Published on Thursday 21 March 2024

In the areas occupied by the Russian army in 2022, the youngest people and the families mainly chose to try to rebuild their life elsewhere. Old people with too small pensions could not do so and now have to face precarious living conditions because their houses were destroyed. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL fits its aid to the consequences specific to this conflict. 

Repairing the houses: an absolute priority 

« When we reached the village and when we saw what our house was like, we cried of course: it was so shocking. » Larysa and Oleksander have wrinkled faces and workers’hands. Wrapped up in many layers of warm worn jumpers, they live in a reality that is barely speakable. They had to leave their house in Kherson whose proximity with the Crimea makes danger permanent and they moved into the former house of Oleksander’s father in Ternovi Podi. The village was occupied by the Russians from February to November 2022. Larysa and Oleksander could settle there only once the house was cleared of mines and electricity was connected to the mains. More than 80% of Ternovi Podi was destroyed. Some ruin vaguely emerges from rubble heaps. Only the walls of the couple’s house are still standing riddled with hundreds, even thousands, of bullet holes. No roof, no ceiling, no windows left: the house is exposed to the four winds and consequently it cannot be used as a shelter any longer. Even the floor was destroyed. Scraps of floral wallpaper are hanging here and there. Larysa and Oleksander saved all that could be used or mended. For instance they found wooden boxes that used to contain the Russian soldiers’ammunition. These boxes can be found everywhere in the disoccupied area. Larysa and Oleksander use them to keep their few foodstuffs from the mice that have been invading every spot since the humans deserted the place. Indeed, only 8 out of 75 people came back to live in the village again as life there is almost impossible. Being destitute, feeling sad and lonely, each of them fights to rebuild what can be rebuilt. While waiting for a roof for their house Larysa and Oleksander have settled in a slightly habitable room in the house of a neighbour who has not come back. In the small room there is a bed and a stove that gives out heat thanks to the briquettes made with ground sunflower husks provided by SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL when winter started. Thanks to this shelter of some square metres, they are protected from the cold and the wind in the midst of apocalypse.

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Then, aged 57 and 55 years old, the couple removed the rubble and have been working relentlessly to repair their house. Living there again would be the hope-for outcome of all their efforts. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL provided them with the necessary funds for the purchase of building materials. Thanks to that they could buy beams. Today they are well ahead with their roof structure; it has been covered with a canvas sheet until the roofing can be completed. The works will still last long and the hardship they are enduring is far from being over, but it is the only possible future for numerous people from disoccupied villages who do not have the necessary incomes to start a new life elsewhere. 

War makes vulnerable people plunge into poverty 

Till the end, Galina and her neighbours had remained convinced that the Russians would not be interested in their small hamlet, which proved wrong. In the immense cereal-growing plains, the tiny promontory Davidid Brod is perched on allows the place a view on the river down below, which is of strategic interest. Galina feelingly tells about those nights when she was shut away in the air-raid shelter of her house. When the bombing was at its worst she counted as many as 70 explosions per hour. So the villagers asked the Russians to stop firing so that they could leave the place. They were granted 10 minutes: 10 minutes to take their personal papers and their dogs with them and to leave. When disoccupation took place in November 2022, Galina went back to the village as soon as possible though she was afraid. Her house is too damaged to live in, so she stays at her daughter-in-law’s in the neighbouring village. Galina is 62. She had worked all her life long to afford the house she thought she would enjoy her old age in. Losing a foresight’s living was a disaster. With her pension she cannot afford to pay for another place to live in. She has a leg and a head injuries and she has to take care of her 89-year-old mother. So she stays at her daughter-in-law’s, being worried sick about the future.


The war considerably aggravated poverty in the rural areas which were subjected to occupation. When they withdrew, the Russians took almost all the agricultural equipment, the cattle either died or ran away and worst of all the whole area was mined. Throughout winter the bomb disposal experts were busy making their work progress as much as possible before it was made still harder by the growth of grass. Anyway, years will be necessary to make land accessible and cultivable again. Stories about farmers who could not wait any longer and who demined their vegetable gardens or their fields themselves are numerous as well as accidents involving physical injuries. So everyone learns how to live within the few secured square metres around their house and to feed almost exclusively on their vegetable gardens. In addition to that, their complete lack of incomes makes the purchase of hygiene products impossible. That is why SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL supplies them with soaps, toothpaste, washing powder and detergents as well as with disposable nappies for adults which are much sought-after to allow the numerous very old people to live with dignity.

While the threat of bombing or of a new occupation remains strong, rebuilding the houses must take place now because vulnerable old people are living in those destroyed villages and should regain at least acceptable living conditions. Though they are courageous, these people need help. By providing them with funds meant for repairing their houses, with fuel for heating and hygiene products, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, supported by the European Union, remains present by the side of the inhabitants of the Ukrainian martyred villages. 

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