Four years later, Iryna and her siblings still suffer from post-traumatic stress. They are anxious and often wake up at night from nightmares.
Afraid it will be destroyed again
Liliia Poturoieva, Iryna’s mother, has a restrained smile, revealing little of the horrors she and her families have lived through since the war broke out in their home village of Verkhnia Vilkhova in the Luhansk region.
Four years have passed since their house was bombed.
"We still hear the sounds of shots every night. I am afraid that my house will be destroyed again."
This year, the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine will enter its fifth year. So far, the conflict has taken more than 3,000 civilian lives, displaced 1.5 million people and left 3.5 million in need.
Shelling, violent clashes, landmines and unexploded remnants of war have become a brutal normality in the everyday life of Ukrainians trying to survive. Despite the high numbers of civilians affected, the crisis remains neglected, with little funding to humanitarian assistance and parties to the conflict continue to disregard the ceasefire agreement.
Civilians are paying the price
The civilian population continues to pay the highest price in the ongoing conflict. Liliia has six children. Her oldest, Oleksandr, is 20 and doesn’t live with his parents anymore. Ihor is 12. He is a shy, calm schoolboy, always ready to help out his parents at home. Liliia’s oldest daughter, Iryna, goes to school and assists her mother with the housekeeping. She cooks and looks after the younger ones. Yana is seven, a first-grade pupil and a cheerful, energetic girl. Liliia’s youngest, the five-year-old boy Illia and two-year-old girl Aryna, stay at home with their mother. The family can’t afford to send them to kindergarten. Now, Liliia and her husband Viktor are expecting their seventh child.
Before the conflict, the entire family lived in a small house with two rooms. There was no work. Their main income was from child allowances and whatever they could make from keeping a few cows, goats, rabbits and chickens.
"There was no work in the village," says Liliia. "There was no opportunity to travel elsewhere to work. We tried to make money by selling milk."
Since there is no school in their village, the children go to school in a neighbouring village, five kilometres away. Since the night of the shelling, Iryna finds it hard to concentrate in class.
Saved her son’s life
That horrible night could have turned out much worse. Under one of the windows shattered by the blast stood a child’s bed, where Liliia’s youngest was fast asleep.
"When the blast hit, I covered my baby with my own body, and the glass from the broken window hit me in the back." Liliia stutters when recounting the events. It’s not something that leaves you unmarked.
The blast left the house heavily damaged: all the windows were broken, the front walls were destroyed, as well as the roof and the foundation. But Liliia and her family didn’t dare leave it unattended. They tried to repair it by themselves, covering the broken windows with plastic wrap. They spent the nights in the basement, the warmest and the safest place of the house. They received no help from the local authorities.
NRC is renovating their home
"At first I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t believe anyone would really help us," says Liliia. “But my husband had heard that the Norwegian Refugee Council was running a house repair project in the village and advised me to go and find out more about it."
She did, and now the house is on its way to being fully restored. The roof has new tiles and the walls have been completely renovated. New windows have been installed and the children share three small rooms between them.
NRC provided construction materials and cash to help renovate four houses in Liliia’s village.
"What’s important now is that the active phase of the war doesn’t break out again," says Liliia, longing for more peaceful times in their reconstructed family home.