Ukraine: “Pavlopil used to be a nice place to live”

Taisiya Gregorivna, an 82-year-old widow, has lived in Pavlopil in eastern Ukraine for the last 46 years. Only a few kilometers away from the contact line, the ongoing conflict has taken a heavy toll on the village and its inhabitants. Since 2014, Taisiya's house has been shelled twice, forcing her to move to a safer place. After receiving  support from her family to rebuild her house, she is now back home. Taisiya also suffers from a heart condition. Over the past few months, she has received medical care from MSF as well as mental health support to cope with what she has been through due to the conflict.

"I was born in Russia. Before coming to Ukraine, I used to work on a farm taking care of the livestock. I arrived in Pavlopil in 1970 where I got married, we built our house and had four children, three daughters and a son.

I can't recall exactly when my house was first damaged by shelling, but I remember being very scared. Two shells hit the road, just in front of the main entrance and shrapnel damaged the walls and some of the windows.

The second time was during winter. I was alone in the house, and it was a very dark night outside. The roof was shelled twice. It was destroyed together with some of the rooms. All the windows also broke. I called my daughter who lives in Mariupol and left for the city the day after.

It was unthinkable for me to stay there alone, it was too dangerous.

I stayed in Mariupol with my daughter and her family for months. Sometimes, I would go back to Pavlopil for a few days, but the situation was still too volatile for me to come back home and I was too scared at night.

One night, I was in the kitchen in my daughter's flat in Mariupol when a shell hit. I remember saying to myself: God saved me, for the third time, because I have never cursed in my life. I was grateful that my grandson had left the kitchen just a few minutes before the shelling. I don't want to think about what could have happened to him.

I came back home to Pavlopil, about a year ago. One of my sons-in-law helped me with all the repairs. We managed to partially fix the roof thanks to the factory where one of my daughters works. They gave us the necessary material for free. My son-in-law also helped me to fix the bedrooms and other parts inside the house that were damaged. But some areas of the roof still need to be fixed. However I can't afford to buy the sheets of metal. So for now it will just have to stay like that.

One of my granddaughters also had her house destroyed by shelling. She is always scared now. She has diabetes and I am worried for her - she is only 22.

All the families here have been deeply affected by the conflict.

Pavlopil used to be a nice place to live. But since the conflict began, the school has closed because of shelling nearby. Only two small shops have reopened. Somehow, this is already an improvement as for months everything was closed. At the time, I was fortunate enough to have my children bringing me food every week.

Now that the situation is a bit calmer I feel more or less alright. I am able to go back to my daily activities. I have a bad heart condition but I do my best and I keep myself busy taking care of my house, my garden and my chickens. Without this, I would have died already.

I am so grateful for my family: my four children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. They are a great support. They take such good care of me; they are the ones who helped me to get my home back.

Look around, others didn't get so lucky."