After 10 months of fighting, the United Nations reports that 5,358 people have been killed and 12,235 wounded in eastern Ukraine. Overall, the war has internally displaced 921,640 people within Ukraine, including 136,216 children. Around 600,000 have fled to neighboring countries, including more than 400,000 who have gone to Russia.
Larisa Yakovenko survived a direct rocket strike on her single-story Debaltseve cottage. But with the wreckage strewn about and her exit blocked, the 49-year-old woman with a disability was certain she would die from exposure to the cold or starvation, as she lay helpless amid the smoldering rubble. She screamed for help to frantic residents darting past for what seemed like eternity, until a local boy heard her call. He would stay with her until the missile attack stopped, and then go for help. The boy soon returned with Ukrainian army soldiers who carried Yakovenko to a bus that evacuated her to nearby Artemivsk. It is here, inside a Soviet-era dormitory on the edge of town where some 300 other displaced persons — dozens of them children — are being temporarily housed, that Yakovenko recounted her harrowing tale of survival.
Nearby, Svetlana, a 44-year-old mother of seven, is rounding up the six children with whom she fled last week after enduring months of heavy shelling around her home in the rebel-controlled city of Horlivka. One of Svetlana’s older daughters stayed with her husband in the besieged town. Three of her five children here, as well as Ilya, are under 18 years old. They haven’t had financial support since Kiev cut social services and the banking systems in Ukraine’s eastern regions last summer.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that move “drastically worsened the plight of the civilian population in areas not under government control.”
There are around 1 million other people like Yakovenko and Svetlana who have also been made homeless by the war.