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The Elders, Those Greatly Forgotten by the War in Ukraine | War in Ukraine


The haggard-eyed man walks slowly, the left sleeve of his gray tracksuit folded up at armpit level, down the hallway of a shelter in Dnipro, the big city in central Ukraine, which has become the one of the country’s main humanitarian hubs.

This former conductor, however, struggles to explain what happened to him. Who fired the shell that mowed him down in Avdiivka, an industrial center in the Donetsk region, which Moscow has made one of its priorities? What war was he the victim of?

I do not understand what is happening. In a week I have to change my dressing at Myrnorad hospital. (in the middle of a conflict zone, where he was amputated, Editor’s note). But here they tell me that I have to leave in three dayshe repeats in a loop.

Maybe I better go to the cemetery. I don’t want to go on living. »

A quote from Vladimir Lignov, 71 years old

Suffering, physical and/or mental, seems to be omnipresent among the elders met by AFP at the Dnipro home, an outdated maternity hospital hastily reopened in March to temporarily accommodate internally displaced people.

When a van arrives from the eastern front, three elderly people groan in pain, while volunteers redouble their precautions to extract them from the vehicle and seat them in wheelchairs.

The behavior of other passengers is erratic. An old man, looking stunned, rushes for his cigarettes as soon as he steps on the ground. Then he hastily gathers his things, as if he had to leave urgently, so he has just reached a place that is finally safe after weeks of hell.

The most difficult are those who have spent a lot of time in cellarsobserves Olga Volkova, the volunteer director of the center, where 84 residents are accommodated, 60% of whom are elderly. Many people were left alone. Before the war, we helped them, but now they have been left to fend for themselves.

The elderly are often forgotten, very vulnerable during the conflicts, confirms Federico Dessi, the director for Ukraine of the NGO Handicap International, which provides equipment and will financially help the Dnipro home.

Usually cut off from the rest of their family and sometimes unable to use a phone or communicatethey are particularly destitute because of the uncertainties linked to the war, he underlines.

Aleksandra Vasilchenko, a Russian from Ukraine who celebrated her 80th birthday a week ago, is luckier than average. Solid on her legs despite many illnesses, her grandson comes to pick her up as soon as she arrives at the Dnipro home.

An obvious comfort for this petulant elder, after weeks spent alone in [son] three pieces Kramatorsk, where a Russian strike on the train station recently killed at least 57 people.

Burnt out cars parked in front of a building.

Missiles were launched at the train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, as civilian evacuation operations were underway.

Photo: Getty Images / FADEL SENNA

Foresighted, the octogenarian had made provisions for food. But I was always hiding in the bathroom [….] I was constantly crying. I was imprisoned at homeshe says, while wishing the death of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his children.

Zoïa Taran, sitting on a bed, her hands clinging to her walker, is also one of the favored elderly, despite only one functioning kidney, a more than shaky standing position, diabetes and extremely poor eyesight.

His son Vitali, a former rocker, gave up the show businessin his words, almost two decades ago to devote himself to his mother. I am an old babushkashe smiles, he is my eyes, my hands and my legs.

So when the bombs got closer to Sloviansk, she who wanted to stay home until the end decided to leave for save his son. Why do we need this war? What do they want from us?she sobbed.

According to international disability, who cites figures from the Ukrainian authorities, some 13,000 elderly or disabled people have settled in the Dnipro region since the start of the Russian invasion, and more than half a million have passed through there.

A woman holds a cat in a building transformed into a temporary shelter.

A woman holds a cat in a building turned into a temporary shelter for people fleeing Russian bombardments.


The pity housea former dispensary that has become a refuge for the needy, has since welcomed evacuees from Mariupol, the martyred city in the South, with their children, but also elderly people from the east of the country.

If you create 10 new establishments like ours, they will immediately be fullremarks Konstantin Gorchkov, who holds the center with his wife Natalia.

Thirty new residents have thus been added to the hundred or so residents. Among these, Yulia Panfiorova, 83, from Lyssytchansk in the Lugansk region, considered a priority by Moscow.

The former economics professor recounts the three shells that fell near her home, which blew up her windows.

This is my third warafter 1939-45, the conflict started in 2014 in the Donbass, of which Lugansk and Donetsk are part, and the one that has just started, she recalls.

In 1943 Lysychansk was liberated from the Nazis, and I remember it very well […] Our country had been invaded, as it is today. His freedom was threatened, like today. Our freedom and independence are at risk. We have to fight for themshe says. But it’s so scary.

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