Ukraine: Elderly People On the Frontline Battle Loneliness and Fear
About 900,000 pensioners in need of aid and protection are among those bearing the brunt of the conflict in the country’s east.
Lydmila Kudelya says that she can never forget the moment shrapnel from a Grad rocket hit her husband. It was summer 2014, she was in her yard, washing clothes. It was warm.
“Suddenly something exploded… It was so loud; I could not hear properly for some time,” she recalled. “I went to look for my Viktor. He was in the backyard, his clothes torn off, without one leg and the other with terrible wounds. As we waited for the ambulance, I thought he would not survive.”
He eventually recovered but died four years later. Lydmila, 73, now lives alone in her home in Avdiivka, a strategic industrial and transport hub in eastern Ukraine.
Lydmila is one of about 900,000 elderly people in need of aid and protection near Ukraine’s front line in the east of the country. Humanitarian agencies say that most pensioners living along the line of contact feel depressed, anxious, helpless – and deeply lonely. About 30 per cent of those in need in Ukraine are elderly.
Since Russia-backed militias seized parts of the eastern border regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014, over 3,000 civilians have been killed and about 1.46 million people have been displaced.
In Avdiivka, a city of 30,000 people and one of the hotspots of the conflict, Lidia looks after the house of her neighbour who left after several 120mm mortar rounds hit the yard in the spring of 2017.
“That spring was very scary. Every day something flew into our street. Dusia [her neighbour] was not at home that day. When she returned, she saw that a mine had fallen in her yard. She just picked up her things and left the same day. We have nowhere to go. That's how we live.”
All photos by Anatoliy Stepanov
This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.