Keeping the children safe: moving home twice in one year

People charge their gadgets at a railway station in Kherson. OCHA/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Ukraine | 2023 | CBPF

Ukraine, Kherson. Kateryna woke up to the sound of explosions on 24 February 2022 at her home in Kherson. The city was suddenly on the frontline following Russia’s invasion. Kateryna’s eldest son Danylo, 12, and her months-old baby, Malina, were with her.

That morning, when Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, Kateryna’s husband and 7-year-old Anna, who is disabled, were visiting Poland to seek specialized medical treatment for her. Kateryna called her husband. “I begged my husband [that we should] go anywhere, just not to stay here. There was only one thing in my head: save the children, take the children away from here.”

With her husband and Anna already in Poland, it was up to Kateryna to flee with her oldest son and the baby. It was winter, but Kateryna did not have a chance to pack warm clothes or take any other belongings with her, as they had to leave as soon as possible.

As she watched her elder son’s mental health deteriorate, she knew it was time to go. Danylo, who is usually very sociable and always optimistic, had what the doctors described as an epileptic attack after witnessing the shelling and hearing the constant blaring of sirens.

The family finally reunited in western Ukraine, and a week later decided to leave for Romania. That’s where they encountered Save the Children, an NGO that responded to the needs of displaced people and refugees in and out of Ukraine, with funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF).

The organization provided Kateryna and her family with much needed help, including backpacks, food, and cash assistance totalling UAH 80,000 (approximately US $2,300) – to help them get on their feet in Romania.

Six months later, the family decided to return to Ukraine and registered as displaced people in Chernivtsi, a city far from the fighting. Save the Children staff invited Kateryna and her family to register for cash assistance in their new city. With some of the cash, Kateryna bought Anna a wheelchair as hers had become too small and uncomfortable for her.

“Thank God, Save the Children helped us buy this wheelchair, which Anna will be able use for the next five years,” Kateryna said. Before February 2022, Anna had attended a regular kindergarten in Kherson and could socialize with other children. Unfortunately, there is no such an opportunity at present, and Anna really misses it.  “Our life has changed completely. We have never wanted to live abroad: we hope to return home to Kherson soon,” she said.

More information on the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund: