In eastern Ukraine, NRC works to protect displaced people’s rights, respond to the needs of those affected by the conflict and reconstruct damaged homes.
Living and working amid conflict
Maksym Solovei provides legal services to displaced and conflict-affected people.
"People have difficulties finding employment and gaining access to services. They need assistance with obtaining and restoring identity papers and other civil documentation to be able to access health care and other essential services. Others need adequate housing or help with various types of problems related to employment or property," he explains.
Most cases are difficult to solve given the current legal situation in Ukraine, and Maksym often has to search for new solutions.
"Thanks to the support of humanitarian organisations, people do not feel abandoned and forgotten. I wanted to become a part of the humanitarian community in order to provide real, tangible assistance to those who need it."
Helping those in need
Maksym often visits frontline communities – along the so-called "contact line" – to help people with multiple legal issues. Older people, people with disabilities and people in difficult circumstances need legal aid related to pension, social benefits and access to civil documentation, as well as on housing, land and property issues.
"In many places, there are no functioning government agencies and no other organisations providing similar assistance. Our field visits are the only way for people to receive necessary legal services."
Many live with constant fear for their lives and their loved ones because of the proximity of armed hostilities.
"The longer the conflict lasts, the more the situation in the areas along the contact line will deteriorate. People need humanitarian assistance. There are no other options right now," says Maksym.
Like everyone else across the eastern part of the country, NRC’s employees are also affected by the conflict, and each one of them carries their own story. Living amid the conflict himself, Maksym understands what the people he assists have been through.
"After all, these are people with real life stories, they’re not just numbers."
- We advocate for protection of the rights of people affected by the conflict
- We provide legal assistance at three legal aid centres and during mobile field visits, as well as via a telephone hotline and social networks
- We arrange legal training, seminars and other capacity-building activities for representatives of local civil society organisations, courts and state institutions
- In 2018, NRC provided legal services to over 16,000 people and held courses and seminars for 736 lawyers
Shortly after graduating from university in 2014, Maksym had to put all his future plans on hold. His hometown of Lysychansk became a hotspot of armed clashes. Air strikes and heavy shelling led to serious damage of the infrastructure and private housing.
"Our flat was in a multi-story building. It was hit – several times – and started burning. The fire continued for two days. After it was extinguished, part of the building just collapsed."
Maksym found out about this incident through social media and immediately returned home to his family.
"It wasn’t clear how damaged our flat was. I didn’t know what was happening with my family. I felt frustrated and angry, I didn’t know what to do next."
Almost three years later, Maksym and his family received government compensation for destroyed housing, and a decision was made to demolish the damaged building. They didn’t leave their war-torn region but remained and tried to rebuild their lives.
"I love my homeland. I belong right here. But I will not forget what happened."
Focused on the future
Despite the uncertainty in his life after losing his family’s flat, Maksym is confident about his own future and happy to share his plans.
"I would like to continue my work as humanitarian. I hope that the armed conflict will end soon, and I will try to apply my experience in other countries in similar situations."