Armed Conflict And Resilience: Two Women, One Story
Valentyna was left alone after the conflict erupted in Eastern Ukraine, but found friendship and support when volunteer Svitlana started helping her.
Seventy-one-year-old Valentyna* lives alone in a small village in the area affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Her son and his young family fled shortly after the onset of the conflict in 2014 to provide a better, more peaceful life for their two-year-old daughter. Years of solitude have been very hard on Valentyna: she can’t see her granddaughter growing up. But she understands why her son’s family doesn’t visit: “I don’t want them to come,” says Valentyna, “I fear [for their safety].”
Valentyna knows first-hand the gruesome face of armed clashes. She was injured by an explosive in her own yard. Bleeding and injured, she had to crawl away from the site of the explosion before a neighbour found her and called for an ambulance. The injury disfigured her right leg and still causes a lot of discomfort. Despite the pain, she tries to stay strong and finds ways to cheer herself up by doing ordinary day-to-day things, like putting on makeup.
Svitlana*, 55 years old, visits Valentyna twice a week to help around the house and keep her company. She used to work at the railway station in a neighbouring town to which she commuted every day before the conflict began. Svitlana lost her job when the conflict’s frontline moved, and the railway station became suddenly inaccessible on the other side. Finding another job in a tiny village has proved complicated and she now volunteers with a humanitarian organization. The food vouchers she receives from volunteering are the only income she has.
“I normally take care of four persons and visit each of them twice a week. I help out around the house, as well as with shopping, fetching water from the well or coal for the furnace,” says Svitlana. “Valentyna calls me when she needs help. Even on my days off, I come anyway.” Looking at how the two women get along, you might think they are best friends or sisters.
Svitlana is one of INGO Triangle Génération Humanitaire (TGH) volunteers who provide home care under a project supported by the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. All the TGH volunteers in the area are women. “I do not know why all volunteers are female. We do not have many men in the village in general, and a lot of women have become heads of households,” explains Svitlana.
*the names of persons who appear in the story have been changed for privacy reasons