able to get insurance,” Mr Makarenko said. “In order to get insurance, we must have a job, but we cannot work because of the illness of our daughter.”

The success of the fundraising will mean Dasha’s parents can now focus on finding work and Mrs Makarenko has already set up an online shop selling her artwork.

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