"Nowadays, anything can be mined, even a pillow!"
Caption: Svitlana fled with her family from the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyantsk on 8 April 2022 | © O.Marikutsa / HI
HI’s team travelled to a rural village, located at about fourty kilometers away from the town of Poltava in the East of Ukraine, where 100 or so displaced people have been offered refuge. The risk education training took place in the small courtyard of a former day-care centre converted into a hostel. Wrapped up against the cold in their coats and jumpers, about twenty Ukrainians who had flee the violence came to listen.
Sitting on one of the benches next to her mother in a wheelchair, Svitlana, 61, paid careful attention to Anita, an explosive ordnance risk education officer at HI:
This was a shock for this mother of two, who never imagined that she would one day become a victim of war.
Svitlana has been living with the noise and violence of bombing for almost 10 years now. This former designer who now works as an operator in a thermal power plant is originally from the town of Slavyansk, in the Donesk region of eastern Ukraine. She and her husband, Anatoly, a retired labourer, have two children and three grandchildren. There is also Anna, Svitlana's mother, who has always lived near them. A close-knit family, attached to their way of life, to their town.
In 2014, battles raged in eastern Ukraine. Slavyansk was caught up in the missile and fire. The majority of the inhabitants rapidly left the city. Svitlana convinced her children to flee to the south. She decided to stay with her mother and husband.
The Ukrainian authorities finally regained control of the town and Svitlana returned to her house and began to rebuild it. But dangers were everywhere.
Svitlana wanted to stay in her home, but, on 8 April 2022, she had no choice but to flee to the west of the country to protect her family. At the time, her daughter and mother refused to leave. So, reluctantly, Svitlana took her grandchildren, her son and her husband and boarded a train to Dnipro.
Svitlana and her family first stayed with friends in Dnipro, then in a refugee centre. But with a constant stream of people arriving from the East, the shelter became overcrowded and living conditions were difficult.
Svitlana found HI's awareness training very instructive:
But it also brought back the harsh reality:
Anna, Svitlana's mother, turned 88 this month. In her wheelchair, her face marked, the one who experienced the Second World War also wonders if she will be able to return home one day.