A pottery class for displaced families in western Ukraine

Winter is here again!

Winter has arrived in Ukraine. After a mild autumn, it has been snowing heavily! This is the latest weather report: “Heavy snowfall across the whole country prompted the closure of 14 highways while 16 of Ukraine’s 24 regions were experiencing power cuts. Especially harsh conditions were reported in the southern regions of Odesa and Mykolayiv, where snow drifts as high as two meters hampered traffic.”

And Kyiv is being bombed again. On the eve of the commemoration of the Holodomor, the man-made famine in the 1930s in which millions of Ukrainians starved to death, Kyiv was subjected to the most violent attacks by Russian drones since the full-scale invasion began 21 months ago. Ukrainians expected a renewed onslaught on heating and energy infrastructure once temperatures dropped. They say they are better prepared than last year, but the enemy has allegedly been stockpiling shells and drones, so they fear the worst. 

At BEARR we have devoted a lot of effort over the summer and autumn to supporting community-based therapy delivered by small voluntary groups, some with psychologists, others involving art, music, dance and drama. Recently, much of our support has gone to groups working in Zaporyzhzhiya, Odesa, Kherson, and Kharkiv. 

Following the volunteer revival workshop in the Carpathian mountains in September, involving 30 people from ten partner organisations, participants have stayed in touch, sharing stories of providing respite for their own weary volunteers as well as continuing their group therapy sessions for IDPs. Read about the workshop here. This kind of help became the theme of our annual conference held on 17 November. Read about it here.

Meanwhile, people are still suffering from the devastation from the explosion of the Kakhovka dam near Kherson in June. A partner in Kherson reported that she used the funds received from BEARR to organise eight group training sessions with a psychologist over two months. She told us that “twenty women received help in these groups, fourteen of them have children with disabilities, and three suffered from the consequences of the explosion. Three of them are mothers with many children. Training sessions were organised for the women to learn skills needed to overcome stress. She reported that they leamed how to find an inner resource to support others, including their children, and to stabilize themselves.”

She also told us she lost her own house and all her possessions to the flood, and is now renting a room, but she is separated from her bed-ridden mother, who is on the left-bank of Kherson, still occupied by the Russians. Through the kindness of friends she manages to talk to her on the phone once a week… She arranged for her son to leave and study in Poland, but she refuses to leave Kherson and the families she supports, despite the constant shelling. She texted, ‘You know, Ukraine is a nation that has had to bear so much grief, and we have learned to value life, relationships, love. Perhaps that is why we cannot be beaten.’

Our emergency appeal funds continue also to provide for immediate humanitarian needs such as food, bedding, hygiene items and so on. People are still being evacuated from towns in the Donbas where fighting is intense but so are people who lost their homes in the flood after the dam near Kherson was destroyed. The same partner in Kherson used our funds for food products, which families received free of charge every week. Twenty five families with children with disabilities, families with many children, and single parent families received assistance. Another partner used funds from BEARR to buy washing machines for a social laundry in Kherson region. And in Kharkiv region, partners have used each of the recent grants that we sent them to support a different village. The region has been devastated by its 2022 occupation and continuous shelling since Ukraine regained control.  

The social laundry in Kherson region under construction

Very sadly, the war is not over, and people in Ukraine are tired and in need. Inflation that affected all of us over the past year is also a factor in Ukraine, where 30% of the economy lies in ruins and jobs and livelihoods have been severely affected. Resilience in the population is remarkable but part of that is knowing that elsewhere people know and care about what they are going through. We can show that we care and have not forgotten them by continuing to support them!

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