Surrounded by an apple garden and flowers, a geriatric boarding house in the town of Pidbuzh in Lviv Region has been serving as a home for vulnerable elderly people who have no one to take care of them, or elderly with disabilities. Since the start of the full-scale war in February, this facility hosted over 30 elderly men and women who fled eastern Ukraine or then-occupied settlements in Kyiv Region.
The majority of them are either veterans of the Second World War or were born during that period and lived difficult life, hoping to face old age with dignity. Instead, they had to flee their homes and face the war for the second or third time in their life. Many residents of the boarding house experienced this hardship in 2014 after Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the start of hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
86-year-old Vasyl and his wife Maria experienced internal displacement for the second time. The couple lived in Sevastopol, but after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014 they moved to Irpin in Kyiv Region thanks to the support of their children. In March 2022, Vasyl and Maria survived the Russian occupation of this town. They both have limited mobility and were not able to join the evacuation on time. Waiting for another “green corridor”, the elderly couple had lived for two weeks without water, electricity or heating. During the chaotic evacuation, they were separated, but later reunited and traveled together to western Ukraine as staying in Kyiv Region in the early weeks of the Russian invasion was too dangerous.
In Lviv Region, Vasyl and Maria were first accommodated in an old hotel that was not suitable for people with disabilities. Only two weeks later, they were able to move to the boarding house in Pidbuzh, where they can receive specialized care.
"We are very welcomed, and the administration created very comfortable conditions for us. I like living here now. But I really want to return home after the end of the war," said Vasyl.
As the institution hosted an additional number of displaced persons, it lacked resources to cover the needs. IOM provided this boarding house with new blankets, mattresses, bedding sheets, and folding beds to create sleeping places for the elderly. Also, residents of the institution were provided with hygiene kits.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 4,2 million elderly people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. For elderly people with disabilities and chronic diseases, evacuation is more difficult, as they need social assistance and support with transportation. Among the displaced persons, 46% of the families surveyed by IOM live with at least one elderly relative. As many elderly people can rely only on a small state pension, humanitarian aid, and relatives' support, they have no alternatives to collective centres that are often not adapted to their mobility needs. From the first days of the full-scale invasion, IOM puts extra effort to address the needs of the elderly.
In Chernivtsi, IOM supported another specialized geriatric boarding house where 69 elderly displaced persons found refuge. IOM provided the institution with the most necessary items, including mattresses and blankets, and further rehabilitated the canteen and the bathroom to make them accessible for people with disabilities. IOM also installed a new boiler and sinks, improving access to water and sanitary conditions.
Svitlana and her husband were displaced from Pokrovsk in Donetsk Region and after evacuation found shelter in a boarding house in Chernivtsi. Svitlana says that it is very important for both of them to be able to remain autonomous in their daily routine, for example when taking a shower or cooking. After the repairs carried out by IOM, Svitlana and her husband feel much more comfortable in their temporary home, and despite all the hardship, believe that better days are yet to come.
Written by Tetiana Astakhova and Maksym Petrov.