Ukraine: “We had a future, but it was taken from us”

It is a small place, sparsely furnished, clothes are piled up in the corner. It looks like a kind of closet if it were not for the six mattresses that are squeezed tightly together on the floor. “This is where we live at the moment,” says Oleksandra, who fled Mariupol with her children and grandchildren and has been living in this small room for over a month. There are a few suitcases and bags with clothes on the floor next to the mattresses. “That's all we could save,” says Oleksandra. “We had a future, but it was taken from us on February 24 – the beginning of the war in Ukraine.” 

Before fleeing to Lviv, Oleksandra and her children stayed in an air raid shelter in Mariupol. “I only went outside in search for food. I did not allow anyone else in my family to leave the shelter,” says Oleksandra. “I have lost 17kg since the beginning of the war.” 

Eventually, Oleksandra and her children made it out of the city. They fled to Lviv by bus. The family found a temporary accommodation near the train station. All of them have a place to sleep, and people support Oleksandra with taking care of her children. But the accommodation is only a temporary solution.  

Oleksandra has applied for UK visas for herself and her children. Refugees from Ukraine can currently travel to all countries of the European Union without a visa. When asked why she chose Great Britain instead of an EU member country, she replies: “We want to be as far away from Ukraine as possible.” 

Oleksandra shows me photos of her hometown Mariupol on her cell phone. The photos show the destruction of the city, neighbors are burying hundreds of dead bodies. A cold shiver runs down my back. “It is worse than you can imagine. I hope that the fighting in Mariupol will eventually stop. After the fighting you will see how terrible it is there,” says Oleksandra.  

Written by Sarah Easter, Emergency Communications Officer, CARE Germany and CARE Austria

CARE in Ukraine: 

Our partner International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) is one of the largest charitable foundations in Ukraine. IRF works with a variety of civil society partners. With the support of CARE and through a network of around 140 local organizations, 50,000 people are being provided with urgently needed humanitarian aid. 

To provide prompt and effective humanitarian assistance, IRF and CARE rely on a strong network of community-based organizations across the country. CARE and IRF provide funding for facilities that are part of the critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and social support services. In addition, people receive cash assistance. 

CARE and IRF pay particular attention to the most vulnerable groups, women and girls, ethnic minorities, but also third-country nationals, people with disabilities and orphans. Provided relief supplies include dry food, household items such as blankets, kitchen utensils and furniture, hygiene items for all genders and ages (including pads, diapers, soap), medicines for personal use, and medical supplies for hospitals such as oxygen masks, syringes, wound dressings. In addition to these items, CARE and IRF also support local initiatives with fuel to transport relief supplies and to pay employees.