On 22nd May 2014, Daria was born and her parents, Roma and Iryna*, were delighted! However, four days after, when her parents and the new born Daria returned to their home located near the ‘contact line’ and Donetsk city, they found it severely damaged by an artillery shell and an ensuing fire that consumed some of their belongings.
As a result of the conflict, their home was severely damaged as well as the homes of both grand-parents of Daria, who lives in a neighboring village.
Daria’s father, Roman, explained that their home was severely damaged. However, the structures remained as well as a small summer storage house next to their home. Luckily, fearing for the worst, Roman managed to salvage the family’s documents, by taking them to his parent’s home.
“I was very lucky to have removed the documents from our home. I had a feeling that they would be safer in my parents’ house,” – explains Roman, Daria’s father.
After their house was hit by the shell, the family rented an apartment nearby. Roman kept paying regular visits to their home every now and then to do some small repair works here and there. However, he noticed that what was left of their home was becoming to degrade because of exposure to the sun, rain as well as the heavy snowfalls that are typical in Ukrainian winters.
Before the conflict, Roman worked as a security guard in a shopping mall. However, once the conflict started, the mall was hit twice by shelling. The first hit was by the far the worst, with six people becoming injured and some of them becoming disabled. In the second, a blast took out two offices. Fortunately, there were no people there at that moment.
Nevertheless, that meant that the mall had to close, and Roman lost his only source of income. Because of this, the family was unable to buy the necessary building materials to fix their family home. Later, he finally managed to find a job as a sales representative in the confectionary business, but only for two days a week and a reduced salary. With most of their savings spent on food and clothing for their baby. The baby girl is also growing quickly, and new clothes have to be bought constantly. The young family have tried to reach out to other family members for support, but everyone finds themselves in a similar situation because of the conflict. Despite these difficulties, the family still hopes to return to their home soon.
Roman remembers with sadness the day he found his house in flames. “On our street, there is not a single family that has not been affected by the conflict.” He explained.
Today, the area where Roman used to live still suffers from shelling and, therefore, he prefers not to go there too often for his and his family’s safety. Another challenge faced by the family is the fear of vandals who came to take whatever remains in shelled homes.
According to Roman, his most traumatic experience was seeing neighbors, whom he knew well, die from a shell. “We saw their bodies just lying there for several days.”Says Roman. “We were happy to survive, but have lost our home”, he added.
Struggling year after year, he finally heard from a friend of the possibility of receiving building materials from UNHCR. This year, UNHCR has been focusing on delivery acute emergency shelter kits to families living in hard to reach areas of Donetsk Oblast, together with its NGO partners, such as the Donbas Development Center.
Thanks to this support, the family managed to receive a basic construction kit, which included materials such as tarpaulin, nails and timber, among others. Thanks to this project, families who live near the ‘contact line’ and were impacted by shelling can preserve the parts of their homes that is untouched. Eventually, when the conflict subsides, they will be able to benefit for an additional support from UNCHR: the full reconstruction of their home. However, as the conflict still rages, humanitarian agencies, such as UNHCR, wait for a more opportune moment when the shelling stops. This avoids that the house is hit a second time and that the family is put at risk.
“Thanks to the materials, my home is more resilient to the weather and protected from vandals. I can now dream of moving back again and resuming our life there with my wife and daughter”, – сoncludes Roman.
In total in 2019, 210 people living in hard to reach areas near Donetsk on the ‘contact line’ have received similar assistance as Roman and his family. This was the first time the area in which Roman and his family lives has been accessed by a UN Agency with humanitarian support.
The distribution of Acute Emergency Shelter kits in hard to reach areas of Donetsk are possible thanks to the generous support of donors such as the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
*Please note that the names of persons who appear in this story have been changed for their protection