Last year people’s lives changed in an instant. Many did not have time to escape from their hometowns where there was active fighting, and they were forced to live without light, food, or cell connection in destroyed houses or cold basements. Out of respect for all survivors, this story will be told as it really was.
“We lived under occupation for a month. It was a month of hell,” said 56-year-old Liudmyla.
Liudmyla and Volodymyr are a couple living in the North of Ukraine. They met our team at the gate of their house and invited us to come to the yard. It was a neat house, with newly inserted windows, and a repaired roof. Blooming tulips next to the house caught my eye. At first glance, it seems that nothing happened here. But as Liudmyla and Volodymyr show us their garden they tell us about the tanks that drove through it last year. During that time they heard explosions all the time.
“Our four-year-old grandson was with us. I was scared for his life, so we hid in the basement. It was cold there, so the child got sick and we had to move into the house. We slept in the corridor on spread blankets. It was very difficult when there was no light. Our grandson asked to turn on cartoons for him and we constantly tried to explain that this is not possible now. Eventually he got used to it,” Liudmyla said.
Liudmyla said that despite their fear, the family was not thinking of fleeing because she could not leave her wards – she is a social worker and helps 10 people in neighboring villages. Among her wards were elderlyand disabled people; there was even a woman without legs, whom Liudmyla and her husband lowered into the basement. “I baked bread at home and brought it to people, and also fetched water for them. I also have some scary memories related to getting water. In the breaks between shelling, we ran to the well and tried to collect as much water as possible. As soon as the shelling started, we ran away again,” Liudmyla shared.
“I even told my wards to keep bread in the freezer. Because it was not clear whether it would be possible to buy bread again,” Liudmyla said.
The most terrible memory that remained in the couple’s thoughts was when the bombs fell in the yard of their neighbors. “Our windows and doors were blown out, and the roof was torn off. The house was literally shaking. There was not a single quiet moment. The sounds of explosions were heard all the time,” Volodymyr said. However, after a month of living in a dilapidated building, it became quiet again and the hostilities stopped. “We didn’t know what to do with the roof. It was destroyed and leaking. We were worried that it might fall down,” Liudmyla said.
“A big weight was lifted from our souls. We were so happy when Medair visited us. Our roof was repaired, and windows were put in. This is an infinite help. I also noticed that Medair helps exactly those who need it. Thank God for sending you. We are 1000 percent grateful. Special thanks for the firewood given to my wards. I saw the eyes of those people, they were happy,” Liudmyla said.
That day, our team also visited Kateryna. She lives in a nearby town. Kateryna and her little son met us in the yard, which is littered with construction materials, and invited us to come inside. There are many boxes around. It is clear that it is not possible to live here yet, because the repairs are in progress. We took chairs and sat down in one of the rooms. Kateryna took out her phone and started showing me photos, as she said, “from her past life”. There were photos of her and her husband taking their son to school, celebrating the New Year and just spending time together. And then she turned off the phone and began to tell me what had been heavy on her heart for a long time.
“On the 9th of March 2022, our house was destroyed, so we moved in with my husband’s parents, but 3 weeks later, my husband died from shrapnel,” said Kateryna.
“He was standing at the entrance to the house and at that moment the shelling began. We decided to quickly go down to the basement, but we didn’t have time. We were all scattered around the house. I heard Matvii, my seven-year-old son, screaming. I turned around and saw my husband covered in blood,” Kateryna said. She tried to pull him inside, and then she and her neighbor took her husband to the hospital. On the way, Kateryna’s husband died in her arms and in front of his 7-year-old son Matvii. After what he saw, the boy remained silent for a long time and did not speak. During the conversation, Kateryna had tears in her eyes, she wiped them away and continued to tell me her story.
“On the second day, we buried my husband in the only place we could bury him at the time. After a month we exhumed him. I had the opportunity to see my husband once again and to touch him. All I have left from our love is only a wedding ring. The house is destroyed, our child is scared, it is difficult to find a job. How can I continue living?” said Kateryna.
At that moment, little Matvii ran into the room and hugged his mother. He smiled, started to get to know me and showed me photos of his cat, which still lives with the boy’s grandmother. When the repairs are completed, Matvii and Kateryna will move here.
Medair helps affected people with shelter rehabilitation. Replacement of windows and doors, and roof repairs are provided.
“Unfortunately, what I dream about is not possible but I want to stay in Ukraine, continue to live here and raise my son. I believe that one day everything will be rebuilt,” said Kateryna.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed here are those solely Medair’s and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.