• Maryna Orekhova | Communications specialist

Vinnytsia — In March, IOM organized the second regional forum "Settled Birds" for displaced people, where participants could share their experiences, find support and make new connections. Educators, artists and entrepreneurs shared their stories of resilience, demonstrating that displacement can bring new opportunities alongside challenges. We have gathered the most valuable tips on how to overcome obstacles, adapt to a new place and change your life for the better in a new location. 

Forum for displaced people "Settled Birds", Vinnytsia, 2024, PHOTO: IOM, Maryna Orekhova

Tip #1: Create things with your hands to distract yourself from negative thoughts 


When Olha Udynska returned to her half-destroyed village of Mariinka in Donetsk region a year after the start of the full-scale invasion, she saw only the ruins of her home. Amid the piles of bricks and debris, she was surprised to discover her beadwork machine, miraculously intact, with the remains of an unfinished gerdan on it [ed. traditional Ukrainian necklace]. Her husband had given her the machine before the war broke out, and she enthusiastically learned to make Ukrainian decorations, but only managed to complete one. Then came the shelling, the evacuation, a new town and the road to recovery.  

"I brought the machine I found to Vinnytsia. Initially, I avoided dealing with it, as it was a painful reminder of my destroyed home. But then somehow it went away by itself. And now I have many pieces. I give them all away to friends and acquaintances. I realized that anything we do with our hands distracts us and helps us relax. 

Olha Udynska at an IOM clay modelling workshop for displaced people, Vinnytsia, 2023, Photo: IOM, Maryna Orekhova

Olha, a Ukrainian language and literature teacher, relocated to Vinnytsia with her family. For the first few months, Olha spent time recovering from her experience and then resumed teaching classes remotely. To cope with stress, she used to make beaded jewellery by hand:  

"When I am tired of everything and think I can't stand it anymore, I sit down and make a bracelet. And when you see this finished bracelet, it seems that everything is not so bad, that everything will be fine."  

Olha not only mastered beadwork but also actively participated in workshops, excursions and other activities for displaced people organized by IOM's psychosocial support team conducts in Vinnytsia. Staying active helped Olha restore social connection:  

"My soul feels rested. I found a lot of friends, both Vinnytsia locals and displaced people, and we are now like a small family."

Tip #2: Don't be afraid to ask for help, and when you feel lonely, reach out to others 

Forced displacement often brings drastic life changes and the loss of familiar social connections. Rebuilding them helps not only to adapt to new circumstances faster but also to integrate into a new environment.   

The day before the full-scale invasion began, Mariia Karnaukh, a ballet dancer at the Mykola Kulish Kherson Theatre, performed the opening night for which the troupe had been preparing for several months, and the next day she still hoped that the second performance would take place. However, the performance did not happen, Kherson was occupied, and the young woman's life changed radically:  

"Occupation is all about waiting. All you have to do while you wait is to make a choice in favour of your identity and morality every day," Maria recalls. After five months, she and her cat managed to move to Vinnytsia — friends of friends helped and provided shelter for them. Then she lived in the actors' dormitory of the Mykola Sadovsky Vinnytsia Theatre, and again, strangers helped her  — local actors who helped furnish her empty room, offering clothes and furniture. 

Maria Karnaukh at the workshop of the forum "Settled Birds", Vinnytsia, 2024, Photo: IOM, Maryna Orekhova

"It was the most difficult period of adaptation — no new performances, no friends, no usual rhythm of life. It seemed that all I had was a suitcase, a cat and expectations." When her apartment in Kherson was flooded as a result of the Kakhovka Dam Destruction, she realized that she had nowhere to go back to:   

"If I left the occupation after five months, the occupation left me after a year and a half, when I finally realized that all this time my life had been on pause, in waiting mode."   

Today, Mariia works in the Mykola Sadovsky Vinnytsia Theatre, is involved in various creative projects, conducts acting courses for children and adults, and believes that her greatest successes are still ahead of her. However, she acknowledges that without the help of other people, she would not have made it on her own:  

"When you are lonely, you should reach out to people, even if it seems that no one will understand you. The full-scale invasion showed that people can be capable of 'superhuman' humanity. It is worth asking for help if you need it — even if it seems that there is no such person around, there will be someone." 

Tip #3: Take action and don't be afraid of change 

Maria Soldatova's story of internal displacement began in 2014, when her hometown of Donetsk was shelled and later occupied by Russian troops. Having worked all her life as a baker at a bread factory, Maria was forced to move to a village in Vinnytsia region where her parents once lived.   

"There was no work at all in the village, just a farm. I asked to be hired at least as a milkmaid. The owner refused, saying I wouldn't last a day, but I insisted,” shares Mariia. Over the course of six months, she learned how to milk cows and take care of cattle, and eventually decided she wanted to work for herself. She found an advertisement for the IOM grant programme and applied. It was the beginning of her dream come true. 

Maria Soldatova at the forum "Settled Birds", Vinnytsia, 2024, Photo: IOM, Maryna Orekhova

"In the winter, when I was sad and had nothing to do, I planted flowers, and when they grew, I pulled them out and planted them again. It gave me a feeling that life was being restored. In the spring, I planted half the garden with flowers because I didn't know how to grow anything else. The neighbours laughed at me, but I didn't care. It was beautiful and pleasant for me." Later, Maria started selling the flowers she grew, which became another source of income for her. Today, her farm helps support her family, so she has no regrets about the decision she made ten years ago. She relied mostly on herself and was not afraid to develop new skills, try something unusual, or look for new ways to make a living. Her story is a great example of resilience and importance of seeking help from others.   

It's important to remember that you are not alone in challenging times. Even if you do not have family or friends nearby, you can always seek advice from an IOM psychologist.

Vitalii Bielov, IOM mental health expert:  


"In simple terms, resilience is the ability of a person to recover from or resist stressful or traumatic events. People have different personalities, motivations, value systems and life stories. Therefore, the methods of self-support are different, and each person should look for their own. In addition to what a person can do for themselves, we, as the IOM mental health and psychosocial support team, rely on an approach that allows them to receive support from the community.   

Being needed, feeling part of the community, helping, getting help from others when necessary, having acquaintances and friends in the community — these are the ways to find a resource of social support. That's why we organized the "Settled Birds" Forum. It is a great platform for communication and meeting people, finding inspiration and support in the stories of other people who have been able to move and survive their own losses." 

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