To give you a sense of Ukraine’s scale, Lydia, aged 82, and her 62-year-old daughter Inna now live in Lviv, more than 16 hours’ drive from their hometown. They left in May 2021, forced out as the bombings inched closer.
“There was a very loud explosion. A bright light swallowed the room. I went deaf and my hearing hasn’t improved much since. I don’t know how we survived unscathed,” Lydia tell us. Here, Lydia experiences vivid flashbacks and starts crying. It takes her daughter’s repeated assurances for her to calm down.
“We took our cat and went to the bunker with our neighbors. We didn’t emerge until the next month.”
Lydia’s fragile health worsened. When they finally evacuated almost two months to the day of the explosion near their home, she was convinced she was dying. Somehow, they made it to Lviv’s main hospital, where they would spend more than six months as Lydia fought infection after infection. She is still unable to use her legs but the doctors say she will walk again.
Her daughter is confident: “Just before the war, she brought home 15kg of potatoes from the market, all by herself. So I know she is strong.”
They are now living in a hostel-turned-shelter, where they are visited by one of HelpAge International’s social care volunteers. She happens to be a woman from their hometown – she too has fled and found refuge and purpose in Lviv.
“Our social worker has been godsent – always so kind, supportive, and attentive. She helps with ordering medications online, personal hygiene items, applications for humanitarian assistance. She even helps my mother take a couple of steps – as part of her recovery.”
“My hope for 2023 is for my mum to walk and to go home.”