This week, as we commemorate the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, we are sharing reports and stories from our partners on the ground.
By Simon Chambers, Director of Communications, ACT Alliance
In early 2022, Elizabeth lived with her family- parents, grandparents, and little brother- in Kharkiv, Ukraine. She was finishing up high school and looking forward to going to university, with dreams of becoming an artist. “I like to draw and paint anything, but I love to draw people- especially hands and eyes,” she says.
Her life changed drastically, along with so many millions of Ukrainians, when Russia invaded on February 24, 2022. Irina, Elizabeth’s mother, fled with the children in March after three rockets exploded in a courtyard not 40m from their apartment building.
“We fled with the clothes on our backs and our documents,” Irina says.
Irina knew people in a small village near Sambir, outside of Lviv. They knew of an empty house that Irina could move into with the children. Her parents did not want to leave Kharkiv, and it wasn’t until April that they came to join the family, aided in their escape by some friends.
Elizabeth’s life was upended- she moved across the country to a house that had been abandoned for eight years, had no household supplies, running water, and needed serious renovations. Her mother could not continue her IT job as there was no reliable internet in the village, just a weak mobile signal.
Shortly after they arrived, there was a knock on the door, from Father Alek, who manages a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that partners with ACT Alliance member Hungarian Interchurch Aid. “I heard you are displaced and have just arrived here. How can I help? What do you need?” he asked.
Father Alek was able to provide clothes, food, a frying pan to cook with, even a refrigerator when they had electricity working in the house. Because Elizabeth has problems with her joints, and her grandparents both also have disabilities, it took some time over the summer, but the family was able to fix up the house so that it now has working electricity (when the electricity isn’t turned off due to attacks on the energy infrastructure), and the bedroom where they all sleep is insulated and heated.
“The most important thing is that it is quiet here,” says Irina. “There is no shelling.”
Throughout this whole experience, Elizabeth continued to produce art. Even when she had to leave her supplies behind, she was able to draw. Understandably, her art took a dark turn as the war began and her family had to flee. The colors were stark, the imagery disturbing.
But as her life has calmed down in her new home, and she was able to finish high school and begin studying typography in Lviv, her art has gotten brighter again. She is currently finishing a painting of the sky seen through summer leaves that is full of color and hope, reflecting her own feelings.
And as she gets more comfortable, she is beginning to look towards her career in art, offering commissions and to sell her work. The future looks bright for Elizabeth, as bright as her paintings.