UNGHENI, Moldova – On this humid summer day, Lina and twenty other Ukrainians and volunteers diligently plant yellow, pink, and dark purple flowers. Lina bends to tend to the red-pigmented dahlia, and quickly moves on to the next one.
“Gardening helps me get my mind off my problems. I relish the here and now,” says Lina, 53, now a Ukrainian refugee in Moldova. She is from Odessa, a city located in the south-west part of Ukraine.
“It has a big positive impact on my mental health, even improving my physical condition. That was when I realized it’s all connected to the mind and nervous system,” shares Lina.
Lina and dozens of Ukrainians benefited from individual and group therapy sessions, sight-seeing excursions around the countryside, and financial aid for medicines and food supplies.
“As soon as I arrived in Moldova, I started seeing a HelpAge-provided psychologist. I felt overwhelmed since I also have health problems,” explains Lina.
The sessions helped strengthen her resilience. “It encouraged me to reconsider my perspective on life, to enjoy being alive, and to focus on the good,” she says.
The wounds of war
Lina used to live in the historical centre of Odessa, a port city two kilometres from the sea. She ran her own agriculture business. “I started from scratch, planting and selling vegetables,” says Lina.
When war broke out, she was forced to halt all activities for safety concerns. “I spent most of my time in the bunker, where the humidity level was very high,” recalls Lina.
Her second-floor apartment lacked running water, electricity, and gas, particularly during winter. Air-raid sirens dominated her daily life, echoing throughout the streets. Her refuge was the wet, moldy basement.
I smile when I get up in the morning. I smile when I drink a cup of coffee. I smile when I see the green grass and flowers. I’m so grateful to simply be alive.
“To comprehend what it is like to live while rockets fly over your head, you must be there. Nothing could be expressed in words,” she shares.
She was once out walking in the park when the sky darkened, and a strong wind swept through the air. Within minutes, she heard a loud roar - a rocket hit directly into the sea, 500 meters away.
“There was a young lady nearby. We found ourselves clinging to each other. She shared she left Mykolaiv because her house was destroyed. The following day she arrived in Odessa, a missile landed half a kilometer away,” she continues.
“You are seen as a refugee and nothing more”
After more than seven months trying to survive in Ukraine, Lina’s son moved to Israel to look for a job. Since the start of the war, the family has been living off their savings.
He graduated from law school and used to operate his own company. “Once you become a refugee, it doesn’t matter what you used to be in your home country. Your status has changed,” she adds.
Lina lives in a Refugee Accommodation Center (RAC) in Ungheni City. “I don’t own anything here, but it doesn’t matter. Life is more than those good clothes, a nice house, or cars. If I have some food, a clear sky above me, and my loved ones in a safe place, my life is full”, she says.
The power of mind
“I smile when I get up in the morning. I smile when I drink a cup of coffee. I smile when I see the green grass and flowers. I’m so grateful to simply be alive,” concludes Lina.
“The Ukrainian elderly, who are already vulnerable and in need of care and attention, suffer from being forced to live outside their comfort zone,” says Andrei Banu, World Vision’s team leader.
He adds, “Though the project, these people receive the care, social interaction, emotional, and financial support they need.”
The group of Ukrainian elderly receives medicine and clothing vouchers, financial help, psychosocial aid, non-food items (NFI), and medical access facilitation under the initiative.
To date, World Vision reached over 162,000 individuals in Moldova composed of refugees and host communities. HelpAge, Communitas, Step by Step, AVE Copiii, Food Bank, Keystone, WeWorld, and CRIC are among World Vision’s partners.
Story and photos by Laurentia Jora, Communications Officer