Ukraine_Shelter with many beds
Photo: Laura Noel/CARE

Ukraine: "My daughter still screams in her dreams"

Night is the hardest time for Natalia, 35-years-old. She never knows if one of the bullets might hit one of her windows. "When we hear the whistle of bullets, we immediately dress our sleeping daughter warmly and take her to the basement. It is very cold there. We always try not to wake her up in order not to frighten her even more. Children should laugh, not scream and cry", Natalia recalls.

She and her three-year-old daughter Daria often hear gunshots outside of their house. They live in South of Ukraine in an area currently not controlled by the Ukrainian government, in the small town of Chornobaivka. Daria still to this day does not speak and screams in her sleep. For more than nine months, the sound of rockets and constant explosions have become an integral part of their lives. 

Out of touch with the world 

When the fighting starts, all the shops close. Food and other essentials are buried. There is nothing left to steal. "The village was under heavy fire and active fighting. Villagers who tried to flee were shot. Some had to kneel and were shot. Blood puddles were often seen on the streets," Natalia says. After seeing this, Natalia’s family seldom goes outside. She takes walks with her daughter in her courtyard which is not visible from the street.  

One day, a lot of people stood in line to receive bread, including Natalia’s mother. Many of them are hungry, with no shops being open. That is when someone starts shooting. The screams and cries of the people echo from the house walls. "With no hiding places, people start running, some trying to find shelter behind the narrow stem of a tree, scared for their lives," Natalia recalls. After this incident, she is too scared to leave the house. The family manages to survive the summer thanks to their own garden and neighborhood chickens. 

Ukraine_Little girl holding yellow wax colour

Photo: CARE

Over time the explosions no longer scared Natalia. What scares her are her daughter's screams at night. She tries to calm her with songs and fairy tales. Volunteers find Natalia's family only two weeks after Chornobaivka was back under the control of the Ukrainian government. Natalia and her family are evacuated to Odesa. Natalia's daughter is gradually adapting to a quieter life.

Doctors work with the child, therapy helps her, and the child wakes up less and less at night in tears. "My daughter still often screams in her dreams", says Natalia. "She does not speak yet. The doctors believe that it is because of stress. We were prescribed medicines and massages, and the improvements are already noticeable," says Natalia. However, the rehabilitation process is very long. 

Ms. Tetyana Butko, a mobile team doctor, provides humanitarian, socio-psychological and medical assistance to families in need daily. As a woman who also fled the war, she understands the needs of families such as Natalia's. It is hard for her emotionally because she communicates with people who have lost everything. People fled the war to save their lives and children. 

Ukraine_Mother unwrapping gift for little girl on bed

Photo: CARE

"Many have absolutely nothing left. They need everything, starting from underwear," says Tetiana. But for her it is even more painful to look at the children. "They need medical and psychological help. They need access to education and entertainment. Because such a daily routine is the best doctor for them," analyses Tetyana.   

Currently, the family lives on the payments for temporarily displaced persons, paid by the state. The charitable foundation Wind of Change, a CARE partner, also helps with temporary shelter and hygiene kits, that provide the family with household hygiene products: shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, dishwashing detergent, wet wipes and antiseptics.  

Natalia dreams of hearing her daughter speak again. And she believes that she will laugh and one day will be able to sleep through the night, without waking up from her screams.