Finding refuge in the midst of chaos: the story of Ludmila, a refugee from Ukraine, and the help offered by the European Union through People in Need

Published: Apr 17, 2024 Reading time: 4 minutes
Finding refuge in the midst of chaos: the story of Ludmila, a refugee from Ukraine, and the help offered by the European Union through People in Need
© Photo: Dmitrii Vosimeric
Millions of people have been driven from their homes by the war in the neighbouring country. Refugee stories often resemble each other - war came to their homes, and to save themselves or protect their loved ones, people had to leave their homelands behind in search of "quieter" lands. At the same time, each human story is unique in its own way in the experiences and drama each person has lived through. But no matter how bitter the life of a refugee may be and how many hardships you may face, you can overcome all obstacles if you meet good people along the way. That's the view of Ludmila, a refugee from Ukraine who has been living in Balti, Moldova, since the first year of the war, where People in Need has lent her a helping hand thanks to financial support from the European Union.

The war forced Ludmila to leave her hometown of Ochakiv on the Black Sea coast, which had been the target of attacks on the first day of the war. By the time she reached Moldova, she had tried to find shelter in several nearby towns, but nowhere could she feel safe. She faced danger wherever she tried to flee.

At one point, because of the frequent attacks, she practically started living in the bathroom, the safest place in the apartment she rented. That's where she spent most of her days, where she ate, where she slept... and every time there was an alarm or an explosion, she started having panic attacks. It culminated in her husband convincing her to leave and stay with her daughter and grandchild, who had settled in Moldova. Leaving home, Ludmila couldn't leave her four-legged friends - four cats and two dogs - to their fate. They accompanied their mistress on her arduous journey into the unknown.

In Balti, Ludmila settled in an old house, generously offered to her by her daughter's friends. She lives in very modest conditions. However, as the only refugee, she has managed to create a place of refuge for others. In her new home, in addition to the pets rescued from Ukraine, four other street cats have found shelter. The woman says she can't abandon or chase them away, so she's willing to share her modest income with them, sometimes even giving up her own necessities in favour of her four cats.

But sometimes, when the situation becomes critical, fate brings good people her way to help her overcome hardship. This was the case with People in Need's cold-weather aid to Ukrainian refugees and Moldovan households hosting refugees.

"This aid was like a sign from above. In winter there were a lot of expenses, utility bills were coming... I had already run out of supplies, absolutely everything was gone... And when I was already on the verge of despair, I received this assistance. I'm very grateful that you helped me in such a difficult moment", says Ludmila.

Although she says she is a strong woman who has managed to overcome many challenges and adjust to her new home, Ludmila says she is very tired of living as a refugee and her biggest dream is to return home as soon as possible when the war is over. Despite the fact that her home was partially ruined in an attack on New Year's Eve, she says she would feel most at home.

"Honestly, I'm tired of living in foreign houses, sleeping on foreign beds... I wouldn't want to go anywhere: not to Europe, not anywhere in the world. I just want peace and to go back to my home," she says.

According to the refugee, it is not only her, but also her friends who are waiting for her return home.

"We keep hoping and waiting for the war to end and for us to come back. My family is still waiting. Recently, I was telling my dog: 'Don't even think about dying here! Those of us who came here, we all have to go back home," concludes Ludmila. 

Since the first day of the war in Ukraine, refugee support has become one of People in Need Moldova's primary missions. One of the recent actions dedicated to assisting Ukrainian refugees and Moldovan households hosting them is the one-off financial aid programme of €200 (about 3900 lei) to pay for communal services. The programme is funded by the European Union as a multi-sectoral humanitarian response to Ukrainian refugees and vulnerable households in the Republic of Moldova. This is part of the EU- funded 'PLACE' consortium with REACH (IMPACT Initiatives), Acted, NRC - Norwegian Refugee Council and People in Need, with support of EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid.

Autor: Dmitrii Vosimeric, Communication assistant

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