Living amidst shelling

An elderly couple rebuilds their home following a missile strike.

Oleksandr and Halyna, both in their seventies, lived in a peaceful village where their day-to-day was blissful, and uneventful – until one day, their house was struck by a missile, damaging the roof and foundations and leaving their picturesque house almost unrecognizable. Our team visited their home to listen to their story.

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The yard of Oleksandr and Halyna. They dry corn in the sun to feed their chickens.©Medair / Diana Mukan

May 13th will forever be remembered by Oleksandr as the day everything changed. He recounted: “Early in the morning, around 4 AM, I woke up to what seemed like a moped riding down the street, but we don’t have mopeds here. I immediately knew it was a missile flying. I decided to go outside to see what was happening, because before that I had heard shots. I was dressed lightly. Immediately in the sky I saw a very bright flash. The whole sky turned red.”

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Roof of the house that was damaged after a missile attack. ©Medair / Diana Mukan

The first shock wave threw Oleksandr under the bench. All the windows in his house broke, and the glass was completely blown out. Oleksandr managed to run back into the house, put on a jacket, and as soon as he was about to flee the house, a second explosion occurred. “My neighbour Valentyna ran out of the house, and I told her we needed to get out of here because we saw a huge plume of smoke and lots of red flashes. We quickly took some of our belongings and ran to the safer end of the village,” said Oleksandr.

After spending their day in hiding, Oleksandr and his neighbours cautiously returned to their homes to assess the damage. He said: “When I saw my house, I was horrified. The barn was completely destroyed, the roof collapsed and lay on the ground, the garage was badly damaged. The doors were wide open, and the locks jammed. The state of the house is scary to remember. I was very grateful to God that my wife was working in the city at that time,” said Oleksandr with sadness in his voice.

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View in one of the rooms in the house of Olexandr and Halyna after the collapse of the roof in their house. ©Medair / Diana Mukan

Halyna, Oleksandr’s wife, told us that ever since the attack, the residents of their street all leave their house doors unlocked so that they can quickly exit in case of an emergency: “We started to park our cars on the road so that we can leave for a safe place quickly. Our grandson was traumatised by the noise and horror. Now, during an air raid alarm or loud noises, he covers his ears with his hands and shakes uncontrollably. We’ve considered taking him to a specialist to help him overcome this fear. If we, as adults, are afraid, imagine what children are going through, ” said Halyna.

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Halyna speaks with Viktor Naumenko, Medair’s Project Support Officer in Khmelnytskyi region. ©Medair / Diana Mukan

“This morning, there was an alarm while we were still in bed. I told my wife Halyna to wake the workers who had been fixing our roof until late into the night. She said they needed rest, but about 10-15 minutes later, we heard an explosion and saw the traces of rockets hitting nearby. We were terrified,” added Oleksandr.

Oleksandr and Halyna have already been able to repair two rooms on their own, but there are still rooms that need to be restored. “We bought clay and patched all the cracks with it. My husband and I even raised the ceilings in the rooms to make the house liveable again. Medair’s assistance has truly been a lifeline for us,” said Halyna.

At the end of our conversation, Oleksandr told me with a smile on his face, “We’ve mentally prepared ourselves for the possibility that the shelling may intensify closer to winter, but we’re better prepared than last year. We have backup plans in case there’s no electricity or heating. We’ve stocked up on LED strips, firewood, and even a generator.”

As they shared their harrowing experience, it was evident that their resilience and determination to rebuild and persevere were the defining qualities of Oleksandr and Halyna, a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

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The roof of the house which has already been repaired. ©Medair / Diana Mukan

Medair’s active engagement in the repair of private buildings damaged during a missile strike in the Khmelnytskyi region is critical in assisting people before the arrival of winter. It provides relief from harsh winter temperatures and rain and improves safety, security, and liveability. These activities contribute to the resilience of the community by helping people to continue living their lives in a stable and secure manner, even in the face of adversity.

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Medair’s car opposite the house of Oleksandr and Halyna. ©Medair / Diana Mukan

Medair services in Khmelnytskyi region, western Ukraine, are funded by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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 organisation.