A fifteen-minute walk, carrying two jugs of water of about 17 litres in total. Then back to the shop to buy another 1.5 litres for her eight-year-old daughter.
This used to be Yulia Brykhnich’s daily routine when she arrived at a collective centre in Dnipro with her daughter Alisa, who has a disability, and her mother.
The family fled their hometown of Lysychansk, in Luhansk oblast. “On 29 March, a bomb dropped near our house… All we could bring was a pram for Alisa and two bags, one with clothes and the other with baby nappies. We don't have anything else here.”
After arriving in Dnipro, a friend put Yulia in contact with the Humanitarian Institute, a university and school for kids with special needs, which now serves as a collective centre hosting 80 internally displaced persons (IDPs) including Yulia’s family.
As a single mother, Yulia shouldered all the household chores and financial costs alone back in Lysychansk, but the war has posed new challenges.
“In Dnipro, I used to spend UAH 15 (roughly USD 0.50) per day for one bottle of water of 1.5 litres. You may think it's not that much money. But if you take into account the monthly expenses, it really is,” says Yulia.
But things changed when IOM’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) team installed a water treatment unit to provide safe drinking water at the collective centre.
“It's much easier for us now! Alisa and I can drink when we want to, we can make tea, wash our vegetables, etc. Before I had to walk long distances to buy the jugs, often in the rain or heat, but now I just need to step out of the room.”
Clean water is but a small respite from the new reality. “We were the first to arrive at the centre and it was difficult getting to know people here, but now we all know each other, there are always children playing together,” says Yulia, sitting in the small bedroom where she sleeps with Alisa and her mother. The walls are covered with pictures of her time in Dnipro. “We couldn’t take any photos with us from home, so I’ve taken as many as possible to make new memories.”
Life is not as comfortable as back home where Yulia ran a small clothing store, but her priorities are clear. “We are now preparing for the school year. That’s our main concern. We know it will be online, but we’re still waiting for more information.”
Despite the distance, Yulia carries her hometown with her. Her cellphone case is of the city’s coat of arms showing a fox, or ‘lysytsya’ in Ukrainian.
Lysychansk and its twin city Sievierodonetsk were the scenes of intense fighting since April and are currently under Russian control. The invasion has killed scores of innocent people in these cities.
According to the UN, over 5,500 civilians have been killed and over 7,600 injured in Ukraine as of 22 August, but experts suggest this is likely an undercount.
For Yulia, there is no place like home and she wishes to return to Lysychansk soon. Regardless, she has a strong message for her fellow Ukrainians. “You should never give up, but if you see danger in your location you should leave, don’t wait for something to happen. There are people everywhere willing to help those displaced. People in Dnipro have helped us greatly.”
IOM’s WASH programme will also provide a washing machine, hygiene kits and other items to the war-affected residents of the centre, and conduct small repairs of the kitchen and showers.
IOM will set up additional units in other locations across the Dnipropetrovsk region with support from local partners. In the meantime, Yulia’s family and their neighbours will be able to refill their cups without worrying whether there will be enough water for tomorrow.
WASH activities are conducted with support from the Government of Japan, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the German Federal Foreign Office, the Government of Canada and the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund.