BY: Amanda Nero

It was a sunny day in Kharkiv, Ukraine, when Anna (72) and her husband, Nikolay (75) arrived from Mala Danylivka village where they live now, to collect money from a cash program offered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Anna and Nikolay are retired doctors. Before the conflict in Ukraine began in April 2014, they lived in Stanytsia Luhanska. One night, they were violently woken up by a powerful blast. Two bombs had hit their house and the window of their daughter’s room collapsed over her. Yuliya (43) is a biology teacher but could not work at school anymore as the building was also damaged by the bombings.  After the incident, Yuliya, who already had some mobility problems, could not walk because of the trauma and the family decided to leave their life in Stanytsia Luhanska for a short while and seek safety in the Kharkiv region. Nikolay tried to stay longer in their native city to take care of their properties, but last August he had to go to Kharkiv region to join his wife and daughter as the situation wasn’t getting better in Stanytsia Luhanska.

Anna signing documents to receive the cash transfer from IOM
Anna waits at the cashier to receive cash transfer from IOM

They had only carried only one bag as they thought they would stay for less than a month. Now the three of them live in a small room in a dormitory and depend on humanitarian aid, support from government and help of friends and family. As Yuliya cannot teach anymore, she has been developing other talents. She learned from teachers and on the internet how to paint and sew. She is creating hand-sewn embroidery designs and selling them to friends. “I cannot work as a teacher because of my mobility limitations. I have to find adequate transportation to be able to reach the nearest school from here. Sometimes it was boring to teach the same class over and over again, but now I miss it."

Anna holding one of the pieces made by her daughter
Yuliya in the room she shares with her parents. In the background, is one of her paintings

Yuliya and her family have been through challenging situations in Stanytsia Luhanska. “Because of the conflict there was no electricity or hot water anymore, so we started to make fires outside to be able to cook, it was dangerous because of the shelling. One day, our neighbour’s house was destroyed, she was an old lady and we tried to reach her to help, but when we found her, her body was burned.” The family believes that now they will have to rebuild their lives elsewhere. “We are like cut trees, our roots are left there in Stanytsia Luhanska and now we will have to make new roots grow here.”