Vitali and his mother Halyna stand in the ruins of a family home following a missile attack on their village, Ukraine
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Location icon Ukraine

Lives on hold: Ukrainian families endure a third year of brutal war

It’s been over two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. With no end in sight, Ukrainian families are enduring terrifying conditions.  

Across Ukraine, fierce attacks continue every day, with at least 10,500 civilians killed so far. Schools and hospitals have been destroyed.

In frontline areas, families are sheltering in basements and bomb shelters, desperate for the fighting to end. For those who have escaped to safer areas, the future remains uncertain.

Fear and trauma have become part of everyday life. 

These three stories of courage under fire highlight the plight of ordinary Ukrainian families.

Margaryta and Pavlo

Margaryta, 20, was pregnant with her son Pavlo when intense bombing began in her home town of Molochansk, southeastern Ukraine.

“I spent all my pregnancy hiding from shelling, trying to be as strong as I could.”

She gave birth in Molochansk before escaping to Lviv with her now seven-month-old son and her brother, but other family members did not. 

Ukraine. Internally Displaced Mothers In Shelter In Lviv
© UNHCR/Jordi Matas
Margaryta, 20, received psychological support to cope with the stress of war.

Margaryta found safety in a refuge for pregnant displaced women, where she could access psychological support – and comfort from other women – to help cope with the trauma and stress of war. 

“After sessions with the psychologist and conversations with other mothers, I knew that the rockets will not reach here. I calmed down and started to feel better,” says Margaryta.

“A lot of people lost their homes, their lives were shattered. But I have my son and this is the most important [thing]. [He] is my biggest strength.”

Vitali and Halyna

Vitali, 22, vividly recalls the morning his village near Tomashpil, Vinnytsia oblast, was targeted in a missile attack.

“The sight was shocking, we couldn’t really understand what had happened,” he says.

He remembers the sound of an enormous explosion and a flash of bright light. Window blinds and glass came crashing in on top of him. Rushing outside his home, he met neighbours whose homes had also been damaged by the blast.

His grandmother’s house across the street was destroyed. Thankfully the house was empty; his mother Halyna had left it only five minutes earlier, narrowly missing the attack.

Ukraine. Vitali and his mother Halyna stand in the ruins of their home
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Vitali and his mother Halyna stand in the ruins of their family home following a missile attack on their village.

The local community is doing its best to recover.

With UNHCR’s support, many homes have been repaired ensuring that people can continue to live in their village. The village has also welcomed some 100 internally displaced people who have found safety in the neighbourhood during the conflict. 

Tetiana and Masha

Tetiana and her 12-year-old daughter, Masha, were both terrified when war came to Dnipro.

Before the war, Tetiana was working as a dance instructor while caring for Masha, who has Down syndrome and epilepsy. 

But when attacks started coming close to their home, Tetiana decided to take Masha to safety in Poland. At first they stayed in a school near the border, then moved into a refugee shelter in Krakow.

Poland. Refugees From Ukraine At The Kapelanka Hostel
© UNHCR/Anna Liminowicz
Tetiana, 50, and her daughter Masha, 12, sought refuge in Poland.

UNHCR has worked hard to ensure Ukrainian refugees get the help they need in Poland and other host countries. Tetiana receives a small pension to help care for Masha, but life is still very difficult.

Their ultimate goal is to return home.

“I miss home… I dream of going back there one day,” says Tetiana.

Ukraine needs our support more than ever

This war has forced 10 million people to flee. It has destroyed homes and torn families apart. And it has shattered the lives of countless children.   

UNHCR has been working non-stop since the full-scale invasion began. Our teams are on the ground right now – delivering life-saving aid to hard-hit communities, repairing homes and shelters, and providing crucial psychological support. 

But attacks are continuing to devastate communities, forcing people to flee. They urgently need your help.

Related Stories

View all stories
Rf1207358 C32a9301 1
Location icon
Ukraine

UNHCR delivering cash assistance in Ukraine Emergency

Cash assistance will provide a lifeline for displaced families fleeing conflict

© UNHCR / Valerio Muscella
Location icon
Ukraine

“At this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century”

More than 3.6 million people have now fled Ukraine

© UNHCR/MACIEJ MOSKWA
Location icon
Ukraine

Cash offers a lifeline to refugees arriving in Poland

UNHCR’s cash assistance program helps refugees from Ukraine cover their most urgent needs

Our fundraising impact

The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.

75%
Humanitarian programs
13%
Admin
12%
Fundraising