Multi-purpose cash assistance in Sumy Oblast’, Ukraine
Information about the interviewed person
Marital status: married with three children, aged 3.5, 10, 12.
She lives in Sumy Oblast’, Northern part of Ukraine
A little 3.5-year-old boy greets the guests at the entrance of an old village house, clutching a slice of watermelon and a toy car. The voices of teachers echo from various rooms within the house, while the boy’s two older sisters attend online classes. Due to the ongoing shelling of the Sumy Oblast’ by the Russian military, traditional schooling has become impossible for the children in this area.
“We used to live like any other family. I gave birth to my third child, and my husband worked as a field surveyor. Everything was going well until that fateful night on February 24th when we were abruptly awakened by a powerful explosion. At that moment, I thought it might have been a gas explosion”.
In fact, a full-scale war had begun. *Lesia, 33, suddenly starts crying uncontrollably. The village where this large family lived is located just one kilometer from the Ukrainian-Russian border.
“Tanks, armored vehicles, fighter jets – they all seemed to pass through our village. We would rush to the cellar so quickly that we often left our shoes and even some clothing behind.”
During one of the attacks with Grad rocket systems, a neighbor lost his life, and Lesia’s brother sustained serious injuries, resulting in blindness. However, it was their two-year-old son who finally persuaded the family to leave their home.
“We were critically short of diapers, and there was nowhere to buy them. My son only slept in them. But when everything around him was exploding, he would get so scared, grab a diaper and signal for me to put it on him”.
Now, Lesia and her three children reside 70 kilometers away from their home, in a house that was generously offered by relatives following the owner’s death. One night, after a heavy rainstorm, a part of the ceiling in the children’s room collapsed. It was then discovered that a shell fragment had pierced the roof during the intense hostilities. Lesya came across information about financial assistance from JERU on the village council’s website.
“This money has been a tremendous help. Not only are we using it to repair the roof, but we’ve also set aside a certain amount for firewood and purchased fuel. It has also allowed me to buy medicine when the children fell ill.”
Information about the interviewed person
- Name: Pasha
- Age: 19
- Marital status: single, raises three siblings, aged 10, 11, 17.
- He lives in Sumy Oblast’, Northern part of Ukraine
At the age of 19, *Pasha, a resident of a small village in the Sumy Oblast’, appears to be the eldest person in the world. He straightens his back, his voice taking on a rough and serious tone as he talks about raising three children.
“I’ve taken on the responsibility for my two sisters and one brother, providing both financial and moral support. I do everything within my means for them.
When Russian troops invaded Ukraine and occupied their village, the parents of the four children suddenly decided to divorce. At the time, their mother was working in Kyiv, while the rest of the family moved to their aunt’s house to get through the most challenging period. For over a month, during the Russian occupation of the Sumy region, 18 people, including eight children, squeezed into a single house. They had no access to power or heating and suffered from constant artillery and air strikes.
“When the Russians dropped a bomb on the village center at night, the explosion was so powerful that it knocked us out of our beds.”
In April 2022, when Russians were expelled from northern Ukraine, 17-year-old Pasha returned to his home with his two sisters, aged 9 and 16, and his 10-year-old brother. His parents were busy with the divorce process and paid little attention to their children.
“While they are out there dealing with paperwork, I’m here with the kids, teaching them to read and write.”
While pursuing his studies at a construction college, Pasha secured a job at a farm as a cattleman, tasked with distributing food to the cows. He worked from 4 a.m. until 8 p.m., often returning home and falling asleep without even taking a shower.
Pasha’s salary does not exceed 250 euros, so when social service workers informed him about the opportunity to receive financial assistance from JERU, he didn’t hesitate. This amount was three times his monthly earnings. With this money, he purchased firewood for the winter, repaired the home’s water pumping station, and provided his younger siblings with school clothing.
“While my parents were together, I led the carefree life of a young man. Now, a burden has fallen on my shoulders. However, I don’t want my “children” to experience poverty. I want them to receive an education and lead a normal life.”
Despite the financial aid provided, people in the liberated areas still lack the most essential necessities. There is still a lot of damage caused by the occupiers that needs to be repaired.
Joint emergency Response in Ukraine (JERU) is a partnership of Alliance 2015 members Concern Worldwide, Welthungerhilfe and CESVI. Three organizations united to ensure more help to Ukrainians in need in war-affected regions.
Despite the financial aid provided, people in the liberated areas still lack the most essential necessities. There is a lot of damage caused by the occupiers that must be repaired. The upcoming winter additionally scares Ukrainians due to the constant Russian missile attacks aimed at destroying critical infrastructure.
Date: September 2023
Article author: Oleksandra Titorova, JERU Communications Officer
Photo credit: Mykhaylo Palinchak