Love is a powerful thing. It can carry people through the difficulties of war and displacement, bring new hope to those who have lost everything and help people feel secure in their new homes. It’s not just romantic love that has this powerful impact; the love between friends, family and partners all have the power to change someone’s life.
These six stories of love and relationships — that have helped people through the difficulties of displacement — will warm your heart this Valentine’s Day and all year round.
Jesús and Luis*
“It was love at first sight, I didn’t even see him coming. I now dream of us having our home where we can live freely.”
For Jesús, growing up as a gay man in Venezuela was not safe. He was forced to flee the only home he had ever known, traveling for four days to reach safety in Machala, Ecuador.
“It was a bit strange to be here and start anew. I didn’t know what I would do for a living,” Jesús shares. Back in Venezuela, Jesús worked in lithography. But today, he is an entrepreneur who makes soap, hand lotions, shampoo and other products using feng shui and energetic cleansing techniques. He learned this practice from his aunt and has continued to master it in Ecuador.
Ecuador has given him a chance to rebuild his life not only economically, but also in finding love. When Jesús met Luis*, it was love at first sight. Now, they are building a life together and their future is bright.
*actual name not disclosed
Moamer and Ashraf
Seventeen years ago while fleeing from the conflict in South Sudan, Moamer and his family were separated from their brother, Ashraf. The family searched for years, but was never able to find Ashraf; they feared he might be dead.
But in 2022, UNHCR was finally able to locate the missing brother and reunite the family for the first time in nearly two decades. Now, Moamer and Ashraf, who are both in their twenties, are making up for lost time — the brothers like to cook together and play games with their family. Despite the years they spent apart, they never lost love for each other. Today, they are both happier than ever, each having their brother back by their side.
Aline, Justine and Chimpaye
“What we have learned is to love and support each other as women.”
Aline, Justine and Chimpaye are all participants in the same training group at the Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda. The three refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo have learned how to support one another and help each other grow. “We have got social support, we understand each other in the group, we have made friends,” they share. “We have become one family and we support each other’s families too.”
Valentyna and Volodymyr
Before the 2022 war in Ukraine began, many Ukrainian families were impacted by ongoing violence and undetected landmines scattered around the country from previous conflict. Valentyna and Volodymyr were one of these affected families.
Now in their seventies, Valentyna and Volodymyr had built an entire life together in Pivdenne, Ukraine — filled with family, fond memories and true love. "We had the most beautiful house. My husband built it with his own hands.
But when fighting erupted, Volodymyr was injured by a landmine and it became unsafe for the elderly couple to stay in the beautiful house they once thought they would grow old in. “There was a flash. Something hissed on my right. Then there was a blast,” Volodymyr recalls of the moment he was hit by a landmine. “The x-ray showed he had 31 wounds,” Valentyna shares.
Forced to leave their home behind, Valentyna and Volodymyr became internally displaced inside Ukraine. They moved to Toretsk and began renting an apartment. It is not the life they envisioned, but at least they have each other.
José and Mariana
José and Mariana each left their homes in Venezuela and Colombia in search of safety in Chile.
But before reaching their final destination, they both found themselves in Peru, where they met and fell in love. In Peru, their family continued to grow, they adopted a dog named Sofia and became pregnant with their first child. But they struggled to make a living, and with a baby on the way, they needed to find a place where they could have stability. "We had to sleep in the street on many occasions and it's very difficult. I had to get into fights many times to defend her. It's dangerous," says José.
José and Mariana are still figuring out where they will live permanently, but for now they are happy to have received support and a warm meal at the community kitchen in Huaquillas, Ecuador.
Bakar, Abdala and Mamad
Bakar has been best friends with brothers Abdala and Mamad for many years. Before becoming displaced, Bakar, Abdala and Mamad all worked together in the market in Macomia, Mozambique and studied together at night.
Then, in 2020, violence overtook their hometown and the three teenagers were forced to flee with their families. They currently live at an IDP site in the Montepuez district. They miss their life back home and face uncertainty about their futures and whether or not they will be able to go back to school. Right now their main priority is finding food for the day. Life is difficult, but at least, through it all, they have been able to stay together and lean on one another.
How you can help…
Being a friend or welcoming someone new to your community is one of the most powerful ways you can help refugees and other newcomers. But that’s not all you can do. Show your love and support for those in need by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.