“I expected it wouldn’t be for long. But this “not for long” has stretched in time,” a displaced woman with disability reflects on her relocation to Bukovyna region

“I expected it wouldn’t be for long. But this “not for long” has stretched in time,” a displaced woman with disability reflects on her relocation to Bukovyna region
22 Липня 2022
Друкувати цю новину

Ms. Iryna moves around in a wheelchair. She is a public activist who has been helping people with disabilities to evacuate from combat areas since the outbreak of the full-scale russia’s invasion in Ukraine.

“We found ourselves to be the most vulnerable category of population again.”

She did not expect herself to become an internally displaced person within a short period of time.

“When putin’s rhetoric started to claim that bacteriological weapons were being devised in Kharkiv and Poltava, my children insisted that I would really move out. My bag was ready. What does it mean ‘ready’?! There was a bag, but all the things were scattered around. I’d never had such a mess in my flat as back then. I couldn’t pack and pull myself together,” Iryna tells her story.

At first, Iryna went to stay with her relatives in Cherkasy region. However, the house there was not adjusted to a low-mobility person at all. So, she agreed to a proposal from her friends to come to Chernivtsi.

“Actually, I couldn’t say we were friends, not really. We hadn’t met in health centers before. The most active work was in the public sphere.”

It was the married couple of Oleg and Lilia who invited Ms. Iryna to stay in their house.

“On the first days, when a lot of refugees were coming, and they would have people with disabilities among them, we told others that we have a free room. Our home is fully accessible. Entrances and exits with ramps. Convenient for a person on a wheelchair,” the couple says.

How it feels to be low-mobility and internally displaced persons, Oleg and Lilia had learned from their own experience as had that status themselves. Until 2014, they lived in Simferopol, Crimea. In January, their twins Maria and Bohdan were born there. But their full-fledged happiness did not last long. When their children were two months old, russians annexed Crimea, and that is why the couple decided to search for a home in the territory controlled by Ukraine.

“Some children in Simferopol were only 3-4 years old, but would already play guns. They were playing the imaginary roles of ‘ukro-fascists’. They would have ‘ukrops’ there in Crimea. The adults already told them different tales. And then I just imagined my own children there. That was the main reason why we packed up and decided we wouldn’t keep our children there,” recalls Oleg Myskiv.

They left Crimea completely in April 2016, and it then took until September 2021 to build a barrier-free house in Chernivtsi. They were building it for their own family, but they are happy that their house has become a shelter for someone else in such hard times.

“We don’t have any problems, whether it’s kitchen works or housekeeping. We don’t have any problems at all. A common distress unites people, and we’ve become like relatives,” says Lilia Shkolnik.

“We don’t feel any discomfort. In fact, we get some benefits, too, because Iryna is a primary school teacher by her first education. She once worked as a teacher, and she has some experience of communication with children. She helps us and knows all those teaching nuances,” adds Oleg Myskiv.

However, this shelter could be unavailable to Iryna because the room was empty. After erecting the building, Oleg and Lilia had no money left for furniture. Moreover, furniture for people in wheelchairs must be designed in a special way. That is where charity givers came to help. Nearly 40,000 hryvnias to buy a bed, a mattress, a computer desk and bookcase cabinets were donated by the project “The Protection of People with Disabilities in the Wartime”, which is being implemented by Chernivtsi Regional Organization for People with Disabilities “Leader” with the financial support from the Numotion Foundation (U.S.) and in cooperation with the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, there is very little accessible housing for people in wheelchairs. And what is available is run by the state, and they offer no housing comfortable for a person, that’s a pity. Our room was empty. We found something for the first days, but Ms. Iryna needs a special bed. Later, when the money was provided, we bought a bed, a mattress, a bookcase and wardrobe set, and a computer desk.” We are very glad that, thanks to the support from the American Numotion Foundation, we were able to support the family of Lilia and Oleg and make Iryna’s living comfortable in our Bukovyna,” says Valentyna Dobrydina, head of the NGO “Chernivtsi Regional Organization of People with Disabilities ‘Leader’”.

During the implementation of the project, funded by the U.S. Numotion Foundation, more than one hundred Ukrainians with disabilities have received aid. It includes both financial support and help with hygienic products, food packages, and activities for psychological support of people with disabilities including internally displaced persons. Currently, the work continues to help in the medical area. A gynecological chair for women with disabilities has been purchased for Storozhynets Hospital, and now the necessary equipment for low-mobility patients is being installed in one of the hospital wards.