Grayish winter landscapes of Avdiivka, an industrial town located just 6 km from the contact line, in the government-controlled area, are hardly optimistic: looking for Liliia’s place, we pass half-empty streets and buildings damaged by shelling. However, when we enter her flat, painted in bright colours, decorated with handcraft flowers and filled with child laughter, we get to an island of happiness and joy.
A woman with hearing impairment and a mother of four, Liliia appears to be a cheerful person, although the story of her life sounds dramatic. In 2015, when the shelling began, she made a painful decision not to move from Avdiivka. “My mother, who passed just two weeks ago (in December 2018), had cancer and could hardly walk,” she says. “I could not leave her, and we spent all those terrible days here, together with my children.”
February 2015 was the scariest time. The shells were exploding all around. “We were hiding in the doorway, laid with pillows, our hands held together, and praying,” Liliia recalls. “Then a shell broke the window in my mother’s bedroom. Shatters of glass and furniture fell on us, I tried to cover up my children – look, I have scars after that day.”
During the months they spent without electricity, heating and water supply, Liliia tried to do various kinds of crafts with her children. “In the candle light, we were drawing and painting, sewing and embroidering, making collages, artificial flowers and pieces of furniture. We tried to keep our hands busy to cope with our fears and feel we were still alive.”
Another disaster happened when the central heating was restored: the frozen water-pipes burst, and hot water flooded their flat. Liliia and her children completed all the refurbishment works by themselves. Many years ago, Liliia studied at vocational school to become an outwear tailor, though taking care of four children and her bedridden mother she has never had a chance to work. The social benefits she receives as a person with a disability and mother of four can hardly cover her family expenses. Recently Liliia participated in the IOM programme providing self-employment opportunities for conflict-affected people and received a professional sewing machine, an overlocker and a steam-generator.
“Clients came immediately after I posted the announcement in social network,” says Liliia. “Every day people ask me to mend, sew and alter clothes and now I am able to pay for my children’s school and dancing classes.”
Liliia loves bright colours and exquisite styles. In her spare moments, she develops children’s party dress designs, while in the future she plans to produce wedding and evening outfits for adults as well. She dreams to expand her business, hire two more tailors and open a salon where girls and women will be able to buy or rent party dresses and accessories. Liliia is full of enthusiasm to cope with all the difficulties. She believes some day wedding and evening dresses will be in high demand in her native town of Avdiivka.