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Irina with her children, Polina and Dimitro

Safe, warm and far from home

When a small bomb fell close to their building, Irina* (31) - a trained nurse - and her children, Polina (8) and Dimitro (5), fled from their village in the Donetsk region in Ukraine. Irina decided that living in their apartment had become unsafe and that hiding under their furniture was no longer an option. Her husband – a history teacher – had to stay in the country as he joined the territorial defense in the first few days of the conflict. 


After a long and exhausting journey of 12 days, Irina and her children arrived to Batiovo refugee shelter (in Transcarpathia), near the Western borders of Ukraine on March 13, 2022. Her parents, sister, and 9 year-old niece, stayed behind. 


Irina’s story is not unique among Ukrainian refugees. Since the Russian Federation launched a military offensive in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, millions of Ukrainians have had to flee, either internally or to neighboring countries. Further, hostilities have destroyed critical infrastructure, leaving millions without access to basic lifelines such as health services, water, electricity and gas supplies. 


At the community shelter where they are staying, volunteers are doing what they can for life to continue as normally as possible. Irina’s family receive three meals a day at the shelter, which is heated and equipped with hot and cold running water, as well as mattresses and blankets. To add some diversity to their meals, Irina tries to buy fruit, yoghurt and dairy products with her savings. She reports that the meals they receive “are not the same food as home”. 


 It is one of more than 130 refugee receiving centers and shelters to which Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) supplies food, water, hygiene products and household appliances, supported by the Humanitarian Coalition through Canadian Lutheran World Relief. 


Irina longs for the home they left behind and wants to return. She says that “if, in the next five minutes, someone calls and tells me that the Ukrainian flag is flying in the cities, I will be at the train station within half an hour”, but she does not expect that to be possible in the short term. But for now, Irina and her children will be staying with the other 100 refugees in the shelter, safe and warm despite being away from home – thanks to the support of generous Canadians.  



* Since their town is under Russian occupation and her words might be used as a reason to hurt her relatives, her real name has been replaced with “Irina”