Mothers fleeing war: “We didn’t know where we would live or how.”
The multimedia stories of four mothers fleeing Ukraine has highlighted the heartbreaking decisions that families have had to make during three months of war in Ukraine.
A series of portraits by award-winning British photographer Lewis Khan from the Romanian border documents the stories of mothers and children who fled Ukraine as bombs and bullets rained down on their homes. Leaving behind friends, family, and everything they have known with little more than the clothes on their backs and hope in their hearts.
His images tell the stories of their fight for survival, but also their hope for the future. Families describe making impossible decisions about whether they should stay or flee, leaving their husbands and fathers behind, and homes they may never see again.
These compelling images also show exactly what each family packed as they were forced to flee their homes. Some brought just a few changes of clothes, toys for their children and medical supplies, not knowing if they would leave for weeks, months or even years.
More than 6.3 million people, of which half are estimated to be children, have now fled Ukraine in the hope of finding safety in neighbouring countries with 924,000 people arriving in Romania alone in what is the largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II.
Iryna* from Kyiv, had just 24 hours to decide before the curfew if she should leave with her 10-year-old daughter *Nikolina, leaving behind her mother who was too sick to travel. Iryna* was also seven months pregnant and made the train journey huddled in a disused toilet with her daughter to escape the crowds.
“For my child and my unborn baby I decided, if I can, I have to go. They have their whole lives ahead of them. At each stop we were so scared. There were harsh quarrels, so we locked the door at those stops.”
Her daughter* Nikolina said: “I was scared when we were near the railway station. There were lots of soldiers. They were standing, some were holding machine guns and others were holding rifles.”
Mariya* from Dnipro, decided to leave with her four-year-old son after missiles hit their home town. They took the first train they could heading west from Dnipro towards Romania.
“It was the scariest day of our lives,” she said. “We didn't know where we would live or how. It was a journey to nowhere. I’ve never come here, I didn't know where I was going.
“It's good here, they treat us very well. We have enough food. It's warm and cosy. We're very grateful for that.”
Each of the families are being provided with temporary accommodation in northern Romania by Save the Children and their partners and they are receiving cash voucher assistance, mental health support and legal advice.
Save the Children Romania’s CEO, Gabriela Alexandrescu, said:
“Each one of these stories is a powerful reminder of what millions of families have been through as we mark the first three months of this terrible war. Mothers have had to make choices no one should ever have to make, leaving everything behind in the hope of keeping their children safe.
“In the space of just over 90 days, the war in Ukraine has unleashed the largest refugee crisis since World War Two, with more than six million people including nearly three million children leaving Ukraine.
“That’s almost one child every second, each one is a life changed forever. We call on all parties to end this brutal war and end the suffering, to help rebuild the devastated lives of millions of people across the country.”
In Ukraine Save the Children is working through local partners to provide shelter, food, cash, fuel, psychosocial support, baby, and hygiene kits to displaced families. Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering essential humanitarian aid to children and their families.
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