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

Raising children alone is hard but the challenges skyrocket when you evacuate from your home due to the war. All the clothes, house supplies, or kids’ beloved toys are gone, and you need to build your life from scratch in a new city when your country is in the middle of the war. These are the challenges that Vitalina, Anna and Avrora* faced when they left Mariupol city.

©DRC Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, 2023, Olena Vysokolian.

Posted on 13 Dec 2023

On a sunny but frosty day, the DRC teams wait for the internally displaced persons at the YaMariupol Centre located right in front of the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast administration in western Ukraine. Today, they distribute hygiene kits and clothes for children and register IDPs for cash support aiming to cover essential needs.

Vitalina, 33, came here today to get humanitarian aid. She looks exhausted, her tired eyes reflect the terrific experience she has had. Ten years ago, she worked in a tax office in Donetsk, now a non-government-controlled city in eastern Ukraine. When the conflict started, she left the city and headed to the village nearby where her parents lived. But soon Vitalina and her parents were captured.

“Then they [armed troops] began to extort money. When we paid them, they gave us time to flee, and we left [non-government-controlled area] through the mined fields. We never returned home,” she says with a bitter voice.

Vitalina found a new home in Mariupol, a city in the Ukraine’s South on the shore of the Sea of Azov. Her tax office was relocated there after Donetsk was out of the control of the Ukrainian government. In a city with endless sunrises and sand beaches, she falls in love and gets married having no idea that in eight years she will evacuate from this city being pregnant with her second child.

The war made her leave her home a second time. Vitalina took Yehor, her older son, and dashed to Dnipro city in the centre of Ukraine. 

“Yehor had to go to school, and I was pregnant. But in Dnipro was very dangerous. One morning, we came under a shocking shelling, there was no alarm. It was so petrifying that Yehor* started stuttering. Then, I decided that children must be saved and moved to Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine’s west,” says Vitalina, clenching her fists.

“It's hard for me here, I’m alone with two children, one is a newborn. He is 2 months old. I’m grateful for any support. I did not even take valuables from Mariupol, I had a fur coat and leather goods. We left everything behind because we were rescuing relatives and pets, there was no room in the car.”

Children are growing, they need new clothes every year. Vitalina also needed to buy a crib, a stroller, and other stuff for a newborn. In addition, both of Vitalina's children have kidney problems and she is saving money for treatment and surgery which Yehor will undergo soon.

YaMariupol Centre in Ivano-Frankivsk coordinates the different humanitarian aid for IDPs from Mariupol city and its outskirts. Today, Vitalina came here to receive DRC’s kit with diapers and other hygiene essentials and a pack of basic winter clothes for a newborn.

"In western Ukraine, we are going distribute 1,050 such kits. They are designed for children under 3 years old. The clothing set, for example, includes warm overalls, which will be handy given the cold Ukrainian winters," says Gennadiy, a Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance officer at DRC.

Registering for financial support and receiving hygiene and clothing kits for children. ©DRC Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, 2023, Olena Vysokolian.

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Cash to cover basic needs

In a crowded room of the Centre, Anna, 27, waits in line for registration on support. She came here with almost 2-year-old Karyna*.  Anna moved to Ivano-Frankivsk with her friend Avrora, 28, who also came to register for aid today. Their husbands were killed in Mariupol under bombardment. Anna and Avrora are now on maternity leave and do not work, living only on payments from the state, humanitarian aid, and the rest of their savings.

“We need help because having a baby you always need to buy a lot of stuff. When we lived in Mariupol, everything was fine. We were building our lives, but now we must start from scratch”, says Anna.

For women with older children, DRC proposes cash support. The families will receive 3,600 UAH (€90) for each member per month for three months.

In addition to cash assistance, DRC also provides 1,000 children with education grants to buy stationery, backpacks, and other school supplies. Avrora is eager to receive the payments.

“I live on state payments for IDPs. The financial assistance from DRC will be used for living expenses. It will partially cover the rent and I will be able to buy winter clothes. I also have a dog and need to feed everyone”.

Vitalina, Anna and Avrora plan to stay in Ivano-Frankivsk for now. It is relatively safe there, and with no clue of how the war might change their life next, they try to just establish a daily routine and take care of the most precious they have—their children.

*Names were changed for confidentiality purposes.

Funding and support

Cash assistance and distribution of the kits for children in western Ukraine are possible thanks to the funding from Ole Kirk's Fond. The activities are supported as well through means donated by private foundations and individuals primarily in Denmark.

Ole Kirk’s Fond
Ole Kirk’s Fond
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