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“How could I stay?” Three Generations of Women Find Shelter in Sighet

Portrait of Oleksandra, Elena and Vika

Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

More than four million Ukrainian refugees, mostly women, children, and the elderly, have fled the country since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion. That number includes Oleksandra, 81, her daughter Elena, 53, and granddaughter Vika, 22, who recently arrived in Romania from their homes in Kyiv and Chernivtsi.

Oleksandra, Elena and Vika sip hot tea in a safe shelter designed for disabled people established by CARE’s Romanian partner, Star of Hope, at the Sighet border crossing. Oleksandra suffers from Type 2 diabetes and completed the final leg of their journey to the border in a wheelchair provided by volunteers.

A few days after the invasion, Vika travelled from Kyiv to Chernivtsi, in western Ukraine, to help her mother and grandmother evacuate. All three women cried as Vika described their long and dangerous trip. “We tried to travel in a car with a man who transports people with disabilities, but he didn’t have enough documents, so in the end we had to come by bus and by walking, which took three hours,” she said. “But we struggled with my grandmother, as she was really weak and couldn’t walk because she was so scared. So we were holding her up under her arms and carrying her along. We were really scared; we weren’t sure my grandmother would survive, but volunteers from inside Ukraine also helped us. The road was really bad.”

Elena sips hot tea
Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

“I hope now the journey is over, the worst has ended, but I am really tired. I was so worried for my family. People asked my mother along the way how she could come, along such a hard road, and with my grandmother who has such disabilities, but my mother was saying – ‘how could I stay?’”

Volunteers were then able to arrange transport to a shelter and onward travel to the Polish border where Oleksandra’s son in law will pick them up and take them to his apartment in Poland and to safety.

Vika is already planning her return to Ukraine. She envisions fighting for her country, and then returning to her job as an online marketer and reuniting with her cat, which was left behind. “After this I will go back, to volunteer to help my country. Once I know they are safe and taken care of I will go straight back – it is my country, my land. Of course, I am afraid, but now my parents, my family are safe, so now I don’t have to worry about anyone except me. Everyone is scared, but for us the alternative, if Russia succeeds, it is worse. If it works out that the only thing left is to fight, then I am prepared to fight, but for now I want to help by volunteering.”

CARE is supporting Star of Hope, and our partners began psychosocial support training on March 8, International Women’s Day.

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