In Lviv, far from home, banished Ukrainians in search of clothes

The exiled Ukrainians look for clothes in the box at the aid center in Lviv, Ukraine on April 11, 2022.
Exiled Ukrainians look for clothes in a box at the aid center in Lviv, Ukraine on April 11, 2022 (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

In a box of clothes in Lviv, western Ukraine, Tatiana Kaftan is hugging her pregnant belly in a baby jumpsuit and small trousers.

Expecting his first child in three weeks, Tatiana arrived in Lviv, a major city in western Ukraine three days ago, and escaped Russian bombardment of the southern city of Mykolaiv.

“We left everything at home. We haven’t left anything,” a 35-year-old woman who drove across the country with her husband told AFP.

At the financial counseling office, which has become a humanitarian distribution center, she quietly asks volunteers if they have fetal toys.

Her husband, waiting to be drafted into the army, stands beside her.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, has caused one of the greatest humanitarian crises in Europe’s recent history.

Volunteer on April 11, 2022 in a warehouse in Lviv where clothes and food are stored for Ukrainians refugees.
Volunteer in a warehouse where clothes and food for refugee Ukrainians are stored in Lviv on April 11, 2022 (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

More than 10 million people have been forced to evacuate in Ukraine or abroad, especially in Poland.

Many refugees arrived in Lviv far from the battle.

The center provides clothes, blankets, shoes and toys to help those who only have the clothes they wore when they escaped.

“I have nothing to wear”

Iana holds a small denim jacket on the shoulders of her five-year-old daughter, Maia, to see if it suits her.

On April 11, 2022, Ukrainian Yana and her daughter Maia were expelled from the Lviv aid center in a box of clothes.
On April 11, 2022, at the Help Center in Lviv, Iana of Ukraine and her daughter Maia were moved in a box of clothes (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP).

The two mothers, who did not reveal their family name, say they spent 12 days in the basement to protect themselves from the bombing in the northeastern metropolis of Kharkov.

Later, in early March, Ukrainian troops were able to form and evacuate a convoy of cars and buses.

Jana had a dental office there, and the ex-patient offered to contain her in Lviv. While shedding her tears, she reveals that her mother and her stepmother remained in Kharkov.

Hundreds of people came to seek help during the first few days of the war, according to Center volunteer Severina Padovskaya.

Today the crowd has diminished, but there is still work.

Not far from there, in front of the administration building, Natalia Ivacenko has a red pouch with her passport and other documents intended to register her with the local government.

The 55-year-old fled last week from the Russian military’s current target, the Donetsk region, and joined her daughter in Lviv.

Volunteer on April 11, 2022 in a warehouse in Lviv where clothes and food are stored for Ukrainians refugees.
Volunteer in a warehouse where clothes and food for refugee Ukrainians are stored in Lviv on April 11, 2022 (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

“I was able to do a few things, but they were the first ones I saw and nothing I needed,” she regrets. The manager of this post office is with her friends.

“I have nothing to wear,” she continued, wearing a gray jacket with a pink lining.

Basic business

Further down the same street, 38-year-old Katerina is lining up with her 6-year-old son, Iria, in front of a movie theater where clothes and toys are distributed.

She arrived in Lviv from the city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine with Ilia and her 13-year-old second son in early March.

Ukrainian refugee Katerina and her son Ilia are waiting in line outside the cinema where clothes and toys are distributed in Lviv on April 11, 2022.
Ukrainian refugee Katerina and her son Ilia line up outside the cinema where clothes and toys are distributed in Lviv on April 11, 2022 (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP).

“When we left, my boy had to study as a programmer, so I brought a backpack with gear. I only had a bag with the most basic stuff,” she said. Says.

In the cinema, in front of a popcorn machine, she examines a colorful wool hat in a box on the floor.

Other mothers are stepping on the giant poster of the movie “Mulan” and trying to put on their coats.

In the corner, Ilia made new friends. They pretend to play alternating plastic blue and red trumpets.

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