Lyudmila, 87, Ukraine


I was born in 1935 in Poltava, and when I was seven, we moved to Russia. For three years, we had nothing to eat, but my mother worked at an orphanage, and she gave us water mixed with flour, and that is how we survived. It was very, very hard.

My father was the director of a university, so we later received a nice apartment in Kyiv, but before that we moved around a lot.

I studied economics and became a university professor which I loved, but it was a very hard life, especially in my father’s last years, when there was only me to take care of him.

The last few years have not been easy but now I just feel helpless. My second husband, Sasha, and I had COVID last year, and we are still recovering. He is 85, and we have been together for 53 years. But now he is in Kharkiv with his daughter [from his first marriage], and I am here with my son, Zhenya, who is 61.

I don’t know when I will see Sasha again, and I miss him so much. We talk when we can but our telephones are so old that they rarely work, and I have to borrow Zhenya’s.

I understand why people stayed behind in Ukraine. It is too hard to be separated. I think about Sasha every day.

My grandson Maxim is in Kyiv, and his wife and son, Arthur, are with him. Maxim is 30, so he was not allowed to leave. Maxim will have to fight, and I am so worried about him. I am so worried about the war.

Now we are here, in this centre in Ghidigici. I have bad arthritis in my knees and there is no lift, so I must stay on the second floor of the centre. Even if I could walk, there is nowhere for me to go.

The view from Lyudmila's window.

© Sarah Pilchick / HelpAge International

My eyesight is very bad. I am blind in one eye and my vision in the other eye is very weak. Sometimes I stay in my room and use my tablet, but there is not much to do. I walk to the windows on the second floor and watch the street. When the weather is nice, the staff open the windows for me so I can feel the air. Nothing ever changes.

I want to see my husband Sasha again, but I have to go where my son goes. If Zhenya stays, I will stay. If he goes, I will go. But it never changes. I am so alone.

Find out what we’re doing to help older people in Ukraine.

Recorded by Sarah Pilchick, Humanitarian Communications Manager, HelpAge International.