An elderly man and woman sit next to each other on a couch

After mine explosion, couple seeks safety at HI partner center

After a mine exploded near their home and they ran out of firewood, Bakanov Serhiy Mykhailovych and Bakanova Natalia Volodymyrivna are now living temporarily at a shelter run by Humanity & Inclusion's partners in Ukraine. They are receiving mental health and rehabilitation care. This is their story.

We arrived in Dnipro on December 24, 2022. We came from the city of Siversk in the Bakhmut area. We were evacuated by volunteers. They came to us several times, but we refused to leave. We weren't ready for such a long conflict and at the time it seemed that the war would be over soon. But it just kept gaining momentum. We lived in a private house and the time came when we only had enough firewood left for one day.

That was the day when the volunteers came again. We just had to leave. The guys promised to take us to the Ocean of Kindness center (HI’s local partner). They got us on a bus, then on a train, and that's how we came to Dnipro.

I remember how the war began on February 24. I got up early as if someone woke me up. I went to the kitchen at four in the morning. I only managed to have a cup of water, then all of a sudden there was a huge rumble. I thought, there can't be thunder in February. I did not expect it and did not understand what was going on. We turned the TV on and learned that there is a war in Ukraine. We still had lights at the time. We had power supply until May, and then it was gone. We had to travel over a mile to a well to get water.

A life-saving salad

A mine fell near our house on July 31. There was a military unit nearby. Everything that was used to hit the unit passed near our house. It's impossible to describe the rumble we've heard. The walls were shaking, the roof was lifted up. We were at home at the moment and got a bit of shell shock. Seryozha was laying on a sofa, I was sitting in an armchair.

That was the first time they brought us some bread. Before that, we lived without receiving our pension or humanitarian assistance for four months. On that day, we were treated to the first tomatoes and cucumbers, so I got up to make a salad. I looked at it to admire its beauty. And that was the moment when the mine hit. All the dirt from the street was now in our house. Of course, all the glass shattered into my salad. I thought to myself, ‘well, at least we had an opportunity to take a look at a fresh salad.’ If I had taken one more step at that moment, I would have been hit by those shards. I found a shard of glass in the armchair where I was sitting a couple of minutes before the explosion. It looks like I wouldn't have been alive if not for that salad. 


Mental health and rehabilitation care

As soon as we got to the Ocean of Kindness, Humanity & Inclusion psychologists came to visit us. They gave a detailed and long explanation on what exercises we can do, and how to distract ourselves. For example, they asked us to find five white objects. There were some other assignments just to distract us from constantly thinking and reminiscing. There was one exercise that I remember well: imagine that you have wings, flap them like a butterfly, and remember something pleasant from your childhood. That simple exercise helped me a lot. I'm very grateful to the Ocean of Kindness for the psychological support provided to us.

A year before the war, I got ill with a very severe form of COVID-19. We underwent our treatment at home, we couldn't even walk. It took us several months to get better. But afterward, my knees started to fail me. I practically lost my ability to walk. Rehabilitation specialists from Humanity & Inclusion helped me to start walking again. Maria, the rehabilitation specialist, visits me regularly to exercise together. For example, she taught me how to sit down on a chair correctly. We also walk through corridors. Recently, I went up the stairs for the first time. All this is thanks to our sessions with Maria, for which I am deeply grateful to her.