Eleven months into the international armed conflict in Eastern Europe, the Red Cross remains committed to supporting the most vulnerable impacted by the crisis. More than 16 million people have crossed the borders of Ukraine and over 7 million people are internally displaced within the country. Those who have fled are building new lives in surrounding countries while the conflict continues to upend lives and livelihoods.
At a shelter for displaced Ukrainians in Szeged, Hungary, Liubov is one of the many people who don’t know what the future holds. Since fleeing the Donbas earlier this year, she’s been living in a Red Cross shelter along with 80 other Ukrainians. She says that the transition has been hard but help from the Red Cross, including cash assistance, has been key to her success in this chapter.
“When I read about this cash assistance, I felt hope. The Red Cross gives me hope,” she said. “I fled my home in July and didn’t have any warm clothes. Now I’m able to buy what I need, like this sweater I’m wearing,” she said.
In surrounding countries impacted by the Ukraine crisis, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) delegates have been working with local Red Cross officials to design and implement a cash assistance program to deliver aid quickly and easily to those who need it most — like Liubov. With the help of over 40 Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies, IFRC continues to strengthen coordination, providing the largest emergency cash initiative in the history of the movement.
Nearly one million people have been reached through the cash assistance program. IFRC officials stress that cash assistance is about empowerment, allowing people to determine their own needs and quickly address them. The needs vary but can include rental assistance, health or shelter needs, or basic needs.
Liubov says that the Red Cross has given her hope to build a life in Hungary while she waits to see what comes next. “I go swimming three days a week. I do yoga. I walk by the river and feed the stray dogs. I like walking by the river and being in the fresh air. The dogs see me coming and run up to me with wagging tails,” she said. She says she’s reading a book called “The Secret of Life.” “When I read this book, I think about how hard life is and how fortunate I am at the same time,” she said.
She remains grateful that she’s safe, warm and comfortable in her new life. Connecting with other refugees, all of whom she didn’t know before she arrived, has been a highlight. “We cook together. We tell each other good morning,” she says with a smile.
Liubov says that years for her family, including her son who is still in Ukraine and cannot leave the country. “Back home, there’s no power, no heat, no gas. Winter is here and I am so worried. Life is very difficult,” she said.
“I spent my career in governmental service working for my country, Ukraine. I am so heartbroken about the war. Thank you to the Red Cross for caring about us. Thank you from the people of Ukraine,” she said.
With tears in her eyes, she points to the pictures on her wall of painted hearts from her four grandchildren, who are currently living at a shelter in Sweden. “My love is on that wall. I’ve found happiness here but my heart is with my family. I miss them and worry about them every day,” she said.
To learn more about how the American Red Cross is responding to the international armed conflict in Eastern Europe, visit redcross.org/Ukraine.