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Ukraine conflict: Leaving with only a bag

Anatoly was in hospital when it became necessary to flee his home city of Kramatorsk in Ukraine, which had been facing artillery and rockets since the early days of the conflict. He had to leave without most of his possessions, taking only a bag. Now living in temporary accommodation in Lviv and supported by our partner HelpAge International, Anatoly wonders what is next for him.

“I had pneumonia and was in the hospital for 6 weeks. I was taken straight from there to the train. A doctor accompanied me. I only have my travel bag, which I also took with me to the hospital, my documents and plate, cup and cutlery.

On 7 April, I left Kramatorsk by train. The train went through Kyiv right here to Lviv. We were travelling for 24 hours. It was very crowded. There were about 150 people in a carriage. The train had 12 or 13 carriages. So there were over 1500 of us on that train alone.

In the beginning I was housed in a theatre downtown for a few days. I now live in a gym at the Lviv Polytechnic University, turned into a temporary shelter. Around 300 people are accommodated here.

I've been here ever since. I have no plans, maybe I'll stay until I die.

My wife died in 2007. I live alone. I have a daughter, but we haven't been in touch since 2014. I don't have a cell phone or her number. I think she's still in Kramatorsk.

I don't even know if the house I lived in is still standing. Where should I go?

My joints hurt, especially my knees. I have worked hard all my life. First as a miner, then as a truck driver. When it was no longer physically possible, I did one-time jobs, plastering facades or helping with the roofing.

I've been retired for a year now. My pension is 2000 hryvnia (about €65).

Here we are provided with everything we need, but it is very uncomfortable when there are so many people in such a small space. A Romani family lives next to me with three small children. They are very nice. But home is much better.

The food here is tasty, but I cook better.

What to do here? Sleep, eat, walk a bit. The park around the gym is very nice. But I don't have anything, not even a radio.

What can I say, every smile is difficult. This war and this situation is worse than a nightmare.”

Anatoly, 66

Anatoly is one of many older people who have been displaced by the conflict. We found that nearly 9 out of 10 of those we surveyed were struggling with a health condition, including over 40% reporting joint aches and pains like those Anatoly describes. Many are in desperate need of support, with pensions – for those who still have access to them – unable to cover their basic needs.

100 Days on: Ukraine is the world’s oldest humanitarian crisis – yet millions of older people lack support

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Last updated: Jun 09 2022

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