Missing refrigerators, fans, and food shortages. What does life look like for people in Zakarpattia five months since the beginning of the war?
Just a few months ago, it was a sought-after tourist destination where Ukrainian men and women from different parts of the country vacationed. After the outbreak of war, Ukraine’s Polyana became home to more than 6,000 internally displaced people. Hotels and guesthouses no longer serve for relaxation but provide safety and basic necessities for people who fled the war.
Polyana is only one of dozens of hromadas (so-called municipalities) in the Zakarpattia region, in which, according to official figures, 130,000 people have found their temporary homes. Based on realistic estimates, there are two to three times more people than in the whole of Slovakia. To put that into context, the area of Zakarpattia is almost four times smaller than Slovakia.
Miraculously, only one missile has landed here since the beginning of the war. Zakarpattia can thus be considered a safe region for now. But the war here has changed the lives of thousands of people. While in March people came to Zakarpattia mostly with suitcases and at least a small supply of finances, today they mostly go with nothing – except for fears and traumas.
„Let’s be glad we can help others and that others don’t have to help us. You know what I mean,“ the director of a kindergarten tells us during a visit to the small village of Kučava. Some of the people who had found accommodation here since the end of February have already managed to return home. The director shows us a small gift that a family from the Kyiv district sent her, for that she housed them so warmly for a few weeks in kindergarten. Those who stayed here were not so lucky and have nowhere to return.
In People in Need, we try to reduce the effects of war on the displaced population and local communities. They share what they have with people fleeing war. However, it is not enough and the locals are already at the edge of their strength and possibilities. Since the beginning of the war, we have been importing regular humanitarian aid to 20 hromadas and one-time humanitarian aid to other hromadas. In the first five months, we delivered more than 380 tons of necessary aid to Zakarpattia. Most often, it contains food, hygiene supplies, kitchen equipment, but also mattresses, washing machines, showers and refrigerators, which were a common part of Ukrainian men and women’s lives until recently.
„The season also has a great influence on people’s current needs. While in the summer it is necessary to deal with extreme heat, lack of air flow and insufficient cold storage space for food in collective centres, with the coming autumn we are already preparing for winter, ensuring heating and expected power cuts.“
Ivana Godulová from People in Need
During our last visit to Polyana, we helped the locals with non-perishable foods and hygiene items in the amount of approximately 2.5 tons. This time, the delivery included rice, cereals, tea, beans, canned food, baby food, oil, but also toilet paper, washing powder, and dishwashing gel. A few months ago in Polyana, the most needed were mattresses, washing machines, refrigerators, dryers, boilers, sheets, but also blankets, which were missing in the makeshift conditions. In this way, we managed to significantly improve the quality of life of people who lost almost everything from one day to the next.
We will continue to help in our work. We are thankful to Binance Charity for their support.