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Three women in a dorm room in a refugee centre

Roza (left) and Svetlana (right) in the Refugee Accommodation Centre in Moldova

A quiet life

They were expecting a quiet life in retirement.

Svetlana (80-years-old) and her husband Vitalii (81) worked together for over 40 years at a sewing factory in the Sumy region of Ukraine. When they retired, they moved to Kharkiv, closer to their daughter and Svetlana's sister Roza (88), who had suffered two strokes.

Despite the ongoing unrest, they were confident there would be no war. With the first explosions on February 24, everything changed. As Russian army attacks escalated, Svetlana and her family reluctantly decided to move for their own safety.

They planned to go to Germany, but their plans changed on the way when Roza had an accident in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, that left her bedridden. After her discharge, Svetlana, Roza and Vitalii were all accepted into the Refugee Accommodation Centre (RAC) for people with special needs in the Greblești village in Moldova.

In this centre, with support from Islamic Relief and HelpAge, about 21 refugees are provided with three main meals a day, food and personal hygiene packages.

Although Svetlana needs support to carry on, she does everything she can to keep in shape. Every morning, she does exercises with a friend and encourages her husband and sister to join her. They are all signed up to the village library and read books during their free time. Every Sunday they all go to the church together.

Svetlana is among many older refugees who would like to return home. She told HelpAge staff, "We want to go back to Kharkiv. Returning home is the best thing that can be done. We do not know what happened with our house, but we pray that it will be safe."

In the meantime, although it is not ideal, Svetlana, her husband and her sister are leading a quiet life in Moldova.