VILNIUS - Two weeks ago, 17-year-old Ukrainian girls Eleonora, Katia and Yulia travelled on their own from Dnipro to Lviv, then to Warsaw and then finally to Vilnius where they settled in the home of Kestutis Sabaliauskas and Asta Sabaliauskiene.
The teenage Ukrainian girls, who studies food preparation in their homeland, have already started working at a Vilnius café and are enjoying peacefulness in the Lithuanian family's home.
The Sabaliauskas family are temporary carers for unaccompanied children and teenagers fleeing the Russian-led war in Ukraine.
Data from Lithuania's the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service, a thousand children have arrived in Lithuania from Ukraine without their parents, but many of them are accompanied by relatives or friends of their families.
There are currently 17 unaccompanied Ukrainian children in care in Lithuania.
"THE KIDS SAID YES, WE NEED TO HELP"
The Lithuanian carers who took the girls into their home in Geleziai say they also consulted their children, and one of whom even gave up his room.
"When we decided to help, it wasn't that my husband and I just decided to do so. We called the children, we talked to them about the situation, that we needed to help," Sabaliauskiene told BNS.
"The children said: "Yes, we need to help". One son, without any discussion, said yes, I will give up my room. He went to his brother's room," she added.
The woman and her husband said they had thought about taking in one or two more children, and suddenly a third girl appeared.
"I got another call from the child rights (service) and they said there was a third girl, a friend of theirs, and they were all standing there holding hands, crying because they didn't want to be separated. They asked if we would we accept them?" Sabaliauskiene said.
"It was a matter of seconds before I said yes," she said.
A TRIP TO LITHUANIA ON A CROWDED TRAIN
Before travelling to Lithuania, all three girls lived in Dnipro, a few hundred kilometers away from Mariupol which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting.
Their journey to Lithuania was not easy.
"It took us 17 hours to get to Lviv," Eleonora said.
One of the twins, Katia, said there were more than twice as many people inside the wagon than it could accommodate. She aid most people were standing, some were sitting in the aisles, on suitcases, cramped.
Eventually, the girls reached Warsaw, from where Eleonora's dad's friend drove them to Vilnius.
Soon, with the help of their carers, they found jobs and are working at the capital's 7 Fridays café, slowly learning to speak Lithuanian.
BORSCHT AND MUFFINS WAITING AT HOME
Sabaliauskiene says when she was on her way to pick up the Ukrainian girls, she received a call from her neighbor who had found out about the girls and rushed to make lunch.
"At the same time, she started making borscht and baking muffins. So when the girls and I arrived, the first lunch had already arrived," Sabaliauskiene said, adding that her neighbors are helping all the time, even unasked.
"We didn't ask for help, we didn't make it public. Over these two weeks, I don't even know how many times my neighbors have come with pots of food.... It's just that our community is very friendly, they try to help," Sabaliauskiene said.
"Everyone cares, asks how we are, and invites the girls to come and distract themselves," she added.
However, the girls say they want to return to Ukraine and hope to be able to do so in the summer.
The Lithuania carers have also been informed that their acre is temporary. They said the authorities had told them that the girls would be able to return home when it was safe to do so.
PARENTS LEFT BEHIND IN UKRAINE, FRIENDS WENT TO FIGHT
The Ukrainian girls speak in chorus about their friends and acquaintances who went to fight against Russia after it invaded Ukraine in late February.
"My friends are defending Dnipro, it's rather quiet there", Yulia said.
One of Eleonora's acquaintances is in Kharkiv where fierce battles with Russian forces took place.
"One of my friends joined the army, but he doesn't tell me everything. He was in Kharkiv, where there was fierce fighting," Eleonora said.
All added that their friends who went to war are alive.
The girls' parents have also stayed in Ukraine and say they feel much more at ease now that their daughters are away from the war.
"My mother says it's good that you have gone and you don't see everything that's happening," Eleonora said.