Stories

Candles of change

Medair helps de-occupied communities in Ukraine regain hope.

In the midst of adversity, Lyudmyla found comfort and strength in facing life’s challenges. “I thought we would all be left behind. Luckily, Medair offers us a lot of support. After we received the aid, my kids started smiling more, and my soul started feeling a little bit lighter,” said Lyudmyla with tears in her eyes.

Shelter / Infrastructure.

Lyudmyla, a 69-year-old woman, stands near her house. She wipes the tears in her eyes and thanks for the help that Medair provided to her family. ©Medair/Diana Mukan

I met Lyudmyla, a 69-year-old woman who lives with her 72-year-old husband Viktor and two adopted young children, in a peaceful village in the Kyiv region. Each one of their family members faces unique challenges due to a disability. Lyudmyla and her family had relocated to the Kyiv region in 1984 to evade the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster, with the hopes of creating a quiet life for themselves in their new surroundings.

Then, in March 2022, with the invasion of Ukraine, their lives took a turn for the worse. Assaulted by shelling and suddenly finding themselves in immediate danger, Lyudmyla, together with 11 of her family members, were forced to seek refuge in a small 2X2m² basement on their property.

Shelter / Infrastructure.

Lyudmyla, a 69-year-old woman, on a sofa with her 72-year-old husband Viktor and two adopted young children. Viktor and Lyudmyla were forced to move from Chernobyl, their home town,due to the disaster that happened on 26 April 1984. It did not stop them from creating a new home in Kyiv region for themselves and two more children. ©Medair/Diana Mukan

As Lyudmyla and I walked around the house holding hands, she recalled the events that marked the worst day of her life, saying, “One day, my nephew heard a shell coming our way and shouted for everyone to run to the basement. Unfortunately, neither he nor I could reach it in time. The rest of the family managed to take shelter. The shell exploded in our yard, throwing us aback with a blast wave. My nephew was thrown into a house, and I was deafened. I saw smoke from the basement. My first thought was that my whole family had died. Later, cries echoed from the basement. Thank God, everyone was unharmed.”

Shelter / Infrastructure.

Lyudmyla stands in the summer house which also suffered from air bomb. ©Medair/Diana Mukan

The explosion left Lyudmyla with a concussion, unable to hear anything for a whole day. “My ears were ringing the whole day. I couldn’t focus on anything,” she says. The house bore the scars of shelling – with broken windows, a damaged roof, and shrapnel piercing through two walls. Yet, amidst the destruction, hope emerged.

“There aren’t enough words to express how grateful we are to Medair. The assistance we’ve received has been a lifeline for my family. Now that our roof has been repaired, my children can study at home after school without any worries. The feeling of loneliness that formerly surrounded us disappeared. We no longer sense that we are struggling alone,” says Lyudmyla with a glimmer in her eyes.

Shelter / Infrastructure.

Medair contractors are working on the reconstruction of a new roof for the Lyudmyla family. ©Medair/Diana Mukan

Lyudmyla took me to another room and began to look for something in the package that was on a floor. “Look,” she said, taking something out of the package. I saw a handmade candle. She continued to explain, “As a united family, we’ve even found a way to give back – crafting candles to share warmth with others in different communities. Medair’s support has not only transformed our living conditions but has inspired us to pay it forward and spread positivity to those around us.”

Shelter / Infrastructure.

Lyudmyla sits on a sofa holding homemade candles. The whole family makes candles to share light and warmth with others. ©Medair/Diana Mukan

Medair did not only repair the physical damage, but also sowed seeds of hope in Lyudmyla’s family. Their restored roof became a symbol of resilience, allowing their children to continue their education in a safe environment. No longer burdened by isolation, the family found strength in unity, and extended their hope to others by crafting candles that share warmth and kindness.

As Lyudmyla looks back on the challenges they faced, she sees a story not just of survival but of triumph – a testimony to the indomitable spirit that can arise even in the darkest times.

 


Medair services in Kyiv city, Ukraine, are funded by Swiss Solidarity (CdB)

All photos ©Medair / Diana Mukan

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed here are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.