In Ukraine, it is the fourth month since the outbreak of war. Since then Lviv has received thousands of refugees. In this city works JRS Ukraine, which runs two houses for refugees.
The people who benefit from JRS assistance come from the east of Ukraine: from Lisichansk, Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut, Pokrovsk, etc. Some of these cities are now at the centre of hostilities. This is an extremely difficult situation for people, who had to flee from them and so have lost their place on earth. To make matters worse, these people have had difficult experiences and often experience trauma. One of the workers of the house told me about two children living in the house, who, at the sound of an air raid alarm- often heard in Lviv – would hide in a wardrobe or under a table and freeze, completely engulfed in terror. At the same time, refugees regularly follow news of the hostilities because of their concern for loved ones, which they left behind in eastern Ukraine. There were families who could not bear to be separated and returned to their cities after a few weeks in Lviv, despite the danger involved.
The staff of the house do their best to support the refugees and tehy take care of the good functioning of the house. This requires dealing with many mundane difficulties. Firstly, the staff of the house take care of supplies. At the moment, they are not lacking in essentials, but one has to be vigilant because the situation is precarious. It is also a challenge to organize the time of the large group of children who live in the house – all the more so, because it is play that allows them to forget the burdens of the war situation. This is not an easy task, especially as children nowadays often get bored very quickly with new forms of play. One member of staff tells me that if only there were funding and an opportunity, he would like to buy a trampoline for the children. Another challenge is that the residents have to adapt to each other. Each family is used to its own way of life – but here they have to agree on common rules in order to respect each other, which is sometimes not easy.
JRS runs two homes for refugees in Ukraine. The first has existed since 2008, the second was established a month ago in Briukhovychi near Lviv in response to the difficult situation caused by the influx of thousands of refugees into Lviv. About 25 people live in each of these houses.
One person from staff of house for refugees said of living in Lviv: “here we are like in paradise”. He was referring to the horrors experienced by people on the front line, compared to which Lviv can seem like a peaceful city. This is also the experience of those who come to Lviv from the east. Yet it is a strange paradise, where air raid alarms sound regularly and everyday life is marked by the uncertainty of war.