Oksana, Yurii and Svitlana in front of their destroyed home in Nalyvaikivka, in Kyiv Oblast. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Svitlana with the family’s dog, Bonita, stands next to what remains of the family home. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
The family are now living in a temporary shelter provided by UNHCR. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi met Oksana and Yurii in their shelter on 28 July. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
High Commissioner Filippo Grandi holds a piece of the missile that destroyed the family’s home. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Yurii, Oksana and Svitlana survived the shelling that destroyed their home by hiding in their underground cold room. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Oksana has used pieces of rubble from her ruined house to decorate her flower beds. © UNHCR/Victoria Andrievska

Many of the villagers have lost everything. Weeks of deadly shelling and missile attacks resulted in the damage and destruction of more than 220 houses, 30 of which were completely destroyed, including seven on Oksana’s street alone. “This was a friendly neighbourhood and now it is a street of horrors,” she says as she surveys the destruction around her.

In July, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, met with the family to extend his solidarity to them and their community, and to commend them for their resilience and strength.

With millions of Ukrainians reeling from the impact of war and facing the approach of a bitterly cold winter, UNHCR, with the generous support from its donors, is working to ensure people affected by the conflict have a dignified and safe place to stay. Displaced people will receive cash and legal assistance. Housing – including residential centres and homes – will be repaired, and items like blankets, mattresses and lamps will be provided to those in need. But the humanitarian situation continues to worsen, with an estimated 15.7 million Ukrainians in need of assistance, including 6.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs).  

Aside from the trauma of losing their homes, the villagers of Nalyvaikivka are also coming to terms with the loss of people they had known all their lives. Oksana looks over the garden fence at a destroyed house. “Our two neighbours didn’t survive. The son died during the shelling, and his mother died afterwards in hospital.”

Behind the rubble of their former home, next to a field of burnt orange poppies, stands a temporary housing unit where the family currently lives. “In May, we received a temporary house from UNHCR,” explains Oksana standing in the small kitchen. To make the unit feel more like a home, UNHCR also provided mattresses, bed linen, solar lamps and items like soap and towels.

Despite all that has happened, the family has not given up. Yurii has already started to rebuild their beloved home, brick-by-brick. A neat pile of construction materials he salvaged from the rubble stands as a symbol of his determination, and UNHCR will provide additional materials to help.

Oksana, an avid gardener, stands between a charred cherry tree and her flowers. Using the damaged bricks of her home, she has created new flower beds. “At least I can give new life to the bits and pieces of my ruined house.”

But while the villagers are already busy rebuilding, the terrible loss inflicted on this small rural community has left its mark and residents continue to grieve for those who did not survive. For Oksana, night time is particularly difficult. She struggles with nightmares and her mind and heart race when she thinks back to what has happened.

“At my workplace, everybody tells me that I am lucky to have survived. And I say ‘yes, I am alive, but my soul is dead’. My home was like my child. I really want to rebuild it, but I’m not sure if I have enough strength.”




Originally published by UNHCR on 11 August 2022.

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