On a sunny morning in May, we set out to meet the people who had already received our assistance. On the way I felt tense because I understood that every moment, we are getting closer to the front line, where the fighting does not stop. From time to time the wind carried the smell of smoke, and explosions could be heard in the distance. A damaged church at the entrance to the village drew my attention. People rode past it on bicycles, children were running by – and I had hope that, despite all the difficulties, life in this village in the east of Ukraine continues. Diana (18), a single mother of a 3-year-old boy called Artem, confirmed this. The little boy, hearing that we had come to visit his house, climbed through the hole in the fence to meet us and started talking enthusiastically. Unfortunately, it was difficult to understand his language, as he still can’t pronounce all the letters. His mother joined us.
“It was very scary. I saw the glow from the windows and understood that every day it was getting closer and closer to us. I lived under occupation for six months with my 3-year-old son and my mother in the basement. It was very difficult to find food, there was nothing in the store. It’s better not to remember it,” said Diana.
“His dad gave up on him before he was even born. It is very difficult for me to deal with all of this myself. I can’t work because there is no one to take care of Artem, although my mother sometimes helps with his upbringing. We live only on my scholarship because I’m studying to be a hairdresser,” said Diana. “Medair helped us with cooking supplies, towels, and hygiene items. They gave us a lot of things, it’s even difficult to even remember all of it” said Diana jokingly.
“I wish that all this would end as soon as possible. Because I can still hear explosions. If there were no humanitarian organizations, I don’t even know what I would do. It would be very, very difficult,” Diana said.
Meanwhile, other people were waiting for us in another place. Three women were sitting on a bench near a destroyed building and when they saw that our team was coming towards them, they got up and started waving their hands joyfully. They were smiling and happy because of our visit, but it was easy to see pain and fear in their eyes. Svitlana started the conversation.
“Our lives were in the basement. We practically did not go out, except when we ran to our neighbors to share food supplies. It was very scary. Most of the people left the village at the beginning. There are very few of us left,” said Svitlana.
Nataliia joined the conversation. She was just painting something in the house, so she had rubber gloves on her hands. “My house was damaged. The windows were blown out. The rocket flew into the roof, and the ceiling fell. My husband was injured during the shelling, he was just running to the basement, but he wasn’t fast enough, and his leg was injured. It was not possible to provide him with medical assistance. After all, we were under occupation. I helped him with the medications that were in the home first aid kit,” Nataliia said.
“As soon as we were de-occupied, our son immediately picked us up and took my wounded and sick husband to the hospital. Unfortunately, he suffered from a stroke. Praise God he survived! He was discharged from the hospital 2 weeks ago and we returned home,” Nataliia said.
After the village was de-occupied, problems with electricity remained. Streetlights are still missing on some streets. “You have to go to people who have generators and charge your phone there. But we rarely use phones. We called the children and said that everything is fine with us and turned them off. Also, we have to cook outside. We make a fire, lay bricks, and cook in this way,” said Raiisa. Medair helped the affected people with the most necessary things.
“Great help! We never dreamed of receiving such assistance. Thank you very much! It was especially nice when they gave us flashlights. There is no light here, only candles. At first, it was difficult, but we got used to it and have been living without electricity for a year. It was a blessing to receive flashlights from Medair. I put them in the rooms,” said Svitlana.
“Despite all these difficulties, I believe that we have already experienced the worst. Now we just want calm and peace, and for you – health for all your good deeds,” said Svitlana. We hugged, took pictures, and went to meet another woman who lives in a neighboring village. Her story impressed me greatly.
“The shells flew right into the garden. All the time we hid in the basement. Even my goat Bilochka was afraid, I could tell. She is an obedient girl, so she immediately followed me to the basement and we sat there together,” said 71-year-old Liudmyla.
Lyudmila’s daughter and her family moved to the Netherlands, so she was left alone. “We don’t want such trials to return. I dream that there will be peace and all families will be together, as before. I really liked the humanitarian aid that was given to us. There is a lot and it is all that we need right now. Thank you!” said Liudmyla. “I planted a small vegetable garden. Strawberries are already starting to bloom, so come back to eat them when they are ripe,” Liudmyla joked when we were sitting in the car to return to Kharkiv.
In the East of Ukraine, Medair helps the most vulnerable people with the distribution of the most necessary things such as cooking supplies, hygiene items, bedding, and materials for repairs of households.
Medair services in the east of Ukraine are funded by the IF foundation and Swiss Solidarity among other donors.
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.
Photos with optimised photos/captions/alt-texts