New start for mother whose dreams were shattered by war
Having escaped the violence at home, Vira and her three children are starting over in Lviv, with help from UNICEF and partners.
This summer, Vira and her three children had been looking forward to picking fruits in their garden, caring for their newborn calves and visiting the seaside. Instead, their garden has died, the house has been abandoned and the beaches are now the Ukrainian frontline.
Vira and her family held on for as long as they could in their small town in Zaporizhska, before finally the violence forced them to flee. Today, they live in a refugee centre in the western city of Lviv, where they can only dream of what could have been.
“We were scared we would be killed”
On the morning of the 24th February, Vira went outside to feed her chickens. To her horror, she saw four missiles in the sky, and the family’s world changed forever.
"For a month and a half, we had lived with no payments, no money, no connectivity or food," says Vira, nursing her baby daughter Eva.
"Whenever the shells began, the children would scream: "Mom, we should get Eva and run to the basement”
Her sons, 10-year-old Serhiy and 7-year-old Yaroslav, would grab water, bread and candles, while her husband found warm blankets. But they quickly ran out of food.
"There was no food in the grocery stores,” says Vira. “And when everything was finished at home, my husband started grinding the chicken feed to make flour. And we ate that bread. That lasted for a week or two. But then even the feed finished."
Despite the shells and gunfire, Vira was often forced to cycle to a neighboring village to find diapers for her daughter, passing several checkpoints along the way. After one of those trips, she came home to find their house had been burgled.
"Thank God, the children were at their grandmothers,” Vira recalls. “But when I saw things were upside down, I understood – that was it. We decided to escape.”
"The road was exhausting. The car broke down at a checkpoint, the baby was crying and we were running out of porridge. Our daughter wanted to eat, but we didn't have any boiling water. We were scared we would be killed.”
"It's really difficult for parents and children”
After a long journey and several nights spent living in temporary shelters, the family found a temporary house for displaced people in Lviv. There is not much space, but finally they have the opportunity to rest a little and take care of the children's health.
"A volunteer psychologist visits Serhiy,” says Vira. “His nervous system was affected by the war. He constantly cries and retires into himself. I hope that a psychologist will help.”
Vira worries about her relatives back home and the family finances. To buy food for her children, she has resorted to selling her earrings and her husband's ring.
It's really difficult for parents and children. We have left our home, we have no job, no stuff. We just don't have anything of our own.”
Recently, Vira applied for UNICEF's ‘Spilno’ cash assistance programme for families with children who have been affected by the war. With the help of the European Union and other partners, more than 88,000 families raising 261,000 children have already received cash assistance as of the end of July 27, thanks to the programme.
"I received the help of UAH 33,000 from UNICEF's programme,” says Vira. “Even though the amount is not small, we can't buy a lot as prices are too high. But I managed to buy products and medicines for children. And we're trying to keep this money for several months.”
Vira and her husband are now looking for jobs and trying to adjust to their new reality.
"War is scary. It means you have to leave your home, parents and siblings. I can't even explain how difficult it is. I miss my home a lot. My children are my support, I realized I have to fight for them. Everything I do is for the sake of the children”
UNICEF's "Spilno" cash assistance programme is possible thanks to funding from the European Union, the Government of Italy, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).