“I wanted to save my grandson from the bombs”

Published: 15 December 2015 22:08 CET

By John Engedal Nissen / IFRC

The bombing in Horlivka, eastern Ukraine, would last the entire night.

Lydia Pokrovskaya, 62, would hide with her daughter and grandson in a cramped, cold and dark basement normally used to store the family’s food.

Explosions would rattle the basement, shaking plaster and paint from the walls.

“It was impossible to sleep. All we could do was wait. As soon as we heard the first explosion, we would run to the basement,” she says.

Her five-year-old grandson was so terrified that he developed a stammer, Lydia explains. “We felt there was no hope and that no one would save us. All I could think of was how I could save my family,” she says.

Finally, they were given a chance to escape. A woman had arranged to drive them out of the town despite the risk of being caught in the crossfire. But as they left, a bomb dropped so close to them that they were forced off the road. Her grandson threw himself on the floor and shouted in panic: ‘What are we going to do? We don’t have a basement to hide in.’

“When we picked him up from the floor, he was very tense and really quiet,” Lydia says.

They managed to escape to the city of Slovyansk in the Donetsk region, where the Ukrainian Red Cross has provided them with clothing, kitchen utensils and hygiene items.

“The most important thing is that we no longer have to flee and that there are no bombs. If the Red Cross had not helped us, we might have taken the risk to go back to our house. When I ask my grandson if he wants to go back, he says ‘no grandma, I don’t want to sit in the basement anymore.’ So I am very grateful to Red Cross.”

More than 1.4 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine. The Red Cross provides the most vulnerable with food, access to health, safe accommodation, hygiene kits and non-food items. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal of nearly 20 million Swiss francs to support the humanitarian response of the Ukrainian Red Cross.