Svitlana’s Story: Maintaining Mental Wellness While Living in a Shelter in Lviv, Ukraine

"Mental sharpness is important to me so I do a lot of crossword puzzles and read anything I can get my hands on.”

Svitlana, 74, finds joy in reading and mental activity while living in a shelter in Lviv, Ukraine, after enduring 45 days of shelling with no water, electricity, or heating, and wishes for peace in the new year.

Originally from Mariupol, Svitlana now lives in a shelter organized by a Canada-Ukraine foundation (CUF)-supported organization. She lives in the open-plan space, even though there are some rooms available with a little more privacy. She says she likes to have people around even if she spends most of her time reading. Despite and perhaps because of the horror she has been through, she appreciates having somewhere to stay.

“I spent 45 days under constant shelling, with no water, electricity, or heating. I was in the bathroom most of the time, fully clothed. By the time I got out, my feet were so swollen, they didn’t look like they belonged to a human.”

Her journey to Lviv has been long and scary: “I decided to take one of those buses that evacuated people to the Russian Federation. That is how I ended up in Taganrog. From there I traveled to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, then went to Estonia, Poland, and finally reached Lviv. I’ve been here since August, living in this temporary shelter.”

She finds peace in reading anything she can lay her hands on, “except fantasy novels and religious literature – I don’t like those,” and staying mentally active. Her former job holds some clues – “I’m a radio operator by profession. Most young people don’t even know what that is any more but I just tell them that I know Morse code. Mental sharpness is important to me, so I do a lot of crossword puzzles.”

Asked what she wishes for this new year, she is clear: “I only have one wish, one hope for this year and it’s peace. Everyone deserves a peaceful sky over their heads.”

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