In Ukraine, displaced people face many challenges, primarily settling into a new community and rebuilding their lives. Many are facing unemployment so EU funding is providing short-term employment through a number of community projects.
Located approximately 30 kilometres from the eastern Ukraine frontline, the town of Soledar (literally “Salt gift”) is famous for its salt mines, which are the largest in Ukraine. Fighting ended here two years ago but the war has left a great mark on the town. Opportunities for work at local mines have significantly reduced, as have salt exports, leaving many local people unemployed. Many internally displaced people, who have been forced from their homes by the conflict, have very little chance of finding a job.
Around 500 displaced families live in Soledar today. Alliance2015 partner People in Need is supporting 30 of the most vulnerable through a “Cash for Work” project funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department. Over a 10-day period, project participants cleaned up an area where a playground will be installed. They mowed the tall grass, cut down the bushes, removed all the garbage and prepared the ground for further work. Working 4 hours each day, beneficiaries received about 2400 hryvnia (100 USD). The participants are doubly motivated by this work, because almost all of them have children who will soon be playing here.
On the move
Sergey, a 38-year-old former miner and an internally displaced person is one of the project participants. He introduces us to his family. “OK, my boy, tell us!” Sergey says to his three-year old son, Kolya, who is hugging his dad’s leg. The boy’s face turns red and he runs away to his toys. He is too small to say – and maybe even to understand – that his family is settling in a new place for the third time in two years.
He does not remember Torez, the small town in the non-government controlled area of Ukraine, where he was born. Little Kolya, his father Sergey and his wife Lena escaped the fighting and moved to western Ukraine, then returned east to Druzhkovka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, only to move again to Soledar this spring.
“In summer 2014 the plane (Malaysia Airlines flight MH17) crashed not far from us and then the mine stopped working, so we decided to leave our home,” Sergey remembers. He and his wife saw that there could not be a peaceful life for Kolya and themselves there. Their little boy also needs special medical treatment, which the local hospitals could not provide.
Struggling for their son
“We knew about the sickness from his infancy,” Lena says. Kolya has problems with his eyes and also a severe kidney disease, which caused his left kidney to expand significantly and be only 20% effective before the surgery. “We had the surgery in Kharkov last autumn. The treatment cost us 60 000 hryvnia (about 2400 USD),” Lena explains. The couple spent all of their savings, and also had to ask for money from their relatives, friends, and various charity funds in order to meet the costs.
The family are trying to save money for a medical examination in Kharkov. Sergey’s small pension does not cover the family’s expenses so he finds seasonal jobs from time to time and Lena does night shifts at the food store so that she can still spend time with Kolya during the day.
They had not received any humanitarian aid for almost a year until People in Need’s “Cash for Work” project began, giving them a chance to earn extra money to buy warm clothes and vitamins for Kolya. If there is any money left over, they will buy some warm clothes for themselves too.