Go to main content

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

DRC offers psychological support to single mothers who relocated to western Ukraine for safety. Sessions aim to relieve stress and enhance coping mechanisms and emotional awareness. Kateryna left Kherson in 2022 and was among those whom DRC supported — read her story.

©DRC Ukraine, Lviv Oblast, Novyi Rozdil, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Posted on 21 Nov 2023

War always leaves scars, whether they are physical or mental. For those who experienced the heavy battles in the city, where they grew up and lived all their lives it is hard to feel safe again even far away from the frontline in Ukraine.

Kateryna*, 35, now lives in Novyi Rozdil town located in western Ukraine where she fled from Kherson city in Ukraine’s south. She has just passed the psychological support training consisting of 6 sessions. The last session was focused on storytelling where participants were encouraged to tell their life experiences—and Kateryna had lots of things to tell.

For instance, her hometown was under bombardment, and she saw the explosions from the windows of her apartment which faced the local Chornobaivka airport, heavily bombed during the first months of the Russian Federation military offensive. She can tell you about the helicopters that come and shoot the city.

Or that she took her boys, 5 and 9 years old, to a shelter, which was cluttered, dirty, and dusty. They hid there because Kateryna did not know what to do when your city underwent shelling, she was panic-stricken. “I had no clue from which side the rockets came and where we could be safe.

Everyone who had a car fled but we did not have one and could not leave the city,” she says.

After two weeks in the shelter, her younger son Ivan* started biting his cheeks. Kateryna thought it was a stomatitis but in a hospital near the shelter, a doctor told her it was Ivan’s way to react to the stress.

“I decided to stay with kids in a hospital. I thought it would be better to be near doctors—they could provide first aid in case of injury. But in the hospital, the children saw many seriously wounded people being brought in and carried along the corridors,” adds Kateryna with a trembling voice.


My cousin was leaving by car and saw the cars next to her being shot at. So, it was scary when we were travelling.

/  Kateryna

She says that in a week she started to adapt to the situation, understanding where they could walk and when. At this point, Kherson was beyond the control of the Ukrainian government, but Kateryna thought they could hide and wait out the fighting. Nevertheless, everything changed when the Russian soldiers knocked on her door.

“They searched people named in some of their lists and could take the whole family when they found the persons they needed. It was then that I realised I was in danger even not from the rockets. I started searching for the way to get out of the city,” says Kateryna. However, she did not have the cash to pay for evacuation—the cash in ATMs ran out. She was lucky her friend sold her car right before the military offensive outbreak and could borrow her the sum needed.

“My cousin was leaving by car and saw the cars next to her being shot at. So, it was scary when we were travelling. But we travelled without incidents, if not count the checkpoints. We left on the 6th of April. First, we went to Mykolaiv and passed more than 40 checkpoints. Then we took a taxi to Odesa because Mykolaiv was heavily shelled. From there, we travelled by train to Lviv (western Ukraine) and met our friend there. Although the journey took a few days, it seemed like a month,” says Kateryna and her hands started shaking.

She was afraid to stay in a big Lviv city because it could be the target for the rockets as well, so she decided to go to Novyi Rozdil town.

“It was impulsive and not thought out, we were just running away. Even when we arrived in Novyi Rozdil, for another 2-3 months I felt like I had to run away,” she adds.

Psychosocial support session for single mothers who are internally displaced persons. After the sessions, they can also receive legal assistance.©DRC Ukraine, Lviv Oblast, Novyi Rozdil, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Psychosocial support session for single mothers who are internally displaced persons. After the sessions, they can also receive legal assistance. ©DRC Ukraine, Lviv Oblast, Novyi Rozdil, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Time to let go of stress

In this town, DRC provided Kateryna and 11 other single mothers who became internally displaced persons (IDPs) with psychological support sessions. The sessions are aimed at increasing resources, stress resistance, conflict resolution, and understanding emotional states. 6 sessions are the minimum to provide people with psychological support and increase their coping mechanisms and emotional awareness. In total, thanks to funding from the Ole Kirk’s Fond, DRC will hold 100 such sessions for single mothers in western Ukraine.

“Our goal is to stabilise people a little bit so that they feel comfortable. When IDPs arrive here, often they do not communicate with each other as a group. Thanks to these sessions, they get to know each other and become a circle of support for each other. They begin to share tips, for example, where is a good kindergarten, where is a good teacher, and where to find some additional classes for children,” explains Stepan Pasichnyk, a Psychosocial Support Officer at DRC.

Kateryna underlines the need for such support and says it helps her to adapt. Her children also undergo adaptation—thanks to psychological support, Ivan stopped biting his cheeks.

“Such psychological assistance programmes are very much needed. During such training, I relax and unwind. Each session included some time for relaxation when we let go of stress. During the activities, for instance, when we were weaving a tree or drawing something, positive associations came up. You gradually realise that there are other things besides war and fear. I could switch my mind as children do. Anxiety goes away at such moments and an inner resource appears,” Kateryna described the positive effect of the sessions.

She also liked that the training was in a group of other IDP mothers. They laughed together and it helped to relieve the tension.

“We discovered more about each other, and I realised that I was not alone and that there were people like me around and we had the same problems. We shared our vision of the way out of the situation,” she says.

I want to go home, even if there is nothing left there. It's my land, I grew up there, and my children always talk about Kherson. We had a summer house with many fruit trees: apple trees, pears, cherries, nuts.

/  Kateryna

The unbeatable desire to be back home

In Novyi Rozdil, it is relatively calm now. The last time it was hit by a rocket was in October 2022, when it damaged the church on the town's outskirts. However, Kateryna feels anxious because there are no guarantees that a rocket will not hit a town again today or tomorrow—the media reports everyday shelling of the Ukrainian territory.

“I realise that I’m not safe. Even if I think about opportunities to work in Lviv... I'm afraid that the children are alone here. I don’t want to leave them for a day— it’s so scary to think that something can happen to me or them when we’re apart,” says Kateryna.

In Kherson, she earned her living by doing sociological surveys. Having two children, she could not spend a lot of time on a job, so she moonlighted for several working hours a day. It is worth mentioning, that Kateryna has a grade of metrology engineer and worked at Kherson Water Utility before maternity leave.

“I'm not working now, because I need to look after my children, take them from school or kindergarten. So, I live on IDP benefits. But I plan to find a job as a tailor—I passed the special course and plan to earn money by repairing clothes. I must adapt somehow,” she says.

The latest Protection Monitoring Report conducted by DRC in July-September 2023  shows the limited availability of livelihood opportunities as a prevalent concern raised by household respondents. A considerable percentage of individuals surveyed find themselves out of work and actively searching for employment, a figure that remains notably high at 18%, climbing to 28% in Lviv Oblast and 26% for IDP respondents. In Lviv Oblast, 5,000 IDPs have registered with the regional employment centre according to OCHA.

The primary contributing factors to unemployment were identified as the scarcity of job opportunities (60%), followed by responsibilities related to housework and caring for children (21%), and physical impairments or limitations (12%). Among single female caregivers, a significant proportion of 39% reported housework and childcare responsibilities as the key factor influencing their employment status, directly linked with the lack of kindergartens.

Even though Kateryna tries to adapt to the new town, she dreams about coming back home.  She has a flat there and a summer house near Kherson city. Nevertheless, while the city is shelled every week with registered deaths among civilians, she stays in western Ukraine.

“I want to go home, even if there is nothing left there. It's my land, I grew up there, and my children always talk about Kherson. We had a summer house with many fruit trees: apple trees, pears, cherries, nuts. We had vineyards there, and I grew strawberries. In the autumn of 2021, I just planted strawberry seedlings. I had a well-established life,” she says.

However, she misses the most not even the flat, house, or garden but the relatives, friends, and neighbours. She misses the warms they shared when they all gathered at the entrance of the house and talked all evening. They were all "her people" and she said she hoped one day she would meet them all again in peaceful Kherson. 

*Names were changed for confidentiality purposes.

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

22 Nov 2023
Four Day pause is not enough for the people of Gaza
21 Nov 2023
Nyaduol’s hope renewed through agriculture
Read more about Ukraine Europe Protection