PIN Coordinator Helping in the East of Ukraine: “This is the End” Raisa Thought When Her House Had Been Shelled

Published: Aug 12, 2014 Reading time: 8 minutes
PIN Coordinator Helping in the East of Ukraine: “This is the End” Raisa Thought When Her House Had Been Shelled
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Eastern Ukraine, Prague (12 August 2014) - The ongoing armed conflict in the east of Ukraine has forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes. The people flee especially due to the threat of shelling, destroyed houses and the collapse of services. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official records there are over 139,000 internally displaced persons in Ukraine herself and some 188,000 people have fled to Russia since January. However, the real figures are alleged to be far higher. People in Need (PIN) is opening an office in Kiev and a coordinator has set off for Eastern Ukraine to make needs assessment right on the spot in order to plan how to help the most vulnerable effectively. Moreover, already since February People in Need has been providing medical aid for the violence victims directly in Ukraine.  

People are fleeing just with their bare necessities as their houses are often completely destroyed after shelling. “In many places there is no running water, electricity or gas supply and the people are taking refuge in cellars. What’s more, the banks are closed so the people cannot get access to their savings,” this is how Tomáš Vlach, Humanitarian Aid Coordinator, describes the situation. “Most of the medical staff has run away from hospitals, they are running out of medicine and the patients are often looked after only in candlelight,” he adds, while pointing out that people mostly find shelter with their relatives or in refugee centres.

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“The aim of People in Need is not only to help the internally displaced, but also to the people getting back to the ravaged areas, they are repairing the damaged houses and flats, and at the same time they have to cope with serious economic difficulties or a job loss. We will direct our attention to the most devastated areas, while we are planning to make the first round of providing assistance in the next few days,” Ondřej Nádvorník, Desk Officer for Ukraine, says. Help will be also needed with preparations for the forthcoming winter season as many refugees are dwelling in rooms not adapted to low temperatures. The most vulnerable will be helped thanks to the sources from the People in Need Club of Friends relief fund. 


Is that going to bury me or not? Raisa pondered

“It was just before nine in the morning. An explosion, clouds of dust... I thought it was the end. I ran out of my flat to the stairwell. I saw the prefab panels buckled and I pondered - is that going to bury me or not? In the end, I decided to risk it and I ran,” this is how Raisa Jelisieva recalls the moment when her house in Mikolaivka not far from Sloviansk was destroyed by a shell. The shot demolished a major part of the block of flats.

There were 12 people buried under the debris. Luckily, the rescue team succeeded in saving one of the neighbours out of the debris after three days. However, the authorities did not attempt to solve the situation and find some temporary shelter amidst the war. “These were the neighbours who helped and offered us a tiny room nearby,” Raisa says.

At first sight, it is clear that the builders will have to pull down a part of the long block of flats. The question is whether it can be built up again and who pays for it. “I don’t know what comes next. Should I wait? Or leave? For Russia? I was born in St. Petersburg,” muses Raisa, and after a while she concludes: “Where would I go without money? And anyway, there is no one waiting for me.”

Ambulance service is not operating, people are buried in yards

While at the beginning of June the number of internally displaced people from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions was about 2,600, at the beginning of August is amounted to 102,600 according to the UNHCR. A seven-year-old Maxim is one of them - a few days ago he fled Luhansk for Popasnaya, where he and his relatives from Pervomayskoe were provided with some room in a lodging house of one of the local factories by the Mayor of Popasnaya. However, the front line is just a few kilometres far from here and the shells keep flying every night. Therefore, they all are in hiding in the cellar. In the lodging house itself they can prepare some meals as people bring them food and the overnight stay is free of charge.

Be it as it may, it cannot be compared to the life in a town under cannonade. “In Pervomayskoe the shops are closed. The separatists, but also some of the locals have looted all,” says another lodging house resident Nikolai, and he adds that there are shell fires, and dead and wounded every day. In fact, the people have to cope with these issues alone. “The ambulance service and even the fire fighters are not in operation. At the very worst, people bury their close ones in yards because any drive through the town is dangerous,” Nikolai adds.

Escaping from the shelled areas is by no means easy. Brave taxi drivers ask for some 1,000 Czech crowns for a ride across the front lines. According to the refugees a three-hundred-kilometre journey from the areas of fighting can take as long as 24 hours due to diversions and roadblocks. Another possibility is to flee across the meadows, yet they are planted with mines. Despite the fact, people and even children cross them.  

Therefore, Maxim together with the others is staying in Popasnaya, while hoping that he can make it to school this autumn. “But where,” the boy ponders for a moment to give himself an answer: “My mother says that I will attend that one across the street. At home in Luhansk.” There are over 20,000 children among registered refugees who think exactly in the same way. The latest information says that in the region some 117 partially or completely destroyed schools can be found.

An explosion and suddenly they could see the street from their living room

During the fighting in Semyonovka near Luhansk a Ukrainian Olga Babrickaia and a Russian Marina Pavlichenko were suffering together. What’s more, during the fighting Marina lost her husband, who had worked as a caretaker in a psychiatric hospital. He was killed by a shrapnel. “We were left here alone. Two females in one house,” says Olga, while she adds that everybody has left either for Russia or to stay with their relatives. The two women have cleaned up, covered the broken windows with pieces of polyethylene and then they set off to press the authorities to restore the supply of electricity and water. However, they are still waiting for the gas as well as for a committee to arrive and assess the damages and decide about prospective compensation, which the people could be provided with by the government after the conflict ends.

Yet very few hope for the assistance. Even though the two females get as little as 2,000 Czech crowns a month. “It is just enough for mere survival, but we cannot build anything for it. What shall we do? We will simply leave the house as it is and we will hope that someone repairs it, or it may fall onto our heads as well,” they say in agreement.   

By contrast, Nina Kravets from a nearby Kramatorsk is being lucky as their house is in front of everybody’s very eyes, that is why the mayor promised to reconstruct it. “Fortunately, we were not sleeping in that room,” this is how Nina recalls the night when they heard the explosion and suddenly they were able to look onto the street right from our living room. he furniture and other flat equipment, which they had been long earning for, was destroyed by a single shell.     

PIN’s aid in Ukraine

People in Need has already allocated one million Czech crowns from the SOS Ukraine fundraising campaign to lend assistance for Ukraine. Moreover, 500,000 CZK has been released from the People in Need Club of Friends relief fund. The organization was especially helping after the February protests in Kiev, when the emergency medical team provided treatment for almost 80 patients. Apart from that, People in Need coordinated the evacuation of the seriously wounded and their transportation to the Czech Republic. In total, 39 patients have been transported.

Currently, People in Need is helping by making one-off contributions to heath care for the people having been wounded in Kiev, but also for those in need from the east of Ukraine. Together in cooperation with a Ukrainian non/governmental organization E+ People in Need has compiled a list of injured people which is being constantly updated on the basis of real needs. Hence, People in Need will contribute to the provision of medical treatment of approximately 150 wounded people.  

For more information please contact:

Tomáš Vlach, Humanitarian Aid Coordinator in Eastern Ukraine, +380505998827

Ondřej Nádvorník, PIN Desk Officer for Ukraine, +420 734 428 340,

Marek Štys, PIN Relief Programmes Director, +420 777 053 522,

Autor: Tomáš Vlach / Petr Štefan