More than twelve million people have been displaced by the Ukraine conflict. Fleeing to neighbouring countries like Moldova, Poland and Romania, around five million trying to escape the conflict are currently seeking refuge across Europe.

Natalia is one of thousands of people who fled to Moldova where ShelterBox has been working to support people displaced by the conflict. She fled with her daughter, Olga. Her husband and son, Sergey, remained in Ukraine where Sergey is planning to attend the Marine Academy to become a sailor. Our ShelterBox response team met Natalia, who shared her experiences.

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Natalia in Moldova

“All my life is connected to Ukraine…”

Natalia was born in Moldova but moved to Ukraine with her husband after they got married. Ukraine is now home for Natalia.

“Life, children, work… all my life is connected to Ukraine.”

“Yes, that is my home. We were there for over twenty years. We lived in a house that my husband and I built together.”

Natalia and her daughter travelled to Moldova to escape the conflict.

“We came at the end of April due to the shelling…. missiles were flying over the house and that scared my daughter. She is a little girl and very sensitive. Just before we had left, the shelling was very frequent, the airports were blown up, the house was shaking. When there were airplanes, kids knew that they should run and fall down. That’s why we decided that me and my daughter need to go, and the boys stayed at home.”

Natalia in Moldova

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A portrait of Natalia

“I had only a bag with clothes and my child holding my other hand”

Natalia and Olga’s decision to travel to Moldova was made quickly.

“We went by train, where we changed the transport and went by bus to eventually cross the border. [The journey took] about 12 hours. We didn’t have much time to prepare. We made a decision on the same day, and I had only a bag with clothes and my child holding my other hand. We took only the basics.”

Natalia and Olga are staying with her mother in Moldova. Adapting to life in Moldova has not been easy for Natalia’s daughter.

“Well, we have had some difficulties. It was hard for her to start a new life here. We used to have our life at home in a different way. Of course, we had to… There are a lot of kids near us, and they are very understanding. The kids understood where she had come from. They were very calm and careful with her. Now she has got friends here. And now she feels pretty good.”

Three women laughing
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Natalia met with team members from ShelterBox to share her story

“The cash has meant that we have more choice”

Natalia received cash assistance from ShelterBox to help with the financial burden of being displaced. Cash assistance empowers people affected by disaster by giving them some control over their own recovery. It restores dignity and self-esteem, and allows them to buy what they most need. Natalia said:

“The money had been spent on food, hygiene, utility bills. The cash has meant that we have more choice.”

Accepting the cash assistance was not easy for Natalia.

“Honestly I felt a kind of discomfort. And at the same time I felt gratitude. I don’t know why I felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable as I received something that doesn’t belong to me, that I haven’t earned myself. Me and my child arrived with only one bag and I don’t know how we would pass this period without this help.”

“I want to say thank you. Also, I would like to say that winter is coming and we are scared of what this means for us. Also, we are in need of school supplies – stationery, clothes…”

Woman smiling
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Behind the smiles, Natalia is uncertain about the future

“We want to go back home so badly”

Natalia was asked about her family’s plans for the future.

“No one knows the future. We want to go back home so badly. We want to go back home, we want our jobs, we want our home.”

“We would like to stay here [in Moldova] until the situation is safe. Our plan is to go to school here in Moldova. You just don’t know. You don’t know how long there will be that uncertainty. My husband says that we should stay in a safe place until there will be a kind of a certainty and safety.”