Valentina Rodionova, 65, spent all her life in the quiet town of Irpin, Ukraine, just outside Kyiv. After Russia’s full-scale invasion, Irpin became infamous for the damage and brutality that the attacking troops left in their wake.
Valentina was there for the first two weeks of the invasion. When she and her neighbors realized it would not end as quickly as they had hoped, it was already too difficult to flee. Their first attempt to evacuate was with a small convoy of civilian vehicles that came under fire about 12 miles south of Irpin. The car that Valentina was in got hit and rolled over. She finally made it out safely cramped in a luggage compartment of a minibus arranged by the Baptist Church.
Valentina spent the next three months housed in a school building in the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine. Thanks to HelpAge, she and other displaced persons received clothes, basic hygiene items, and some financial support. But Valentina could not sit idle—she started volunteering to cook food at one of the aid distribution points.
“I would even go to the front if I could,” she says. “I feel bad about sitting at home while so many young people are out there in the cold.”
Her health condition is a big reason why she cannot be as active as she would like to be. Some time ago, she lost sight in one eye, and her vision is deteriorating in the other as well. While she receives free medicines for high blood pressure and other general conditions, she cannot afford treatment for her eyesight. With no family to support her, she struggles to cover all expenses with her pension.
“These medicines cost more than half of my pension. I used to do some part-time work cleaning offices. But now my health doesn’t allow me to do that anymore. Besides, most organizations have left because of the war. I don’t have enough money for both food and medicines. This is what I spend my pension on.”