Refugees from Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, I was in the heart of Bucovina, in Ciocănești village, at one of the most beautiful monasteries in the area. That very evening, a monk and a good friend of mine, Father Seraphim, invited me on a frosty but serene and peaceful evening to a divine service. We all prayed until midnight, then went outside for tea. Our silence was shattered by the news: war in Ukraine!

Ciocanesti is in the north of Suceava city, very close to the Ukraine border. A war in 2022 is an absurdity… I was hearing planes over the mountains, and I couldn’t believe we were that close.

From the first moment, I felt I wanted to help if I was needed. I had no idea what to do, but the days after showed me the right way to do it. Millions of innocent people started to flee their country, running from the war, and most of them passed through Suceava, my hometown.

I’ve called the staff of my hotel, and I’ve asked them to offer it free of charge in case refugees arrive. I put them on guard:

Families with children and animals (dogs and cats) came FIRST!

In just a few hours, hell started. The hotel was full!

I decided to accommodate refugees everywhere. I welcomed refugees with children, including in my own house.

In a few hours, I printed a large banner in Ukrainian language and I put it on the Spartan logo of the restaurant in the city center: all citizens with a Ukrainian passport can eat for free!

Then I posted on all my online channels:

“All Ukrainian citizens are welcome at the Mandachi Hotel, free of charge. Pets are also welcome.“

Every day we had 250-300 people staying in; everyone was being treated civilized, the services were free of charge, including safe transport to the western countries.

It was one of the most intense periods of my life. I’ve witnessed constant waves of refugees: children, old people, desperate women who left their husbands to fight in a war they didn’t start or want. I could read in their eyes the horror, the fear, the desperation, the trauma.

I used to go to bed at 4:00 AM and sleep for only 3 hours. They needed me the next day.

I now believe happiness comes from serving and helping others as well, not just from making money and profit.

In just one month, we managed (me and my team) to transport to the EU, for free, more than 20,000 refugees, we accommodated 5,000 refugees and 1,000 dogs and cats in my hotel, and we found temporary shelter for more than 6,500 people.

Mandachi Hotel & Spa became the largest private refugee camp. The New York Times and the Washington Post, among others, wrote about us.

More than that, we’ve managed to unite hundreds of Romanian, Moldavian and Ukrainian volunteers for the same cause: to help!

The whole action was organized together with my team from the Hotel and from Spartan, within the Jeni Mandachi Humanitarian Association, a charitable organization with volunteers only (all the donations we ever received went to social causes).

We raised over 500,000 euros, donated food, and sent aid trucks to Ukraine, and as soon as this war is over, we want to renovate orphanages, hospitals and schools.