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Winter Aid Ukraine: A warm barn for Grandma Nina

"Grandma Nina, why do you have four dogs?" asks the photographer of Malteser Ukraine. Without thinking twice, the 82-year-old woman jokingly replies, "I'm a young girl, I’ve got them in case they steal me..."

Nina Navídríz lives in the village of Korobochkine, about 50 kilometers southeast of the city of Kharkiv. A missile attack has destroyed her house in the middle of the night while she was sleeping. She miraculously survived. Nina, a very religious woman, is sure that it was God who saved her from death. Before the attack she wrote the names of dead and living church members in a notebook and prayed for them which was the advice of a local priest. The notebook burned down during the bombing of her house, so Grandma Nina took a new notebook to record the names of the people she prays for. "When I wake up, I immediately start praying, and the last thing I do before I fall asleep is praying. Before war, when there was light, I would pray all night," she says.

The 82-year-old refused to leave her village, where she lived with her late husband with whom she has many memories of a happy life before the war. She moved into a barn. "It is very difficult to recover for people who have been living in the midst of war for months, who have experienced the occupation and heavy shelling. But despite everything they have experienced, they do not lose faith and continue to live their lives as much as possible under the current conditions," reports Lisa Schönmeier, country director for Ukraine at Malteser International.

140,000 homes have been destroyed since the beginning of the war

Grandma Nina had a cow before the beginning of the war. Because of lack of animal feed and burned hay due to air raids she was forced to give her cow away. Fortunately, she was able to switch it for a goat. Grandma Nina also has eight chickens and a vegetable garden with pumpkin, courgettes and watermelons. The 82-year-old is not afraid of work. She used to be employed in various factories and in a dairy for most of her life. She said she can take on a whole shift and do the work for an entire store because she is always enthusiastic and energetic.  

The approaching winter is an issue of concern for aid workers. "Now that winter is coming and it is getting colder, especially at night, the people are facing even greater hardship. Refugees and bombed-out people are hit particularly hard by the cold. Many people are living in makeshift shelters because around 140,000 homes alone have been destroyed in the past seven months. That's why we have to prepare people for the cold season as best we can," says Pavlo Titko, head of Malteser Ukraine.

Temperatures can drop below minus ten degrees in winter

In the Kharkiv region, temperatures can drop to minus ten degrees and below in winter. We have therefore been preparing winter aid measures to help people affected by the war. We support our partner Malteser in Ukraine in delivering relief goods, such as generators, solar batteries, stoves and warm blankets to the east of the country. In addition, destroyed windows are being replaced and damage is being repaired to provide at least some insulation. Volunteers from Malteser Ukraine and local partner organizations also winterized the barn for Grandma Nina: they insulated ceilings and windows and installed a small wood-fired oven.

"When the war started in February, it was bitterly cold in Ukraine. The next winter is already approaching, and my hope that this war will end soon is fading," Titko says. According to the United Nations, more than nine million people in Ukraine are currently in need of aid, and more than seven million Ukrainians are displaced within their own country.

(November 2022)

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