Ukraine Emergency Appeal Update One Year On – Elizabeth finds hope in art

Feb 24, 2023

Ukraine Emergency Appeal Update One Year On – Elizabeth finds hope in art

It is one year ago today that Russian tanks began their invasion of Ukraine in a war that tragically shows no sign of ending. In that time, nearly one-third of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes. This is the largest human displacement crisis in the world today. Within Ukraine, over 6.9 million people remain displaced by the war.  More than 17 million movements out of Ukraine have been recorded, with over 9.7 million movements back into the country.

Anglicans in Development’s appeal for those affected raised over $64,000, for which we are grateful to our many generous donors.

To mark the anniversary, Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance have written some stories of hope about people whose lives have been indelibly changed by the war. You can read one of these, about a young woman called Elizabeth, below. *

In early 2022, Elizabeth lived with her family- parents, grandparents, and little brother- in Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine.  She was finishing up high school and looking forward to going to university, with dreams of becoming an artist.  “I like to draw and paint anything, but I love to draw people- especially hands and eyes,” she says.

Her life changed drastically, along with so many millions of Ukrainians, when Russia invaded on February 24, 2022.  Irina, Elizabeth’s mother, fled with the children in March after three rockets exploded in a courtyard not 40m from their apartment building. 

“We fled with the clothes on our backs and our documents,” Irina says.

Irina knew people in a small village near Sambir, outside of Lviv in Western Ukraine, (about 3 hours by train from the Polish border).  They knew of an empty house that Irina could move into with the children.  Irina’s parents did not want to leave Kharkiv, and it wasn’t until April that they came to join the family, aided in their escape by some friends.

Elizabeth’s life was upended- she moved across the country to a house that had been abandoned for eight years, had no household supplies, running water, and needed serious renovations.  Her mother could not continue her IT job as there was no reliable internet in the village, just a weak mobile signal.

Shortly after they arrived, there was a knock on the door, from Father Alek, who manages a local NGO that partners with ACT member Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA).  “I heard you are displaced and have just arrived here.  How can I help?  What do you need?” he asked.

Father Alek was able to provide clothes, food, a frying pan to cook with, even a refrigerator when they had electricity working in the house.   It took some time over the summer, but the family was able to fix up the house so that it now has working electricity (when the electricity isn’t turned off due to attacks on the energy infrastructure), and the bedroom where they all sleep is insulated and heated. The heating was especially welcomed because Elizabeth has problems with her joints.

“The most important thing is that it is quiet here,” says Irina.  “There is no shelling.”

Throughout this whole experience, Elizabeth continued to produce art.  Even when she had to leave her supplies behind, she was able to draw.  Understandably, her art took a dark turn as the war began, and her family had to flee.  The colours were stark, the imagery disturbing.

But as her life has calmed down in her new home, and she was able to finish high school and begin studying typography in Lviv, her art has gotten brighter again.  She is currently finishing a painting of the sky seen through summer leaves that is full of colour and hope, reflecting her own feelings.

And as she gets more comfortable, she is beginning to look towards her career in art, offering commissions and selling her work.  The future looks bright for Elizabeth, as bright as her paintings.

HIA and another ACT member, HEKS Romania (an offshoot of Swiss ChurchAid), have assisted more than 43,000 people with shelter and other vital needs. Other needs, such as for clothing and medicine, have been met with vouchers. The ACT partners have also provided assistance and advice for those seeking shelter and more permanent accommodation, as well as hygiene kits, psychological support, and provision of stoves, briquettes, sleeping bags etc for winter warmth. One member is even working to rehabilitate a Ukrainian school that was damaged.

HIA, the organisation that was responsible for Elizabeth’s family’s assistance, has made a video about how cash assistance to families displaced by the war helps families to begin life again, away from the front line. You can watch it here.

* The story also shows how networks of Christian organisations work together through the ACT Alliance: ABM and AID supporters give to AID then AID sends the funds to ACT. These go directly to the local ACT forum in Ukraine, whose members HIA and 10 other church-based organisations. HIA then works through its local partners in Ukraine, such as the organisation that Father Alek belongs to, and people like Father Alek do the work on the ground with the people affected. Through all of this there is a chain of accountability which includes regular updates, financial reporting, safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, and local community complaints mechanisms. AID influences ACT through our membership of our local Pacific, Australia and New Zealand ACT Forum.