Real lives

Latest stories


Mother of two children from Donetsk: It is necessary to build a new life. And we are going forward.

© UNICEF / Ukraine / 2014 / Rudakov

In September 2014 displaced children from Eastern Ukraine participated in a ceremony of opening soccer matches – holding football players by their hands, children walked out on the field and sang the national anthem. Eight-year-old Nadya and her younger sister Olya were among children who came to a UNICEF football celebration. Later their mother Oksana told that worrisome events, which the girls experienced lately, hide behind the girls’ happy eyes and their joyful mood.

Oksana lived all her life in Donetsk and worked as a head of department in a private company. Birth of the first daughter was great happiness. However, severe diagnoses of the newborn girl gave a lot of trouble to the family. “I slept one hour a day. Intake of drugs was done every 30 minutes, infantile cerebral paralysis, remedial gymnastics… Later – expensive rehabilitation”, says Oksana.

In a year, thanks to early intervention services, the family managed to overcome ICP and arrested development. “We became winners”, comments Oksana. At that time Nadya’s younger sister was born.

Oksana opened her own business, also related with children – shops that sell clothes for children. The girls actively did sports and Nadya became a champion in swimming in Donetsk Region. However, calm and balanced life was gone.

“First people with assault rifles appeared. At first, we did not take them seriously at all”, says Oksana. “In May they already openly saluted people in the city center”. The family understood that it became unsafe to express their own opinion. “It was impossible to explain the girls why they must keep silent – because it is dangerous to say what you think”.

© UNICEF / Ukraine / 2014 / Rudakov

Then the situation became only worse. Both shops of children’s clothes were set on fire and everything burned down completely. A shell hit her house. “We perceived this as a reminder that it is necessary to build a new life. And we are going forward.”

However, Oksana finally understood that it was necessary to flee from the region when life of her children appeared under threat. Oksana with her daughters was coming back from a swimming class and suddenly an armed man put a gun to a girl’s head. It is difficult to tell what Oksana felt at that moment. “He told me that I might get in trouble and I need to think how to dress up my child.” It was clear that the armed man did not like the color range of the girl’s clothes.

The family decided to leave their native place of residence and move to Kyiv. They took only swimming equipment with them and for safety reasons at checkpoint they said that they were going to a sports camp since their vehicle was searched. “I cried two times during the trip”, says Oksana. The family successfully reached Kyiv and started a new life.

Today Oksana is a coordinator of volunteers and development director of the organization “Kyiv – East Children”. She lives according to a principle: “Helping myself by helping others”. Her plans include numerous public and cultural projects, in which children play the key role.

Oksana helps displaced people from the East who cannot gain a foothold – she helps people who are in a similar situation like her own. Including disabled children who live in poor conditions and need support. “It is important for them to understand that they are not alone”.

Nadya and Olya visit various cultural and family events for displaced people, master classes and entertainment events – such things help them to adapt to the new conditions. Girls plan to continue swimming lessons in the future. They are focused only on victory.

Additional information:
According to State Emergency Service, in Ukraine there are at least 90,000 internally displaced children from Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts. UNICEF in partnership with charitable foundations and organizations continues helping children who are forced to leave their homes – such help is provided in the form of humanitarian aid, items that are necessary for education and development, psychosocial support. UNICEF and its partners also facilitate providing children in the East of the country with a possibility to learn and also conduct an information campaign on mines and explosives risks.

By Liliya Lyubomudrova



 Email this article

unite for children