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Two Years On: Existing Day to Day in Ukraine

“What I miss most is the freedom to dream and plan my future” 

After two years of war in Ukraine, Anna Orel is exhausted. It’s impossible to get used to the relentless barrage of rockets, or nightly drone attacks in the capital Kyiv which make it hard to sleep. For Anna, surviving in wartime means living in the now. “Nobody knows how many days you will be alive”, she says. “Everyone who lives in Ukraine is under constant stress.” 

Anna and her colleague, Iryna Andreieva are determined to maintain a sense of normality during a war that has upended their lives. The women grab joyful moments where they can: a party organized for their children at kindergarten, or simple pleasures like reading, going for a walk and spending time with friends.  

“My family helps me to forget this terrible war” explains Iryna. “We try to live our normal lives and visit museums, theaters, children’s centers”.  

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the subsequent fighting has killed or wounded tens of thousands of people and reduced many Ukrainian cities to rubble. Reports of sexual violence by Russian soldiers have been widespread. There are still nearly 6 million Ukrainians displaced around the world, most of them women and children.  

Anna believes the war has made her reevaluate their priorities.   

“I appreciate my life.” She says, “I want peace. I miss it very much” 

Another colleague, Anna Mnishchenko says the war has completely changed her. It’s robbed her of a sense of safety and the ability to enjoy life. She worries constantly about family in other countries or friends who are fighting at the frontline. But the war revealed qualities in her that she never knew she had.  Two years ago, Anna was on call around the clock, helping families to evacuate and escape the violence. It was a difficult and stressful time, but it made her realize she had inner reserves of strength.  

“I can handle hard things. That surprised me. It’s something new for me," explains Anna. 

Adreiev Foundation meeting
Iryna leads a session with women participants of their programs at Andreiev Foundation. Credit: Demi Savon.

Anna, Iryna and Anna M. have a shared purpose in their work with The Andreiev Foundation: a non-profit that pivoted at the start of the war to support survivors of sexual violence in this conflict.  

Together with The Andreiev Foundation, Women for Women International sends teams of psychologists to reach women survivors of sexual violence, who live in Ukrainian villages formerly occupied by the Russians, providing counselling to help them process what has happened to them.  

“Before the war, I never thought that I would have to learn to understand psychology and learn to help war victims," says Iryna.  

Two years on, our colleagues discover new cases all the time. It’s not unusual for women who survive conflict-related sexual violence to stay silent for many years, but Anna says when they do come forward, the support they receive can be transformational.  

By coming together and opening up about the horrors they have experienced, the women realize they are not alone. The Andreiev Foundation reports that survivors of sexual violence who are only just now coming forward are “stuck” in the trauma of the past.  But life has changed in small ways for women who have begun the healing process. It takes time but there are positive moments and even improvements in their health and well-being. Some of the survivors even managed a trip to the countryside to rest and recuperate.  

With our colleagues, we have reached hundreds of women who continue to need our support. Anna, Iryna and Anna M - and thousands of Ukrainian women like them – draw strength from the small routines of daily life and the big task of helping women cruelly hurt in this conflict.  

They are not giving up, even as the fighting continues into a third year. For now, existing day to day is the only way to live.   

“During the war what I miss most is the freedom to dream and plan my future,” says Iryna.  

Woman has arms wrapped around child in her lap
Your donation will help provide women survivors of war a safe space for rehabilitation as well as medical care that includes psychological and gynecological consultations with doctors.