Hrytsiv - In the face of hardship and displacement, Tetiana's Turkish cezve is more than just a clay coffee pot to her. It symbolizes a lifeline to her past. Fleeing her native city of Sloviansk in Donetsk region, renowned for its pottery, Tetiana managed to bring along this precious handmade piece. Now residing in a collective centre in Khmelnytskyi region, she starts each morning using the ceramic cezve to brew coffee for herself and her husband, cherishing the comforting connection it offers to her home. 

Tetiana, a ceramic maker from Sloviansk, in the kitchen of a collective centre in Hrytsiv. Photo: IOM 2023/Maryna Orekhova

Before the war, Tetiana worked at a renowned ceramic workshop, famous for its pottery across Ukraine. Her responsibilities included washing, cutting and moulding clay into desired shapes for future products like plates, bowls, cups, souvenirs. Despite the challenging circumstances of the war, the workshop miraculously managed to remain operational until mid-2022, says Tetiana. Unfortunately, many other businesses in the region, no longer under Ukrainian government control, succumbed to deterioration or complete destruction. 

"One day I saw Sloviansk ceramics at a local market in Hrytsiv. It was so heart-breaking that it's hard to describe. Apparently, they were still selling the leftovers. I looked around and left because I had no money to buy them," shares the woman.   

Tetiana and her husband have found refuge in the small town of Hrytsiv, in Khmelnytskyi region of Ukraine. Despite the challenges they faced, the couple says they were fortunate to be allocated a separate room in a collective centre. However, it is the small piece of land adjacent to their accommodation that brings Tetiana particular happiness. 

"We grow potatoes, cucumbers, and some greens. It will be easier now, we won't have to buy anything at the market," she says. 


Tetiana shows a piece of land near the collective centre where she now grows vegetables. Photo: IOM 2023/Maryna Orekhova.

Despite the hardships of displacement, Tetiana and her husband have embraced gardening as a means to sustain themselves and reconnect with the feeling of self-sufficiency they once enjoyed in Sloviansk. There, Tetiana and her husband lived in a private house with a few acres of land. The transition to a collective centre in Hrytsiv has not been easy, but the opportunity to cultivate a small garden has provided her with a sense of familiarity and joy. 

When the family arrived at the dormitory in Hrytsiv, their living conditions were far from ideal. Basic amenities were lacking, and the challenges seemed insurmountable.  

In April, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) dispatched their mobile teams to Hrytsiv. The renovation efforts focused on upgrading the collective centre’s bathrooms and kitchens, which were in urgent need of improvement, accommodating over 100 displaced people at any one time from eastern and southern Ukraine.  
Thanks to support from the European Union, IOM upgraded several collective centres in Khmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia regions. The renovations include equipped kitchens with basic amenities, improved water supply and sewage systems, new showers and toilets in the bathrooms, as well as new tile. So far, 14 centres in Khmelnytskyi and 53 in Vinnytsia have been renovated, with a focus on enhancing kitchens and bathrooms, and some centres received new windows. Additionally, 24 residential houses damaged in a rocket attack on Khmelnytskyi have been repaired, and 11 more are currently undergoing renovations. 

"It's much better now. We have no complaints, only gratitude. We finally feel like we're living with dignity," Tetiana says. 

The kitchen in the collective center after IOM's renovation. Photo: IOM 2023/Maryna Orekhova.

Recent data from IOM reveals that there are approximately 3 million internally displaced people in Ukraine who have no current plans to change their current residence or relocate, with 58 per cent citing security concerns as the primary reason. Additionally, 17 per cent face housing challenges due to destruction caused by the conflict. 

According to the same report, over 22 per cent of displaced families rely on state payments for internally displaced people as their main source of income. Tetiana and her husband fall into this category, as they had to evacuate with minimal belongings and faced loss of income. They now depend on state payments and have to live frugally. The family also received valuable one-time financial assistance from the UN to support them durng this difficult time. 

Although they long to return home, the ongoing danger makes it unfeasible for Tetiana and her husband to do so at the moment. With her husband requiring care due to a disability, Tetiana cannot seek employment at present, and job opportunities nearby are limited.  

Despite the challenges, Tetiana remains hopeful for a better future and dreams of returning home someday. Until then, she remains dedicated to taking care of her husband and making the best of their current situation with the support they receive. 

As the war continues, the support and assistance from organizations like IOM play a vital role in providing displaced families with a semblance of stability and hope for a better future. The impact of the renovations in Hrytsiv serves as a testament to the positive change that can be achieved when humanitarian efforts come together to address the pressing needs of vulnerable communities. 

This story was written by Maryna Orekhova and Anna Tsybko from IOM Ukraine. 

SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities