39-year-old Katya lived a happy life in her town in Donetsk Oblast. She worked in a local factory and her son, five-year-old Maksym, was enjoying his final year of kindergarten before primary school. When the war in Ukraine broke out in late February 2022, like millions of people at the time, Katya started making plans to leave.
“Our initial plans were to go to my sister in Poland in March, but the situation was always changing in Ukraine at that time. In early April, very heavy shelling began in my town. People were getting hurt. You did not know where the next shell would land.”
Katya knew she had to get out as soon as possible.
“My neighbour was volunteering with the evacuation effort, driving people out of the city in his car. We asked him for help – to bring us somewhere, anywhere. My mother, who is 62, came with us.”
“On the way here, we stayed overnight in Pavlohrad, then in Dnipro, but nowhere was safe. We were advised to come here to Poltava Oblast and arrived here in early April. Here we were advised families would be safer.”
While Katya managed to get her son and mother to safety, not everyone close to them was willing to leave their home.
“My ex-husband and his mother, Maksym’s grandmother, remained there. They are insisting they will never leave.”
A Safe Haven
“When we came to Poltava, we were directed towards this facility, as it is set up for children as well as older people. We have a separate room with three of us in it, and we use the common facilities.”
“Now, we are glad to have the support of kind people in this centre. We just hear air-raid alerts, but thank God the shelling isn’t affecting here. This town is very small. We like it because of that. It is not a target.”
The family are safe, but Katya worries about when Maksym will get to resume a normal life and go back to school.
“All kindergartens have been closed since the war started, as teachers understandably don’t want to have to be responsible for small children if there is shelling.”
While Katya feels relatively safe for the moment, she is eager to return home when it is safe to do so and rebuild her life..
“The lawyers from Right to Protection have told us how their work is possible with GOAL’s support. We are very grateful for this organisation from Ireland to support people in Ukraine.”
“My dream is to return home to a normal life and to normal work. This is our main concern.“
GOAL Response In Ukraine
Within days of the Russian invasion, GOAL teams were on the ground in Poland and Western Ukraine. Distributing food and non-food items such as hygiene kits, clothes and blankets to families fleeing the conflict.
Working with a Ukrainian partner organisation, Right To Protection, GOAL has now embarked on a larger programme offering legal and personal rights’ advice to internally displaced people. The programme aims to ensure families are aware of their entitlements and protections following the loss of homes and livelihoods, as well as where to access critical services.
GOAL and Right To Protection are providing these services in temporary shelters across Ukraine; in Kyiv, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Poltava and Sumy oblasts. GOAL has also delivered over 30 generators and over 100 electric heaters to provide power and heat for temporary displacement centres in a number of regions, including recently in Kharkiv, where near-daily shelling continues.
You can support families like Katya’s with a donation today.