Renovation of 12 collective centres completed in ZaporizhzhiaPublished: May 18, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
431 days — that's how long a centre on Sobornyi Avenue for the temporary accommodation for people fleeing the war has been operating in Zaporizhzhia. The centre was opened on 12 March 2022, almost as soon as dozens of evacuation trains started moving from the frontline locations to the safer parts of the country. In the last three months of this year alone, 2,515 people have taken refuge in the centre. Some of them stayed for a few days and continued their journey to the western regions of Ukraine or abroad, while others have been living in the centre since the first days of its opening. Currently, there are 36 residents, all of whom dream of returning home.
Natalia and Oleksandr took their four younger children out of Enerhodar in the summer of 2022, having managed to leave before the occupation. Their eldest adult daughter, Katia, decided to stay at that time because she had a job. Now the family is very concerned about Katia and dreams of being united with her.
Except for the youngest daughter Liza, who is 1.5 years old, the rest of the children are school-aged. Nadiia, Pavlo and Oleksii are finishing their schoolyear online. The parents spend much of their time with their children and looking for work. After arriving in Zaporizhzhia, the family rented an apartment but ran out of money, so the collective centre was the best option for the family. Hot meals are provided in the centre (once a day), and volunteers bring water, flour, cereals, household chemicals and other items.
With our support and funding from the European Union, living conditions in the centre have improved significantly. With the help of our partner organisation, "Protection of Women of Ukraine", and a professional repair team, windows and doors were installed, walls and ceilings were plastered and painted, new linoleum was laid, electrical wiring was replaced, toilets and bathrooms were completely redone, and boilers were installed. In total, 12 similar projects have been completed in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, which lasted from October 2022 to May 2023.
"There are not enough words for gratitude. Everything is new and clean. There is a place to wash clothes and cook food," one resident told us. The difference in the shelter's equipment before and after the renovation is evident to all.
"When we moved in, the windows and doors were blown out, the walls were shabby and had mould. We painted, cleaned and repaired everything together to put the place in order. Then the professionals joined our efforts. What we had before and the comfort we have now makes a significant difference," says Olena and her hasband Oleksandr, who moved into the centre last summer.
Before that, Olena, her husband and their 19-year-old son had gone through several difficult months. They stayed in Soledar as long as they could. Oleksandr worked as a driver for the utility company "Vodokanal". Until the last day, even when most of the team had already left, Oleksandr and another colleague travelled to fix the city's water supply system. After a while, the shelling intensified, the gas pipeline was destroyed, shops and pharmacies closed, ATMs did not work, and the Internet, which was crucial for his son's online studies, was cut off.
"At that time, we were practically living in the basement. In such conditions, we could not pay for our son's education. I had to take a break for the second year of study. Now, of course, he has returned to his studies, but it is difficult financially," says Olena.
Olena's husband, Oleksandr, has travelled to many cities to find work. However, even for a specialist who knows his job well, it is very difficult to find one. Today, Olena and Oleksandr are still looking for jobs and staying in the collective centre. The savings on rent, utilities and food allow the family to pay for their son's education. In addition, the centre's community has become a family in some ways.
People who had never met before have experienced so many sorrows and joys together that it is hard to imagine, and they hope to celebrate victory together.