Lives Rebuilt

In Ukraine, people who fled from the conflict have been trying to continue their life in Collective Centers

“After the war started I continued to live in my hometown in the east of Ukraine for more than a month, and I did not want to leave it. But staying there was very difficult emotionally. I had been sleeping with my clothes on every night so that if I heard an explosion, I would be able to run out quickly”, said Olena, a 43-year-old Internal Displaced person from Ukraine.

We met Olena in the dormitory of a local university in the west. She moved there after leaving her hometown as she fled for her life. I asked Olena to share her story with us and she gladly agreed. We sat together in the hall of the Collective Center. This is a neat five-story building with large windows right next to a green park. Even in the air, there was a smell of pines and other trees.

“What can I tell you?” Olena asked and, without waiting for my answer, began to recount to me the situations she lived through last year. “At first it was very scary, but I believed that it would all end quickly So despite the explosions, I decided to stay in my city. At a certain moment, it even seemed to me that I was used to constant danger, although, of course, you can’t get used to it. In order to buy at least some products I was waiting in long queues in stores. Last time, I spent three hours there. And as soon as you entered the store, you just bought everything you needed at once and did not think about how much it costs,” said Olena.

“The scariest moment was when returning from the store, I heard a very loud noise. I can’t describe it or find the words, but it was very loud, unpleasant, and scary, it seemed that something was rushing straight at me”, said Olena.

“I was shocked and couldn’t decide whether I should run away or stand still. I decided to take a chance and run across the road closer to my house. As soon as I did it, a column of tanks drove into the street, destroying everything in its path. If I had remained in the spot I stood in, I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you now,” said Olena. After returning home, she called her daughter and told her about all this. Her daughter told her that they shouldn’t stay there anymore; they should flee. “I didn’t even think about it and agreed. You know, I didn’t care about where we would go. The main thing was to have my children near, so I went to the west with my daughter and her husband,” said Olena.

“I really liked the city I moved to. It is small and compact. There are very good people here who are always ready to help. I felt it from the very beginning,” said Olena.

Olena started to build her life in the west. She works online, so she spends a lot of time at home. It was this that made her big dream come true – to get a dog. Now she lives with Baro and walks with him in the local park several times a day. “My dog distracts me from the events happening around me. With him I can have fun, dream and imagine a peaceful life.” said Olena. In addition, Olena fulfilled another dream. She has never been abroad in her life. This year she visited Paris and Barcelona. “When I return home from a trip, I no longer think about my hometown, but about the city that became a shelter for me, because I was received very well here and there are excellent conditions so that I could rebuild my life,” said Olena.

A year ago the dormitory where Olena lives agreed to accept Internally Displace People who fled from the east to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Unfortunately, the windows in the building were old, so it was pretty cold inside. When Medair came to the dormitory, there were around 60 families from the east living in the building. Our team replaced 90 windows in rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Medair also provided household appliances.

“When we meet new people, the first emotion that appears is sympathy. Because people immediately begin to tell what they experienced, what bothers them. The fact that we can help them in some way gives us a positive feeling. Then we see the reactions of these people, they are grateful and we are happy to see them smiling,” said Oleksandr, Medair`s Infrastructure Officer in Ukraine.


Medair services in the west of Ukraine are funded by Swiss Solidarity, World Vision, PMU, Tearfund New Zealand, Tearfund UK, Cedar Fund, All We Can, MSM and other generous organizations and individuals.

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.