Lyudmila Kudelya, 73, hangs laundry near the ruins of her son's house, which burned down after a 120-mm mine hit their yard in February 2017. (February 3, 2022)
Lyudmila Kudelya, 73, hangs laundry near the ruins of her son's house, which burned down after a 120-mm mine hit their yard in February 2017. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
Lyudmila on the doorstep of her house in Avdiivka. “Victor and I received this land slot from the [coke] plant. There was a pasture. We were young, strong. I remember on the first of May, on holidays, we cleared everything here and began to build the house.” (February 3, 2022)
Lyudmila on the doorstep of her house in Avdiivka. “Victor and I received this land slot from the [coke] plant. There was a pasture. We were young, strong. I remember on the first of May, on holidays, we cleared everything here and began to build the house.” (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
An abandoned house in the village of Pisky, in Donetsk region, bears the sign of heavy artillery. Before the war, the village had a population of about 3,000 people. Today only 40 remain, all of them elderly. (December 13, 2021)
An abandoned house in the village of Pisky, in Donetsk region, bears the sign of heavy artillery. Before the war, the village had a population of about 3,000 people. Today only 40 remain, all of them elderly. (December 13, 2021) © IWPR
A piano and the remains of belongings in an abandoned kindergarten in Pisky. The village lies a handful of kilometres from the airport of Donetsk. At the height of the fighting for the control of the airport, the village was a key crossing point for the Ukrainian army. The airport fell to the control of the Russian-backed militias in January 2015. (January 25, 2022)
A piano and the remains of belongings in an abandoned kindergarten in Pisky. The village lies a handful of kilometres from the airport of Donetsk. At the height of the fighting for the control of the airport, the village was a key crossing point for the Ukrainian army. The airport fell to the control of the Russian-backed militias in January 2015. (January 25, 2022) © IWPR
An old Soviet car in an abandoned house in Pisky, Donetsk region (December 13, 2021)
An old Soviet car in an abandoned house in Pisky, Donetsk region (December 13, 2021) © IWPR
A family photo album lies abandoned in an empty apartment building in Pisky, Donetsk region (January 25, 2022)
A family photo album lies abandoned in an empty apartment building in Pisky, Donetsk region (January 25, 2022) © IWPR
Sergiy, 58, at the window of his house in Avdiivka. In 2018, several 120 mm and 82 mm calibre mortar mines hit his yard. “A large mine fell in front of the house. A few more around the house. Thanks to the volunteers, one new window was set up. The second space for window I closed with boxes of sand. I do not want this all to start again. But I live in fear.” (February 3, 2022)
Sergiy, 58, at the window of his house in Avdiivka. In 2018, several 120 mm and 82 mm calibre mortar mines hit his yard. “A large mine fell in front of the house. A few more around the house. Thanks to the volunteers, one new window was set up. The second space for window I closed with boxes of sand. I do not want this all to start again. But I live in fear.” (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
An abandoned apartment building destroyed by heavy shelling in Pisky, Donetsk region. (December 15, 2021)
An abandoned apartment building destroyed by heavy shelling in Pisky, Donetsk region. (December 15, 2021) © IWPR
An abandoned house in the outskirts of Avdiivka. The city was subjected to constant heavy shelling between 2014 and 2018. (February 3, 2022)
An abandoned house in the outskirts of Avdiivka. The city was subjected to constant heavy shelling between 2014 and 2018. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
In Avdiivka, Lidia, 61, looks after the house of her neighbour, Darya. In the spring of 2017, several 120 mm mortar rounds hit Darya’s yard. (February 3, 2022)
In Avdiivka, Lidia, 61, looks after the house of her neighbour, Darya. In the spring of 2017, several 120 mm mortar rounds hit Darya’s yard. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
An abandoned house in the outskirts of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. Between January 29 and February 4 2017, the city was embroiled in heavy fighting, which left the city without electricity and heating for several days. (February 3, 2022)
An abandoned house in the outskirts of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. Between January 29 and February 4 2017, the city was embroiled in heavy fighting, which left the city without electricity and heating for several days. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
Lyudmila, 73, stands near the remains of her son's house. (February 3, 2022)
Lyudmila, 73, stands near the remains of her son's house. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
Lyudmila, 73, in her courtyard. After her son’s house was destroyed, he moved into a house in the same neighbourhood. (February 3, 2022)
Lyudmila, 73, in her courtyard. After her son’s house was destroyed, he moved into a house in the same neighbourhood. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
A portrait of Victor Kudelya, Lyudmila’s husband, taken on February 25, 2017 after artillery from the Russian-backed militias hit his son’s house. He died in 2018.
A portrait of Victor Kudelya, Lyudmila’s husband, taken on February 25, 2017 after artillery from the Russian-backed militias hit his son’s house. He died in 2018. © IWPR
Abandoned apartment buildings in Pisky. (December 15, 2021) Due to the brutal shelling by the end of 2014, almost all residents had left the village.
Abandoned apartment buildings in Pisky. (December 15, 2021) Due to the brutal shelling by the end of 2014, almost all residents had left the village. © IWPR
Private houses, deeply damaged by shelling, in the outskirts of Avdiivka. The area between Avdiivka and the neighbouring Yasynuvata, under separatist control, remains one of the hotspots of the conflict. (February 3, 2022)
Private houses, deeply damaged by shelling, in the outskirts of Avdiivka. The area between Avdiivka and the neighbouring Yasynuvata, under separatist control, remains one of the hotspots of the conflict. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR
A damaged and abandoned private house in the outskirts of Avdiivka. (February 3, 2022)
A damaged and abandoned private house in the outskirts of Avdiivka. (February 3, 2022) © IWPR

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.

Friday, 18 February, 2022

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.

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