Nadiia, Vira and War: 10 years of struggle for life

Published: Apr 22, 2024 Reading time: 5 minutes
Nadiia, Vira and War: 10 years of struggle for life
© Foto: Alberto Lores

On February 22, 2022, Russia upturned the peaceful life of most Ukrainians. However, Russia has been destroying the lives of Ukrainians in the east of the country since 2014. We have been supporting Ukrainians since day one. From 2014, we provided emergency assistance to those suffering on the contact line. After February 2022, we expanded our activities to the whole country. Since then, we have supported about 5 million people. Among them are Nadiia and Vira, for whom the war began ten years ago.

Nadiia, 71, was born in Donbas and has lived there most of her life. When she was young, she worked on a farm, and the hard work took a toll on her health—she developed problems with her knee. Unfortunately, surgery did not help; she ended up in a wheelchair and became disabled. When fighting broke out in the east in 2014, Nadiia did not even think about leaving her village with the symbolic name Druzhba («Friendship» in English), even though it was on the line of fire.

"My neighbours, my son and his family are my support. There are not many of us left here, so we hold on to each other like family. It's not for nothing that our village is called Druzhba; we are very friendly." 

We provided Nadiia with financial support as her pension was barely enough to cover her needs and medicines. But in 2022, the situation in Druzhba worsened significantly; explosions were heard almost daily.

"Because of the shelling, Sasha could not come to me. I ask him: come and put me down. And the shrapnel is flying because the shelling is not far away. One day, a woman went out on the porch, and a fragment tore her up. My son took her out, and the next day, a shell hit her house."

Oleksandr took his mother to his home.

"They have a small child; they ran to the basement. I stayed in the house. Where would I go in a wheelchair? We decided to leave."

They stopped in Poltava Oblast, in the village of Velyki Sorochyntsi. Later, they learned that their houses were destroyed.

"We have such shelling there, it's horrible! We have nowhere to go back to. My house was burned down, and Sashko's was smashed. They say there is only one pipe left. My neighbour lives alone on the street. There is no one else left."

Together with another family, they rented a house in Sorochyntsi. Internally displaced people suffer from a lack of money because they often cannot find permanent jobs—the situation is the same for Oleksandr. Going to big cities in search of work is also not an option because he has no one to care for his mother.

"For example, they (the government) cancelled payments to some internally displaced people. Some people used this money to pay for housing. It was enough for them. And now they are going home. If the war was over and we had at least one house intact, we would also return home. And here... There is simply nowhere to go."

Vira lived in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast. The Russians largely destroyed this town and are now trying to capture it. Vira's life was upturned entirely in 2017. Back then, she was still living at home, but there was shelling nearby.

"I remember that year well. I was watching TV and turned off the light. And then they started shooting! What was happening? Oh, my God! I fell to the floor. It was a real horror. I did not know what to do. Somehow, I survived until the morning. I woke up, and my eyes... One eye could barely see. That was it! I started screaming. I got nervous and went blind."

Vira moved around by feel. Her life, her garden, taking care of herself and her son—everything became impossible in an instant. Vira thought about suicide. But with the support of her neighbours and a social worker, she found the strength to get rid of these thoughts. To help ease her predicament, we provided Vira with hygiene kits.

Happily, Vira became the heroine of an article by a Slovak journalist who wrote about the activities of our organisation in Ukraine. People wanted to help Vira restore her eyesight and raised money for the surgery. Our colleague, Olena Budagovska, found a specialist in Kramatorsk who could help.

"I can see. This is an incredible joy. I am very grateful to the people who supported me."

In December 2022, our colleagues helped Vira and her son leave Chasiv Yar. 

"Serhii Saienko called and said, 'Why are you still sitting there? Get ready immediately, I'll send a car. He came, waited in Bakhmut, and shelling started. I went out with my bag alone. The Czech guy said: "Oh, my God, close the car, let's go. And everything was flying around. And that was it. Let's go."

That's how she ended up in Arteliarshchyna, Poltava Oblast. Residents converted an empty school here into social housing. We also helped with the arrangement of the building and the restoration of heating, delivered hygiene kits to the IDPs and provided psychosocial support. Vira and her son were given a separate room. But the first months, while the documents were being processed, were very difficult for them:

"We arrived without belongings. We didn't have enough money for food."

Despite all the trials and tribulations she has faced, Vira always smiles and tries to take care of herself: neat hair, well-groomed eyebrows, and painted lips. She fondly remembers her hometown and her apartment and dreams of feeling the comfort and cosiness of her own home again.

For 10 challenging years, PIN has been there for the victims. We have collected memorable moments of this long journey in a video.

Autor: People in Need

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