Ukraine | 2023 | CBPF
Ukraine, Lviv. Svitlana fled intense shelling in her hometown in the east and made for Lviv in the west. Thousands of others came with her, seeking shelter and safety.
A retired teacher, Svitlana found herself with a new voluntary job: transforming a college dormitory into a shelter for people displaced by the fighting. The dorm was originally built for 600 students, but could accommodate 1,000 people with some adjustments. Facilities were run down and needed repair.
With funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and the Danish International Development agency, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has been repairing the dormitory and helping Svitlana prepare for more families to move in safely.
“We are slowly making progress and take more people in whenever and wherever we can,” said Svitlana during a recent visit. “We have managed to create room so far for a little over 400 people, and more are coming as we get the work done,’ she explained.
Each room now houses, on average, three people, and for every eight rooms – meaning 24 people – there is now access to one shower. Racing against time, Svitlana oversaw repairs to broken windows before the winter set in.
Asked about a typical day, Svitlana explained that there is no longer time to rest and that she has to deal with everything from counselling people to distributing food to finding more space for new arrivals. She said she worked from five in the morning until midnight each day.
“Sometimes, the most important thing is to just listen to people and let them share their grief and their individual stories – and the suffering seems to know no limits,” she said.
Amid fear and suffering, life goes on. “So far, we have had four weddings in the shelter, and a baby was born here recently,” said Svitlana proudly. A kindergarten has been set up, run by the internally displaced people themselves. Local citizens donated toys and furniture.
Svitlana continues to oversee the work to improve and expand space in the dormitory. For many others, the future remains uncertain.
Katerina fled Luhansk with her two children and is now staying temporarily in Svitlana’s dormitory. “I’m planning for today and maybe for tomorrow, but beyond that I don’t know. We have no plan. I just want to go back to my home and to return to our village as soon as possible when the situation allows us to travel there again.”
More information on the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund: