Almost two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, families across Ukraine are facing another winter of heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures exacerbating an already dire situation.
Since the start of the war, millions of Ukrainians have struggled to find permanent housing, with displacement, property damage, sudden loss of livelihoods and fuel shortages leaving families in unstable conditions.
This winter, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, continues to bring hope to families across Ukraine with assistance in repairing their homes, access to basic goods such as food and drinking water and psychological support and legal counseling. Meet some of the families in Ukraine receiving support from UNHCR this winter.
“I am glad to be staying on my own land. Living in others' homes is not for me,” Tetiana says. Tetiana and her husband, Vladyslav, used to live in their own home in Horenka, a village in northern Ukraine.
When the full-scale invasion began, they hid in the cellar of a neighboring house for more than a month. Unfortunately, their home was destroyed by missiles, and for a whole year, the couple was forced to live in temporary accommodations.
In June 2023, UNHCR installed a prefabricated ‘core home’ on their land, giving them the opportunity to return home. Now the family hopes to rebuild their house.
“For people like me, who lost everything, this is a very good solution. At least temporarily. I have been looking for an alternative solution for a year. I lived with my friends, with relatives, but I was constantly returning to my home to take care of my land, my garden.”
UNHCR has repaired 110 private houses and installed five core homes in Horenka village.
“Of course, this core home will not replace our house, but it is still very meaningful for me and my husband. Four generations have lived on this land and I would never want to abandon it,” Tetiana says.
From the very first days of the full-scale invasion, the village of Horenka was under massive attack. It was occupied for more than a month, resulting in the destruction of a significant part of the village and causing damage to almost 200 private homes and buildings.
“Thank God, our house survived, even though it was left ‘wounded,’” says Lidiia. When the hostilities began in Horenka, Lidiia and her relatives managed to evacuate to the south. But as soon as she was able to, she returned home.
Despite the damages to her home, Lidiia feels fortunate for what she has and UNHCR’s support in rebuilding her home. “My bed, personal things were still there, and everything else was repaired thanks to your organization. You didn't have to do it. It wasn't you who destroyed it. But still, you supported us and we are very grateful.”
UNHCR fully replaced the roof of her house and assisted in repairing six windows in August 2023. “I am so happy to be able to live in my house, sleep in my bed, eat from my dishes. I am extremely grateful to the whole world for helping Ukraine. What happened is not your fault, but you were here to support us in the most difficult times.”
“I was in the house when it happened,” says Serhii. Serhii lives in Kryvyi Rih, a city in central Ukraine, and was impacted by a missile attack in January 2024. The missile landed in Serhii’s garden and severely damaged his house and other property. Due to the severe damage to his home, he was forced to move to his relatives’ home within the city.
In addition to the damage to his property, Serhii’s leg was also injured in the attack. “I might say I am lucky because I am alive, just the door that was blown up by the explosive wave injured my leg. I was shocked. I didn't understand what had just happened. Now my house is severely damaged, but I am going to stay and rebuild it.”
Through UNHCR partners Proliska and Right to Protection, Serhii is receiving immediate emergency assistance in the form of emergency shelter, non-food items, psychosocial support and legal counseling.
“The windows were blown up. I didn't understand what to do. I was shaking,” recalls Svitlana. In December 2023, Svitlana’s neighborhood in Dnipro, a city in central Ukraine, was impacted by a missile attack.
The attack caused extensive damage to private homes, 20 buildings, eight administrative buildings, a shopping center and a maternity hospital. During the attack, six people were killed and 20 people were injured.
Since the attack, UNHCR partners Proliska and R2P have responded immediately to the needs of affected families and provided tarpaulins, emergency shelter kits, psychological support and legal counseling.
“First, I received some materials to cover the windows and stay warm. I also received psychological support from Proliska. Those were the crucial things I really needed at that time.”
“On my birthday on March 9, God gave me a gift and saved my life,” Rymma says. “Two missiles flew over my house and landed on the neighboring one. I was petrified at seeing them fly over.”
Rymma stands in front of her house in Irpin, a city in northern Ukraine, reflecting on the terrifying events that have unfolded in her neighborhood since the war in Ukraine began.
After the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, Rymma initially fled from her home to Yaremche, a city in western Ukraine. Like many Ukrainians who were internally displaced by the war, she ultimately decided to return home after just two months.
“When I came back to my house in May 2022, it was full of rubble and bullets,” says Rymma. Despite the severe damages to her home, Rymma decided to stay because she had nowhere else to go.
The repairs, which started in the summer of 2023, provided great relief for Rymma, who had her roof repaired, as well as new windows, beams and plaster. “Now my roof has been replaced, and I have received new doors and windows. I really hope that all those whose houses were fully destroyed will get a new one soon.”
With her home finally repaired, Rymma can wait more comfortably for her son’s return. “My son has been at war for two years now. I live on and I'm waiting for him to return. One missile hit the switchboard, which is why I didn't have electricity. Now everything has been fixed, although there is still a lot of work ahead.”
How to Help
As we approach the second-year mark of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it is more vital than ever for humanitarian funding to be sustained and expanded. Families across Ukraine need your support this winter to repair their homes, access basic goods such as food and drinking water and receive psychological support and legal counseling. Give families in Ukraine hope this winter by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.