“I hid in a basement for the first two weeks. During that whole time, all I heard was the sound of missiles landing. My 14-year-old grandson said to me ‘I’m probably going to die here.’ It was in that moment that I realized that I had to save him.”
Larisa and her grandson fled to Lanivtsi, a pretty town in the west of Ukraine. It was here that we met Larisa, when the Medair team came to distribute hygienic kits for Internally Displaced People. When the bus arrived to the facility in the town center, many people already waiting, having registered at the facility just prior.
Lanivtsi is a small town with a population of less than 10,000 in the West of Ukraine. The landscape is characterized by pretty houses, frost on the tree branches and the smell of smoke in the air – from homes being heated by firewood.
Larisa sought refuge in Lanivtsi, as that is where her relatives reside. She struggles to recall what happened in her home town. “My grandson even seems to have his first gray hair. We fled in a car carrying people who had passed away. My grandson and I were riding in a trailer with corpses. But even this didn’t stop us, because we dreamed of surviving. Can you imagine the horror?” Larisa said, as tears poured down her cheeks. She wiped them with her hand and continued to tell her story. “My grandson went to school here and we started to settle here. I still want to go home, even though I know that my house has been destroyed. My grown children stayed behind. They told me that a rocket landed near their house and their roof was shattered. My two sons want to escape too, but the authorities won’t let them. I dream of seeing them again,” said Larisa, who then fell silent. After a small pause, a smile appeared on her face and she said, “Thank you so much for helping me. I appreciate it because I’m retired and money is tight. I have to pay utilities, buy firewood, and take a lot of medications because of my age. I thank God that there is no conflict here, where I am right now. I learnt how to enjoy simple things, I even try to help and support people who have just arrived here.”
In the crowd, we noticed an old man, named Serhiy, who had already received his kit and was carefully watching others who were still waiting for their packages. When we approached him and offered to chat, he courageously agreed to share his story with us.
“On the first day of the conflict, all the windows in my apartment blew out, which woke me up. All morning I heard the sounds of explosions and whistling rockets. It was very scary. Kharkiv, my home town, suffered the most. It felt like there wasn’t a single quiet moment. Together with my daughter, son, and their families, we moved and have been living here for almost a year,” said Serhiy, a 66-year-old IDP from Kharkiv, a city in East of Ukraine that has been under constant shelling since the beginning of the conflict.
Serhiy had worked as a driver in his home town. He told us that he had tried to find a job in Lanivtsi, but that nobody would hire him because of his age. Even though he finally feels safe now, he dreams of returning home: “It is very pleasant to realize that we have help and care here. But I want to return home most of all. I dream of renovating my apartment and starting a new life there,” he said.
Nadiia, who came to Lanivtsi from Kakhovka, a city near recently de-occupied Kherson, has a similar dream. She is 39 years old and she has two daughters, aged 6 and 12.
“The horror started when I woke up from the explosion. I looked out of the window and saw a glow. My husband and I decided to run away, but it was already too late, as some families trying to leave didn’t succeed. But after living under occupation for 3 months, we realized that we could no longer live like this and decided to take a risk,” said Nadiia.
She added that she is happy that her family managed to escape, and they do not regret their decision because now the situation in Kakhovka is even worse than it was at the beginning of the conflict. “All my friends fled, but I know [about the situation in Kakhovka] because my mother stayed there. I tried to convince my mother that it is dangerous to stay there, but she doesn’t want to leave the house. Even yesterday I spoke with her on the phone and she told me that a rocket had hit her neighbor’s house. But this does not stop my mom [from staying] and she still wants to be at home,” said Nadiia. She also said she feels very comfortable in Lanivtsi.
With the support of All We Can and other donors, Medair provided WASH NFIs distributions in Ukraine. Each of the sets consists of a shampoo, a bottle with antiseptic liquid, soap, feminine hygiene materials, toilet paper, washing powder, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and buckets.
“It’s calm here and I feel safe, I don’t worry about my daughters, I also found new friends. Now I dream that all my loved ones will survive. Although we are not together right now, it is not a problem. The main thing is for everyone to stay safe and alive. “ said Nadiia, with a smile on her face.
Medair services in Ukraine are funded by PMU, Swiss Solidarity (CdB), CEDAR, and Tearfund (NZ).
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.
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