Olha’s Story: Struggling to Adjust to a New City in Lviv, Ukraine

“I’ve lived my whole life thinking I would have a peaceful retirement. Now I don’t even have my own cutlery.”

Olha is 66 years old and has finally settled in Lviv, Ukraine, after living out the last 12 months of war in multiple bunkers. By the time she evacuated for her current home, she left with only her passport and her retirement card.

“It’s a nightmare to think about what we went through. I cannot put it into words. None of us thought this was even possible in the 21st century.”

Originally from Sievierodonetsk, Olha has settled with her family in an apartment, which they’re struggling to afford. Life in Lviv is also more expensive than they’re used to – “The pensions are very low. My daughter works at the market. We’re trying to get by but it’s difficult.”

Although she lives with her family, Olha is visited regularly by a HelpAge International volunteer social worker. It helps with the disorientation she feels in a new city.

“I am so grateful to receive this support. The social worker has been a lifesaver. She helps me with everything. She’s so attentive, she either calls or visits me a lot. She explains to me about services, and gives me advice on how to take care of myself, like how to protect myself against the coronavirus.”

Olha with HelpAge International staff members Olha Pysmenna and Kateryna Serdiuk

The impact of the last 12 months and the ongoing war is clear: “I go to the doctors a lot. I have something with my kidneys now apparently. I don’t even know what it is but the doctor says I will need surgery. I’m on painkillers most of the time. And I struggle psychologically. I worry a lot. I worry about my family.”

“I’ve lived my whole life thinking I would have a peaceful retirement, help raise grandchildren. Now I’m old and I don’t even have my own cutlery.”

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