Helping displaced elders find community in their new home

The "Golden Age" festival in Poltava brought together over 200 people over 60. Photo: UNHCR

Ukraine | 2023 | CBPF

Ukraine, Poltava. Maia Kondratenko, 73, fled Sloviansk nine years ago when armed conflict first began in eastern Ukraine. The city of Poltava is now her home. With more displaced people coming to the city, she feels it’s her role to help welcome them.

Older people have been particularly affected by the war in Ukraine. Often living on limited incomes and already facing health issues, the stress of war and displacement, as well as family disruptions and loneliness, take a toll.

Starting life again in a new city is difficult.

“I had to leave my own home because I was responsible for my daughter, who was pregnant at the time, so it was dangerous for her to stay. My children and grandchildren are currently abroad. Since the full-scale invasion, I have been to several European countries, but I returned because Poltava is the best city for me and is now my hometown, the place where I always want to return to,” Maia says.

Maia’s hobby is also her passion – Nordic walking – a special workout that originated in Scandinavia and that promotes health through low-impact exercise. She’s used Nordic walking as a way to help other displaced older people find community and physical fitness in Poltava.

With funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, UNHCR and Ukrainian NGO CrimeaSOS host Maia’s class and other classes for displaced elders in the community.

They organized the “Golden Age” festival in Poltava. “Thanks to these events we have the opportunity to communicate, support each other, find new friends, and relax,” Maia explained.

The festival brought together 200 war-affected people over sixty. They met up and joined activities including Maia’s walking, dancing, painting and other crafts.

“I believe that my mission is to motivate people who have just left home to keep living on, not to close in and isolate, but help them try and adapt to new realities,” says Maia.

As of October 2023, Poltavska oblast was hosting over 186,000 internally displaced people. UNHCR has been contributing to the authorities’ efforts to receive people fleeing the hostilities by improving living conditions in collective sites, as well as promoting the inclusion of displaced people and supporting their ability to rebuild their lives and stay resilient.

This is made possible with support from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF).

Original story: adapted from original article by UNHCR

More information about the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund