Ukraine: 'Every day on the road I was scared the baby would come' - CARE

Ukraine: 'Every day on the road I was scared the baby would come'

Young woman holds baby

Tatiana Yevhenivina, 36, and her family fled from their home in Chernihiv in the northeast of Ukraine. “I didn’t want to leave, but we were very afraid. Fleeing with nine children is very scary." Photo: Laura Russ/CARE

Tatiana Yevhenivina, 36, and her family fled from their home in Chernihiv in the northeast of Ukraine. “I didn’t want to leave, but we were very afraid. Fleeing with nine children is very scary." Photo: Laura Russ/CARE

Alone in a dark room. Air alarms and explosions outside. This was the situation in which 36-year-old Tatiana Yevhenivina gave birth to her ninth child. Just as approximately 80,000 other women who gave birth in Ukraine in the first three months since the escalation of war, Tatiana was not able to receive maternal health care or deliver her baby safe from fighting.

“I didn’t want to leave, but we were very afraid. There was a lot of fighting and shooting around us,” reflects Tatiana Yevhenivina, 36, about the day her family decided to flee from their home in Chernihiv, in the northeast of Ukraine. They left, even though Tatiana was nine months pregnant. On their way to Kyiv, the 142-kilometer distant capital, they needed to check with volunteers if the route was safe enough and where they could sleep with ten people during curfew.

“Every day on the road I was scared that the baby would come. We had some medicine and some clean sheets with us, and although my husband is not a doctor or a midwife, he was ready to support me,” says Tatiana.

In a small town outside Kyiv, they found a hospital. All the patients had left already, but a small team of doctors and nurses were still there.

“I was alone in a dark room in the hospital. Air alarms and explosions scared me a lot. Every time a door closed, I thought someone was shooting,” continues Tatiana.

At 8 pm that evening, Tatiana gave birth to her ninth daughter.

“A safe birth is not something to be taken for granted anywhere,” notes Siobhán Foran, CARE’s regional Gender in Emergencies Coordinator. “But in Ukraine, pregnant women often don’t even know whether they will receive any care at all, nor whether the places they planned to deliver will be safe from fighting.”

Dazia, 4 months, with her mother Tatiana, 36, in their house in Ukraine. Photo: Laura Russ/CARE

Forced to flee again

Tatiana and her husband were lucky to find a hospital with medical staff who helped her deliver the baby, but the next morning the family was forced to be on the road again already.

“Fleeing with nine children is very scary. We met a lot of people with weapons, and I couldn’t explain this situation to my children. Still, when Illya, my 4-year-old boy hears sounds he cannot recognize, he says ‘the tanks, the tanks are coming,’” says Tatiana.

The family now lives in Volyn Oblast in the northwest of Ukraine in a small house with her mother, who suffered a heart attack recently and is bedridden. Access to health care not only remains challenging due to severe service disruptions in those parts of the country where intensive fighting is taking place, it is also challenging in western regions where additional patients put intense workloads on medical staff.

“The hospital here is far away and very expensive. At home we had a hospital close by and we could go regularly. I have a hip problem and my mother cannot move at all. We have nothing to move her, so we need to carry her,” Tatiana continues.

Woman with Nine Children
Tatiana, 36, with her nine children Ksenia, 15, Ivan, 13, Anastasia, 12, Oleksandr, 10, Vasyl, 7, Maria, 6, Illya, 4, Sofia 1,5 and Dazia, 4 months, in front of their new home in Ukraine. Photo: Laura Russ/CARE

Internally displaced families and those people seeking refuge in neighboring countries of the Ukraine not only need medical help, but also psychosocial support. According to the World Health Organization, one in five people are affected by mental health disorders in post-conflict settings. If left without treatment and adequate support, people from Ukraine face long-lasting effects that could harm themselves, their families, and communities

“At home we had plans for our future, now we do not even have plans for tomorrow,” says Tatiana.

“I also do not know how to explain the war and what is happening to my children. The older ones stopped playing their instruments and do not sing anymore. I don’t know how to help them.”

A group of people in kayaks on a river
Tatiana, 36, and her family went on a kayaking tour as part of psychological support activity that they participated in after fleeing from Chernihiv in the northeast of Ukraine. Photo: Laura Russ/CARE

Psychological support for families 

To help release stress and treat trauma, CARE and its partners support families like Tatiana’s with psychosocial activities and psychological support sessions. CARE provides anonymous support hotlines, as well as information on where to seek help and how to find support books. Recently, Tatiana and her family went on a kayaking tour organized by one of CARE’s partners. “It was amazing. The kids had fun and were distracted for the first time,” says Tatiana. “We also received a food box for each child, and they were drawing pictures together.”