Olesea’s family knew their home was not safe when a trip to the grocery store became so frightening: “I was coming home from buying bread for my family when I saw a fighter jet flying above me,” she recalls. “Lots of smoke was coming out of the plane. I got very scared and ran to the house, where I found my sister crying in fear while my mother tried to reassure her. At this moment we realized it was time for us to leave.”
In this village near Mykolaiv, their house already bore signs of danger. “Before the war began, we had begun repairing [it], but never had the chance to finish; tanks were passing by our house – with so much horrible noise that the double-glazed glass windows broke.” They had stayed on despite the war, hoping that everything would end soon.
Leaving was not easy for her family. Her sister uses a wheelchair and her mother is visually impaired. Her grandmother, too, needs support as well. The local authorities helped Olesea and her family evacuate to Mykolaiv in April. From there, with the help of Red Cross volunteers, they went to Odessa and then onwards to the Republic of Moldova.
At just nineteen years old, Olesea found herself caring for her family of four in a refugee accommodation centre in Chisinau. She is grateful for the hospitality they found here, saying that the people here are wonderful.
Since the beginning of the war in the neighbouring country, the Republic of Moldova has received over 665,000 arrivals from Ukraine, including over 95,000 refugees that have chosen to stay. Currently, UNHCR supports 70 accommodation centres for refugees in the Republic of Moldova, where about 3,000 refugees are accommodated.
Olesea decided to look for a job to supplement the international cash assistance she receives from UNHCR. She now works six days a week at a mall in the capital, with her mind on what could have been back home. “If not for the war, I would be living quietly in Odessa with my partner, who stayed home to defend our country,” she explains. “I do not plan to travel further; I want to stay close to home, in Moldova, so I can return as soon as the fighting stops.”
As of 20 October, UNHCR has supported over 94,000 refugees like Olesea in the Republic of Moldova with cash assistance – a total of USD 42.9M has been disbursed to refugees through this programme. These funds come from international donors and can only be accessed through ATMs and stores in the Republic of Moldova. UNHCR also works to support refugee inclusion in the employment market so as to improve refugees’ self-reliance and hence empower them to positively contribute to the local economies.
Such support has been key for Olesea, who is focused on making the most of her life in Moldova. “Here, while I wait for the time when I can return to my homeland, I want to go on with my life, work, and be productive.”
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