Go to main content
Professional
Donate
News

Ukraine: “A shell hit our house, exploding just four meters away from our bed” ‒ Olena

The lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians changed forever with the Russian Federation's military offensive in the winter of 2022. Olena and Oleksii's* lives are no exception. While Oleksii was battling cancer, a shell hit their home, forcing them to seek refuge in a cellar for seven months. During this time, the spouses scraped for essentials to survive, wounded and trapped in a village beyond the control of the Ukraine’s government.

©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv, April 2024, Krystyna Pashkina

Posted on 07 Jun 2024

Olena and Oleksii* are from a little village in Kherson Oblast, south of Ukraine. They used to grow crops and berries to sell them right from the harvest. “Back home, we had a greenhouse and hives,” says Oleksii.

Just a few months before the Russian Federation military offensive launched on 24 February 2022, the man fell sick with cancer. Little did he know that in addition to complicated treatment, his home would be shelled severely—the house crumbled around the spouse, and they found themselves trapped beneath the rubble.

“It was chaos—the walls crumbled, and the shock wave rattled everything. The concussion from the blast had left us disoriented, unable to grasp what was unfolding around us. We lost the teeth in the blast being hit by the falling debris and rubble,” says Olena.

As the shells thundered outside, neighbours rushed to the aid of the couple, dragging them down into the cellar that served as a shelter. That is where Olena and Oleksii spent seven months before leaving their hometown.

The village was beyond Ukraine’s government control. Over time, it became more and more isolated from the outside world due to the blocking of roads by the military. The villagers pooled together whatever resources they could find to feed themselves.

“I was delivering bread because I could walk. There was another old lady who helped me,” shares Olena. “And so, that became our reality. Seven long months in the cellar, scavenging for sustenance to survive.”

Escaping the horrors of war

The couple left Kherson Oblast on September 2nd, 2022, to finally reach Ukraine’s capital Kyiv two weeks later. Along the way, they encountered almost 30 checkpoints marking the contact line and came under fire.

“When we moved into the apartment in Kyiv, it felt like the community embraced us with open arms. The neighbours brought us clothes, and one family even gave us an old TV. But also, the cash grant for medical treatment from DRC was invaluable,” shares Oleksii.

With the funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, DRC managed to address several critical medical needs for the spouse. This included dental treatment to replace the missing teeth due to the shelling, as well as other essential medical services. Additionally, Oleksii was able to undergo the oncological examination he urgently needed.

“Neurological treatment and medications are very expensive. Without the vital support we received, we would never afford the treatments,” says Oleksii.

©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv, April 2024, Krystyna Pashkina

©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv, April 2024, Krystyna Pashkina

Seeking peace in helping others

After settling into the new surroundings and undergoing medical treatment, Olena found a job at a rehabilitation centre for individuals with mental disabilities. Though her background was in medicine, it had been years since she practised. Now she has to immerse herself in the intricacies of social work and caregiving.

“I am so happy with the new job. As I am new to the sphere, I need to undergo specific training,” says Olena.

Leading us through the doors of the rehabilitation centre, she reveals her daily haven, where she devotes much of her time to her clients. For Olena her clients at the centre are more than just individuals seeking help—they are like a big family.

“I cannot just throw in the towel; I must keep going, for my family, my husband, for those who look up to me,” shares Olena.

Currently, the couple is preparing documents for state benefits. Firstly, they want to receive compensation from the state for their destroyed property. In addition, because they were injured in the missile explosion, they are also entitled to increased monthly disability payments.

*Names were changed for confidentiality purposes. 

Olena shows her office in the rehabilitation centre. With her clients and often on her own, she finds peace in the simple art of handcraft. ©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv, April 2024, Krystyna Pashkina

← →

DRC’s Victim Assistance Programme is possible thanks to funding from the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. It is supported as well through means donated by private foundations and individuals primarily in Denmark. 

European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Ukraine Humanitarian Fund
Ukraine Humanitarian Fund

09 Jul 2024

Joint Statement: New EU leadership must uphold the right to asylum in Europe

19 Jun 2024

Ukraine: “I was pulled out of a 5-metre deep crater” — victim of shelling

07 Jun 2024

Ukraine: “A shell hit our house, exploding just four meters away from our bed” ‒ Olena

31 May 2024

Ukraine: Empowering food security — DRC’s initiative in Ukraine's agricultural heartlands

24 Apr 2024

Ukraine: Strikes in Kharkiv damaged DRC’s office forcing temporary suspension of support to local populations

23 Apr 2024

129 civil society organisations call on MEPs to uphold fundamental rights and reject the harmful Schengen borders code recast

22 Apr 2024

Ukraine: Mechanical demining operations are gaining momentum in Mykolaiv Oblast

10 Apr 2024

Danish Refugee Council's statement on the adoption of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum

03 Apr 2024

Ukraine: Communities in contaminated areas face severe risks from explosive ordnance

28 Mar 2024

Ukraine: “I tried to hide in a cellar when a bomb hit my yard” — Ivanna

18 Mar 2024

Surrendering human rights for migration control

05 Mar 2024

The EU must provide future-proof solutions for people displaced from Ukraine

22 Feb 2024

Ukraine: Two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion, the situation for the millions of internally displaced is deteriorating fast

09 Feb 2024

Ukraine: Strengthening national mine action capabilities

31 Jan 2024

New report: “They started beating us, used a stun gun and pepper spray on us and then threw us into the forest. We couldn't walk for three days because of the pain, and we had vision problems.”

31 Jan 2024

Pushbacks on the European borders: Unravelling the Perils Along Migration Journeys in Europe

24 Jan 2024

Ukraine: Shelter programme helps families rebuild their homes damaged by flooding or shelling

12 Jan 2024

Ukraine: Vital cash support to internally displaced persons amidst war

20 Dec 2023

Statement on EU Pact on Asylum and Migration: A wasted opportunity for a more balanced and humane approach.

13 Dec 2023

Ukraine: Surviving captivity in 2014, mother of 2 had to flee from home amidst the onset of war

12 Dec 2023

Moldova: DRC is committed to continue strategic partnership with Ministry of Internal Affairs of Moldova to strengthen joint refugee response

08 Dec 2023

Moldova: And the next level...

06 Dec 2023

Global Refugee Forum: DRC is thrilled to announce our participation in the 2023 GRF Legal Community Pledge.

29 Nov 2023

Focus on Regions: Launch of the Mixed Migration Review 2023

29 Nov 2023

Ukraine: New windows and water supply — DRC improves living conditions in western Ukraine shelters for IDPs

21 Nov 2023

Ukraine: The journey of a single mother fleeing the frontline Kherson city

13 Nov 2023

Poland: Four thousand kilometres long way to find a new home

10 Nov 2023

DRC’s support to Ukrainian civilians traveling from Poland to their hometowns: a glimpse into the mine risk education activities in Poland

09 Nov 2023

Poland | Open Place Krakow: Aid and activities for refugees and migrants

08 Nov 2023

Poland: Coping with displacement and being away from Ukraine

07 Nov 2023

Poland: Getting a second chance in life and a sense of hope after fleeing the war in Ukraine

26 Oct 2023

Ukraine: ‘I found a shell of a large calibre’ — DRC deminers clear agricultural lands

20 Oct 2023

Poland: DRC attends the Cross Border Cooperation Congress 2023 in Lublin

17 Oct 2023

Moldova: A hand in need – partnerships to find lasting solutions for Ukrainian refugees

02 Oct 2023

Beaten by police, bitten by dogs, and robbed of all rights: New Report Reveals Alarming Pushbacks and Violations at Europe's borders

29 Sep 2023

Poland: Reducing the carbon footprint of DRC operations

24 Sep 2023

Ukraine: 'I saw the missile coming' – a struggle of a single mother returning to rebuild a home

21 Sep 2023

Ukraine: Supporting children affected by explosive ordnance

20 Sep 2023

Poland: “We were 20,000 people in my home area. Now, it’s a ghost town in Ukraine!” 

19 Sep 2023

Poland: Nurturing leadership talent among migrants and refugees

15 Sep 2023

Moldova: Finding the tune in a new life after fleeing war in Ukraine

13 Sep 2023

Ukraine: DRC provided necessary medical device to injured Bakhmut citizen

11 Sep 2023

Greece: Celebrating friendship in a music video by refugee children

29 Aug 2023

Greece: Access to quality education for refugee children 

25 Aug 2023

Kosovo: Summer camps to empower minority teachers and youth

25 Aug 2023

Poland: Protecting Ukrainian lives through Risk Education

18 Aug 2023

Kilometres of Ukraine's forests are contaminated with explosive ordnance: DRC helps make them safe

04 Aug 2023

Poland: How offices in Warsaw are turned into shelter for vulnerable refugees from Ukraine

25 Jul 2023

Civilians under shelling in Ukraine: Ivan spent months in a school basement surviving the frontline battles

19 Jul 2023

DRC's support for victims of shelling in Ukraine: a glimpse into the lives of Chernihiv families

10 Jul 2023

DRC Moldova: Joint efforts improve access to legal aid for Ukrainian refugees

28 Jun 2023

Poland: New community centre for Ukrainian refugees in Krakow

22 Jun 2023

Ukraine Reconstruction: DRC helps with emergency repair of homes

21 Jun 2023

Poland: Tailoring free legal aid to protect refugees and vulnerable minorities

21 Jun 2023

Teaching youth in Serbia about gender-based violence and rights

21 Jun 2023

Safe Migration Information is critical for Ukrainians on the move

20 Jun 2023

DRC Kosovo: A decade of support to secure critical civilian registration concluded 

20 Jun 2023

Medical aid piloted for migrants and refugees in Moldova

16 Jun 2023

Joint NGO Statement: The EU must not be complicit in the loss of lives at sea and in rights violations at Europe’s borders

16 Jun 2023

Greece: Need for spaces that are child-friendly and safe

06 Jun 2023

Ukraine: Thousands at risk following the Nova Kakhovka Dam burst

30 May 2023

Protecting Rights at Borders VI: What we do in the shadows

17 May 2023

Digital innovation in Ukraine as DRC launches new Legal Aid tool

15 May 2023

DRC Greece: Human Rights Actors join forces across Europe

15 May 2023

Bosnia & Herzegovina: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

12 May 2023

Conference Response to the Public Health Challenges of Mixed Migration

11 May 2023

Italian State blueprints DRC pilot for support to Ukrainian refugees

06 May 2023

The Danish Refugee Council supports local communities

28 Apr 2023

Ukrainian shoemaker survived a heavy explosion of an Explosive Ordnance left in a bin

26 Apr 2023

“Finding courage to start all over was tough”. Businesses across Ukraine adapt to wartime challenges

26 Apr 2023

Donation for the Cantonal Hospital in Bihać

25 Apr 2023

DRC is dedicated to the environmental protection

14 Apr 2023

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Digital literacy lessons for people on the move 

14 Apr 2023

Greece: Narrowing the digital gap in education

14 Apr 2023

Italy: Social media to help raise local awareness and create dialogue

14 Apr 2023

Kosovo: Basic IT training courses and educational grants

14 Apr 2023

Moldova: Helping refugees from Ukraine overcome digital literacy barriers

14 Apr 2023

Serbia: Ukrainian refugees attend online risk education 

04 Apr 2023

Fear of mines worries farmers in Ukraine as the planting season starts

03 Apr 2023

Meet Berin Muhić our Health Team Leader

24 Mar 2023

DRC donates eight laptops for the Canton Sarajevo Health Center

17 Mar 2023

Meet Adela Softić, our Project Team Leader

16 Mar 2023

DRC Secretary General: We have reached 3 million Ukrainians

08 Mar 2023

DRC receives grant for IT innovation and internet connectivity in Ukraine

08 Mar 2023

Development of skills among DRC staff on Gender-Based Violence in Bosnia & Hercegovina

06 Mar 2023

From Ukraine to Serbia: A living nightmare to escape war

03 Mar 2023

Meet Akin Duran, our Communication with Communities Officer

02 Mar 2023

Humanitarian mine action in Ukraine – much more than removing explosives

02 Mar 2023

One year after the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive: learnings on protection of refugees from Ukraine

27 Feb 2023

Meet Sanja Dželalagić, our Health Team Leader

24 Feb 2023

Romania – a safe haven and transit point for Ukrainian refugees

24 Feb 2023

Ukraine one year on:

24 Feb 2023

Joint humanitarian NGO statement: Ukraine one year on: Highlighting the needs of displaced Ukrainians in Georgia

23 Feb 2023

DRC clears villages in Kyiv Oblast littered with explosive ordnance

21 Feb 2023

DRC presence in southern Ukraine to reach newly accessible areas

21 Feb 2023

Meet Jovanka Runić, our Protection Team Leader

20 Feb 2023

Digital literacy classes for people on the move

16 Feb 2023

Meet Samir Aboukaf, our Translator and Cultural Mediator

14 Feb 2023

Looking for asylum for 18 years

13 Feb 2023

Heaven or hell at Italy’s northern borders

10 Feb 2023

Cooperation with health institutions to upgrade and improve services

09 Feb 2023

EU migration management: Wilful blindness to evidence of harmful human rights consequences

30 Jan 2023

Mykolaiv: A city without doors, windows and half of its citizens

27 Jan 2023

DRC focuses on improving access to primary and secondary health care to people on the move

26 Jan 2023

Protecting Rights at Borders: Beaten, punished, and pushed back

16 Jan 2023

Meet Faris Kulić, our Warehouse and Logistics Officer

12 Jan 2023

Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB)

11 Jan 2023

Meet Erdumana Spahić, our Cultural Mediator and Translator

06 Jan 2023

Meet Mufid Khalili, our Protection Officer

29 Dec 2022

Moldova: Compassion, solidarity - and warmth

29 Dec 2022

Fleeing war in Ukraine - finding refuge in Serbia

29 Dec 2022

DRC Greece: Access to schools for migrant and refugee children

13 Dec 2022

Emergency shelter in Poland for refugees from Ukraine

13 Dec 2022

From surviving in basements in Ukraine to safety in Moldova

12 Dec 2022

EU’s actions on migratory routes must prioritize safe mobility and access to protection

08 Dec 2022

EU admits Croatia to Schengen Without Regard to Abuses at the Border

07 Dec 2022

DRC press release: Scaling up capacity in Moldova to host refugees from Ukraine

08 Nov 2022

Meet Ines Arnautović, our Health Team Leader

08 Sep 2022

Joint Statement: NGOs call on Member States

16 Dec 2021

12,000 pushbacks in 2021 reflects worrying normalization of illegal practice

03 Dec 2021

Need for calm and proportional response at the EUs external borders

26 Nov 2021

Joint Statement: Call on the EU: Restore Rights and Values at Europe’s Borders

03 Aug 2021

Croatia/EU Border Monitoring System: Effective Mechanism Needed - Independent, Broad Mandate, Adequate Resources

23 Jul 2021

Using family separation as deterrent – new report documents alarming illegal push-back methods

07 Jul 2021

Countering human smuggling: No silver bullet for safer mobility

12 May 2021

Push back of responsibility: Human Rights Violations as a Welcome Treatment at Europe’s Borders

18 Mar 2021

Open letter: Five years after the EU-Turkey Statement, European Civil Society Demands an End to Containment and Deterrence at the EU’s External Borders

10 Nov 2020

Turning rhetoric into reality: New monitoring mechanism at European borders should ensure fundamental rights and accountability

23 Sep 2020

Press release: Asylum and Migration Pact

<
13 Jun 2024
Press Release: Uganda Cash Consortium secures € 7.2 Million…
>
06 Jun 2024
IDPs returning from Kurdistan camps find areas of origin wit…