Chernihiv, 17 November 2022 – Halyna, a volunteer from the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, has seen many things and has many stories to tell.
“I know an old lady who lives with her daughter in a garage. Their house was destroyed but they refuse to move because they are afraid that the little they have left will be stolen,” Halyna says.
“We gave them some pots and pans, which they cherish since they have lost everything else.”
Born in Belarus but living in Ukraine since her marriage, Halyna lives in a suburb called Bobrovytsia which suffered heavily during the first months of Russian invasion.
“We were hiding in the basement – we could barely withstand the cold anymore. We could hear the planes outside; everything was shaking and burning around us; we could only smell gunpowder and smoke,” she recalls.
Together with her family, she fled to western Ukraine for a brief period before returning to the ruins of Bobrovytsia. She is now engaged in the distribution of humanitarian aid arriving from both abroad and local contributors.
Half of those internally displaced interviewed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at the end of October reported that their homes had been damaged (45 per cent) or completely destroyed (5 per cent). Of those, nearly all cited the lack of funds as the main barrier to repairing the damage.
IOM’s mission in Ukraine has helped 77-year-old Hanna with the partial reconstruction of her home. A new roof has already been built, and soon, an IOM mobile construction team will proceed with the internal repairs.
Hanna’s neighbour, a surgeon at a local hospital, has been repairing his home all on his own. At first, he felt too proud to accept an emergency shelter kit, but he relented and the tarpaulin he received proved essential on the rainy, cold autumn days.
As harsh as the weather might have been in the past few weeks, the residents know that with winter looming, this is just the beginning of their ordeal.
“People want to start rebuilding their houses as soon as possible, but they need help. Some have been provided with construction materials, but they also need manpower because they can’t do it all on their own,” explains Halyna.
Since June, local youth and residents from Chernihiv Region have been coming to Bobrovytsia in the evenings and during the weekends to help clean the rubble and fix or partially restore damaged houses – but the needs are much bigger than the available resources.
Halyna never had the opportunity to volunteer before the outbreak of the war. Now, she is regularly making soup, muffins and tea for the brigade of volunteers.
“The windows in my house have been broken, but the damage pales in comparison to that of my neighbours. I wanted to make myself useful,” she says.
She faces a spectrum of emotions, from pain and disbelief to gratitude and hope, on a daily basis. However, Halyna says she always keeps her patience and resilience.
“You never know what someone is going through until you walk a mile in their shoes.”
As of November 2022, IOM had distributed emergency shelter kits to urgently repair damaged houses for 19,500 families across different regions in Ukraine. IOM has also fully repaired 80 individual houses while another 51 are currently being repaired.
IOM was able to assist Hanna and her neighbour and to refurbish collective centres in Chernihiv with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID's BHA).