Lyubov’s Story: Starting Over in the Midst of War

“Money might disappear but skills stay with you.”

Lyubov, 62, is a retired director of a sewing factory who, despite living in temporary accommodation in Lviv, Ukraine, wants to move her family business and provide jobs for up to 30 people. She now lives in Lviv’s Veterinary Academy, a sprawl of buildings which have been taken over to house hundreds of Ukraine’s displaced.

“I would like nothing more than some privacy. To at least have some makeshift walls. It’s tough here. There are too many of us. Everybody is sick, everybody is coughing. We get food once a day – some porridge with a bit of something in it. We have pensions but everything is so expensive here. My son lives in the next building where there is no heating.”

This new life is far from the one Lyubov and her family lived back home, where she worked as the director of a sewing factory before retiring two years ago at the age of 60.

“Back home I own a small sewing enterprise, a family business, I started when I retired. Now we want to move the business to Lviv. I have informed the Employment Center that I can provide jobs for up to 30 people. Our entire family is involved in this business. We have spent our entire lives working in this industry.”

Itching to return to normal

It may seem remarkable that people evacuated from their home and living in temporary accommodations while their country fights for its survival are making business plans. But Lyubov is like many of Ukraine’s older people – itching to get back to normal, to work, to find purpose.

She is just one of the many men and women cared for by HelpAge International’s Social Care Volunteer program.

“We are lucky to receive help from our social worker. She calls us, keeps us informed about assistance opportunities. She helps us receive humanitarian help, sometimes even physical help with the load.”

Our social work volunteers make sure women like Lyubov receive the support they need, whether that’s regular hygiene and self-care products or a friendly face that checks to make sure things are okay.

Lyubov’s determination to get on is clear: Her hope this year is to find somewhere to live for herself, her disabled husband and her disabled son, “even if it’s just a rental”. Her advice to the younger generation also speaks volumes: “Skills are what you should aim to have, not money. Money might disappear but skills stay with you.”

Lyubov, 62, with HelpAge International social worker Tamila Dmytrychenko
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