Focus 2004

Ukraina - EST15-04-2004

Project: Svitlyj Dim” – House of welcome for street children
Date of foundation: 1995
Place: Odessa, Ukraine
Province: Ukraine - EST

Today, almost every child you meet on Odessa’s streets (Port city on the Black Sea coast, Southern Ukraine) can certainly tell you where to find the street to “Svitlyj Dim”- House of welcome for street children (in Ukrainian: the “House of light”). Any citizen could tell you about the not always easy life of this Centre. And they all know the Salesian Director of this Centre he founded very well; we are speaking of Deacon Alexander Chumakov known as “otets Aleksander”: Fr. Aleksander.

Awareness of “Svitlyj Dim” extends far beyond the city of Odessa and the Ukraine, inasmuch as it takes in, when needed, young people who come from countries bordering Ukraine. The Masss Media have been particularly interested in the Centre. The Salesian style of working with the young has been highlighted by man newspapers and television, atrracting the attention and interest of many politicians, social workers and the government

The youngsters know “Svitlyj Dim” by means of a “password”. Many of them have been left by themselves and are vagabonds from one or other city; they have been picked up by the police and sent to orphanages in the cities. And it’s here that they come to know of the existence of “Svitlyj Dim”: a place that welcomes them, and where the Salesian, Aleksander, is ready to listen and help without asking too many questions, to let them eat and find a safe, protected spot where they can breathe in a family atmosphere.

To the question “what is Svitlyj dim?” Fr. Alexander answers by saying that: “Svitlyj dim is the Salesian style of living the Gospel, and bringing the Good News of Christ to everyone, especially those most in need; it’s my ‘diaconia’ or service, in Don Bosco’s style”.

The “House of Light” began in 1995. Since then it has been a home for around 3791 young people. No-one who has knocked at the door at “Svitlyj Dim” has failed to gain attention and help. Today you find 47 youngsters there ranging from 6 to 17 years of age.

In August 1996 the then Rector Major Fr. Juan E. Vecchi, while visiting the Salesians in the Ukraine, was personally able to find out about this place for young street children run in the Salesian style.

Fr. Aleksandr has never left the “House of Light” these nine years. Other than the usual administrative problems it is his concern for the youngsters that occupies his thoughts. In addition, he provides time to give seminars in social pedagogy and pedagogical training for students at Odessa University. Many of these subsequently work as volunteers at the “House of Light”. People drawn from all over the social strata work there. And thanks to the experience, many rediscover their faith in God. Groups of volunteers who offer regular help today number around thirty; while a total of fifty six volunteers are available to help when needed.

In the“house of welcome” there is a chapel set up in Byzantine tradition, where the Divine Liturgy (Holy Mass) is celebrated daily as well as the Liturgy of Hours in the tradition of the Oriental Rite Catholic Church. Many of the young people are Christians, even though one would have to say that many others of various faiths seek help there; they are welcomed with great respect and love without religious distinction.

From December of last year, the Catholic Oriental Rite Bishop, the Exarch of Odessa and the Crimea Bishop Vasyliy Ivasiuk, often comes there to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. “Svitlyj Dim” has become ‘his home’ as well. He celebrated the Christmas festivities last year together with the youngsters at “House of Light” in an atmosphere of joy, familiarity and simplicity.

Often during the year, seminarians come there from the Greek-Catholic seminary at Rudno (Lviv- Leopoli), to give a hand with catechetics and education; while during the summer time they give some of their time to organising the youngsters’ holidays. Giving the seminarians a hand, often, are students from the University of Lviv (Leopoli).

Many Ukrainian benefactors have become part of the “House of Light” story, as well as benefactors from all over the world. Theirs is precious help and support inasmuch as it is a sign of trust and acknowledgement of the work done at the “House of Light”. All this is an encouragement for the work to continue over time for the good of those young people who have been made welcome there in love and in Don Bosco’s style. To help Fr. Aleksander to continue the work, the idea is growing of creating a community of Oriental Rite Salesians. Salesians of this Rite were able to open a presence in the country in 1991, and today there are around forty of them, they greater part of whom are young.

The “House of Light” has a web page, where you can find newws about this work dedicated to street children, about the Salesian educational method, Don Bosco’s life, and the history of Oriental Rite Salesians in the Ukraine.

Founder and person in charge: Aleksander Chumakov sdb


Pryjut “Svitlyj Dim”
Vul. Bazarna 2/1
65014 Odessa, Ucraina

Tel: +380.482. 25.85.73
Fax: +380.482. 25.85.73
Web site: