Elena* is not so fortunate. Separated from her beloved husband, she brought her children to Belgorod from Donetsk. The hostilities have had a serious impact on her family’s mental health and wellbeing.
The death of her eldest son has changed their lives into ‘before and after’, and added tragedy to the situation the family found themselves in. For Elena, faith and creative writing are a major support that help her to cope with the tremendous grief.
“My son was a cardiologist. During COVID-19 times, he worked in the restricted area of a hospital,” says Elena. “On the day he died, he went to help with humanitarian aid. He always went there to help. Until then it was safe,” she says. “It becomes easier for me a bit, when I start writing. There are times, when I feel really bad.”
Because of their circumstances, people who have been displaced in Belgorod have significant medical and mental health problems, yet often they are unable to access these essential health services. Many people hope to return to their homes in the near future, which can complicate their legal status and affect their access to services and care in Belgorod.
Displaced people organise support for each other
Displaced people across the Belgorod region are helping each other by joining volunteer organisations or starting their own help centers.
“First we were helping refugees from Ukraine and then we found ourselves in the same situation,” says Svetlana, 50, who volunteers for a local voluntary organisation in Belgorod that helps people displaced by the fighting, focusing on those residing in or transiting through the Belgorod region.
Svetlana moved to Belgorod from Shebekino, an area that has been experiencing continuous shelling and bombardment for over a year. Back home in Shebekino she owned a pharmacy.
“It was in November 2022. In broad daylight, they shelled a school and our pharmacy with mortar fire,” says Svetlana. “Three people were killed due to this shelling. A man was killed on our porch, a man was killed in a pharmacy, and a woman died while the doctors arrived. They were elderly people.
“That day, the pharmacy cashier took her son to work and we had to cover his eyes with our hands when the body was moved from the pharmacy, so he wouldn’t see it,” she says.
Svetlana says that what she went through made her more honest with herself and now she has a lot of stamina to help others.
Oksana*, from the Kharkiv region and founder of one of the help groups, would understand Svetlana better than anyone. Oksana had spent four months with her family in the basement due to the hostilities and had no other choice but to move, as she was nine months pregnant.