Families fleeing home find respite in gyms and train stations
Families uprooted by the violence in Ukraine are finding shelter along the way in train stations and school gyms.
Amidst the horrors of the war in Ukraine, public spaces such as train stations, theatres and gyms are being transformed into temporary shelters for the millions forced to flee their homes.
Here, people are offered places to sleep, warm food, necessities and psychological help. They allow families from all over Ukraine to take a short rest, before moving on and making plans to start again. Most have no idea when they will return home.
Danylo, 2, Anya, 6, and Matviy, 9, have stopped at Uzhhorod train station in western Ukraine. With their mother Tetyana, they are en route to a temporary refuge in the small Transcarpathian town of Vynohradiv.
The challenges of raising three children far from home, while being separated from her husband, make Tetyana anxious. But she hopes to one day return to Odessa.
Elsewhere in Uzhhorod, in a school gym, Anna, her daughter Svyatoslava, and her parents, Lyudmyla and Vasyl are seeking shelter for the third week. On the first day of the war, the fence of Anna’s home near Irpin was smashed with armored vehicles. They hid in the basement with their neighbours for eight days.
“We came under fire,” says Anna. “The soldiers, hiding behind the houses where people lived, carried out chaotic shelling. They shot the legs of two girls we knew. They drove up to the house with armoured vehicles and stole everything from the house, even linen.”
The war in Ukraine that began on 24 February 2022 has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis. The latest escalation in violence has caused mass displacement of the population throughout the country and to the neighbouring countries, as well as a growing number of casualties. As of 6 April, 167 children were killed and at least 279 injured.
In March 2022, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Ukraine teamed up with the Ukrainian Public Health Foundation to launch 50 mobile teams to reach families and children in western and central parts of Ukraine with psychosocial, legal and medical support. The teams, which each consist of a social worker, psychologist, lawyer and nurse, will operate in 11 regions of Ukraine, with a specific focus on women, children, youth and people with disabilities. The project will help with basic needs, and work to strengthen coping mechanisms and resilience, in Lviv, Zakarpattia, Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Volyn, Khmelnytsky and Dnipro regions. Uzhhorod mobile teams were among the first to start their work and provide assistance to families with children in transit centers and places of residence of IDPs both in the city of Uzhgorod and in the region.