Go to main content
Professional
Donate
News

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

A missile explosion in March 2022 near a dormitory used for general housing in Chernihiv injured the daughter of Alina and destroyed the room that has served as their home. After months of being displaced and far from Chernihiv, the mother and daughter decided to return and resettle.

©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv, 2023, Oleksandr Ratushniak.

Posted on 24 Sep 2023

Natalia* and her daughter Alina* live in a 10-square-meter room in a dormitory in Chernihiv, a city in Northern Ukraine. This room does not belong to her—she rents it, paying only for utilities as the owner does not want to charge Natalia for rent. In Ukraine, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, dorm rooms were allowed to be privatised. Natalia owns one of them, another room of 15 square metres in a dormitory nearby. She was at home when a missile explosion hit back in March 2022 causing heavy damages. Only the walls are left, and everything has to be renovated.

"That day, I decided to go to the kitchen to get some water. My sister was there with me, and suddenly I saw something flying outside. I crouched under the window and, in a second, realised what was happening—everything got black. When I woke up, the girls who were in the kitchen with me were all bleeding. The explosion was right in front of my room, and Alina came out covered in blood," says Natalia, recalling the shock of the moment when she did not know how badly her daughter was injured.

Alina was taken to a hospital. In addition to her injured leg, Alina also had a protrusion in her back and began to experience epileptic seizures. Immediately after the surgery on her leg, a doctor asked Natalia and Alina to leave. "The staff said that they were expecting the hospital for children to be shelled, so we had to either hurry to the basement or leave," says Natalia.

They went home and moved to the basement of their house where they spent several days. Alina was bleeding, and her leg was not healing. That was when Natalia decided to leave the city.

Volunteers helped them get out of Chernihiv and to a safe place. They travelled in a cargo van without seats and sat on the floor of the car as they headed to Kyiv. From there, they took a train to Zakarpattia Oblast in the West of Ukraine. After spending weeks in Uzhhorod city hospital there, local volunteers helped them find accommodation in Hanychi village nearby on the border with Romania.

©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv, 2023, Oleksandr Ratushniak.

©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv, 2023, Oleksandr Ratushniak.

Rebuilding the home and collecting furniture

Natalia and Alina returned home to Chernihiv two months later when they had recovered a bit and felt strong enough to travel once again. Of all their belongings, only a table, a microwave and a TV were left after the explosion. After moving into a nearby dormitory, Natalia found the replacements for the furniture she needed through online groups where people give away their old stuff for free.

"The sofa we got was very old, and it was uncomfortable for my injured child to sleep on it. That is why I turned to DRC for help," says Natalia.

Thanks to funding from USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, DRC was been able to support 150 families with children who have been affected by explosive ordnance accidents. DRC helped Natalia buy a new sofa with an orthopaedic mattress, a laptop for online learning, as well as a backpack and stationery for Alina to resume school.  

Natalia works as a salesperson in a shop, but her salary is barely enough to cover her current needs. In addition, Alina's treatment is extremely expensive. The city administration and the organisation People in Need helped renovate the dormitory building where Natalia's room is located, but she still needs to pay for final repairs and the whole interior work in her room.

"So far, I have neither the strength nor the finances to do. But I do my best and work seven days a week and as much as I can," she says.

When asked if she would like to move abroad, she has made up her mind. "I have a big family of eight people. I cannot and do not want to leave them. And they do not want to leave the country. I also do not want to leave when everything is calm in the city. But when we are under fire, I sometimes panic and am ready to take Alina and move away somewhere safe, even on foot," she adds.

DRC’s Victim Assistance Programme is possible thanks to funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and the USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. It is supported as well through means donated by private foundations and individuals primarily in Denmark. 

*Names were changed for confidentiality purposes.

Natalia shows her room in the dormitory that was affected by a missile explosion in March 2022. After renovation supported by the municipality and international NGO, she still has to pay for final repairs and the whole interior work in the room to make it livable. ©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv, 2023, Oleksandr Ratushniak.

← →

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

<
26 Sep 2023
New jobs for now: Supporting municipalities against the eart…
>
22 Sep 2023
After years of crisis, small scale economic recovery brings…
Read more about Ukraine Europe Protection