An older white man wearing a dark coat and hat sits next to a woman with short blonde hair

Displaced by war: Misha’s story

Constant shelling in Ukraine has cost Misha his home, his job and the life he knew. At Humanity & Inclusion’s partner rehabilitation center, he found work and support. This is his story:

My name is Mykhailo, but you can call me Misha.

I’m from the Donetsk region, in the city of Kramatorsk, but in April I came here to Vinnytsia because of the constant shelling in my hometown. On April 8, 60 people in the train station were killed by a missile strike, and there were over 100 people injured. We had been planning to leave on the exact day that this happened, but for some reason, we had postponed our departure to the next day. We were lucky because we would have been in that station.

The situation is horrible. The infrastructure is being destroyed on a daily basis. Power plants, kindergartens, banks, schools are all destroyed.

We came here to Vinnytsia with the intention to stay for two or three weeks maximum. It’s been nine months now, and it’s only getting worse back home. They have no gas, and multi-story buildings are without supplies. The electricity cuts out for more than 24 hours sometimes. It is so cold and most people have only electric stoves, so they cannot cook for themselves. It’s a total humanitarian disaster. People are trying their best to adapt.

A lot of people who are close to me are still there. They stayed for different reasons. Some feel that there is nothing for them out here if they move, and others are concerned about the financial side. I have friends who are afraid to leave their homes. I try to plead with them “How will you be able to protect your home from shelling? You can’t!” There is a psychological barrier, and people are so attached to their homes.

I went back recently for one day only to get some winter clothes. There was bombing and shelling at night and in the day. It was truly awful. Many of the buildings I had known were totally destroyed. Nobody can stay and live there. It’s very painful to think about.

We have a home and a garage and a car, but we left it all behind. I had a good job and a good apartment, and now it’s all erased. I just pray to God that our home will still be standing when all this is over, but the shelling is so extreme…

When we first came to Vinnytsia, we arrived at night and had to sleep in the train station in total darkness. We were provided a phone number for a center where we could stay for free. We waited all night and called in the morning, but the woman said they had no more space available, and I broke down crying. I didn’t know what to do, and I was in a strange city.

We were eventually given another address and found a place to stay, so we were very lucky. I want everyone to know that people in Vinnytsia are really friendly and kind. In my hometown, we are Russian-speaking, so I was afraid this would cause difficulties, as it has for some of my friends. But not once has someone criticized me for my language since I have been here.

I’m living near the Vinnytsia Medical Rehabilitation Center for Children*, and heard that there was an opportunity for me to have rehabilitation services here, too. I’m almost 69, so I’m getting old and I have some chronic conditions that cause me pain. I was able to receive massages and physical therapy for specific conditions, and it was a great experience for me. I saw a lot of improvement and felt so much release in my joints. There was no more pain. Everything was done with professional guidance from the doctors and rehabilitation specialists. The staff members are so friendly and supportive, which has been extremely valuable for me. I feel like I’m among family.

Two weeks ago, I even started working a new job at the center, in charge of custodial services. It is a lot of physical work, but I already feel like I have been a part of the team for ages. My son also relocated here and was able to find work, too. But this is not the case for everyone. I have not been able to see my daughter or my grandchildren, who moved to Russia years ago.

I had hoped that this war would be over quickly, but I don’t think so anymore.It has been so long already, and the destruction is only intensifying. I just wish people would realize how much suffering this war is causing, and how many people are dying. Young, strong people are dying. I have no words to explain how terrible it is. I just want it to stop.

*The Vinnytsia Medical Rehabilitation Center for Children of Vinnytsia Regional Council has broadened its services as a response to the war. The center provides psychosocial care and rehabilitation services, and serves as a collective shelter for displaced families. HI has been working closely with the center, providing support and training for their rehabilitation specialists and psychologists as they welcome increasing groups of internally displaced persons and people with specific needs. Read more about HI's work at the center.