Ukrainian women at Patria-Lukoil Refugee Accommodation Centre in Chisinau, Moldova have a message they want to share with the world.
“There are no bad nations, there are only bad people.” This and, of course, their desperation for peace to come so that they can return home.
The women are a mixture of long-term residents and recent arrivals; most having arrived from June or earlier, but several having fled the recent attacks in the last few days.
Conversation flows easily between them. They smile as they recall the kindness of the local people and international volunteers who have provided them shelter, food, and all kinds of support. However, smiles quickly turn to tears as the women reflect on the war, lost relatives and those remaining behind in Ukraine, just trying to survive.
One of the shelter’s new arrivals shows us a video she took from her window of heavy shelling. These are the last images she has of Ukraine; as soon as she finished filming, she grabbed what she could and fled for Moldova.
As IOM staff, and the women around her watch the video, many break down, but her face remains blank – she is firmly set on sharing what is happening to her home, her homeland.
The psychological impacts of war are etched on the faces of all the women. They talk about a wedding held near the accommodation centre - a joyful gathering which the newlyweds celebrated with fireworks. However, the fireworks took many residents back to what they had experienced in Ukraine, with flashbacks to hours of heavy shelling, air raid sirens, panic and trauma.
But amidst all the despair, there are still moments of joy. When the women talk of their children, many working in Chisinau, who are earning a living, flourishing, in Moldova, their faces break into smiles. Proud mothers share images of young men and women on their phones, adapting to their new lives.
Evdokia is one of these women. She opens the door to the room which she shares with her husband and 17-year-old son.
She is one of the longest in residence at the accommodation centre. She arrived at the beginning of the war, having fled from a border town. She struggles to remain composed as she describes two of her children and other relatives she left behind, and her despair at the uncertainty of when they can be reunited.
Cut off from their biological families, Edvokia feels that the centre has become a second family for many. The residents have come from all over Ukraine, they are all of different ages, from different backgrounds, with different stories and traumas but they live like a family. Providing support to each other, a listening ear. Sharing stories, hopeful and horrific; they look after each other.
Written by Elizabeth Linklater, Hanna Kalichava, Shahzod Nazarov, Emrah Ozesen