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One Year of War in Ukraine

Voices from the affected population and our team

​Exactly one year ago, the already tense situation in Ukraine escalated and a war broke out that has resulted in unbelievable suffering to this day and will continue to do so for a long time to come.


We would like to share this review from the perspective of those who were most affected by the outbreak of war.


These are the people in Ukraine who have to deal with the consequences of the war on a daily basis, those who fled the war and came to Germany as well as our helpers who do their best every day to alleviate the suffering.

Here you will find

  • The personal stories of those affected who contact us daily via the psychological emergency hotline


This year, our psychological emergency hotline received  8.687 calls.


The topics were permanent stress, traumatic experiences and concerns about the family.

Often people felt isolated and needed someone to talk to, who could stabilise them psychosocially.

We want to give these people a voice and show how much human suffering was caused by the escalation on 24.02.2022. Warning: The following descriptions may be very upsetting!

The psychosocial team has been on call every day since the outbreak of the war. They provide initial psychosocial support directly over the hotline, but also on site. In air raid shelters, on the street and in community centres. Wherever it is needed.

PSS calls locations.png

Most people called from the east of Ukraine, including from occupied territories. Here is a map showing the regions of origin.

People are contacting us from their basements during the attacks"


Elizaveta is part of the mobile psychosocial team in Ukraine. Here she talks about her daily work and our project.


The following stories have been left anonymous:

"And once again history repeated itself.

I woke up in the morning and heard loud gunshots, panicked and didn't know what to do."

April 2022

"I begin my story back in the year 2014, the year I was forced to leave my hometown with my family because the hostilities started there and the invaders captured the city soon after. I was only 9 years old and did not understand the seriousness of the situation. We moved into my grandparents' house, but heavy shelling soon began there too. And one day, a (BM-21 “Grad”) grenade hit our yard. At that very moment, my grandfather was standing at the window and when it exploded the glass shattered and injured his face. Everything was covered in blood and the yard was also completely destroyed. We were very scared and we had to move again to another city. It was a very stressful time for me and my eye began to twitch and loud noises scared me. Things soon seemed to calm down and we settled in and got used to our new home. Over the years, I have come to love this city. Then I finished school and my primary goal was to study in Kharkiv. I succeeded in doing that; I moved to Kharkiv and lived in a student hostel. It was the most beautiful city I have ever seen! I loved living there. Then I came home for the weekend, and once again history repeated itself. I woke up in the morning and heard loud gunshots, panicked and didn't know what to do. After a short time, I managed to escape with a person whom I had just met who then helped me. He brought me out of this horrific and fearful nightmare. Our escape was very strenuous, with huge traffic jams that lasted 5-7 hours. There were long queues at the petrol stations and no petrol at all. After three days on the road, we still somehow managed to reach a safe place. I was very happy to be able to escape, but my grandparents categorically refused to leave the house. I cried every night and worried a lot about them, because apart from them I had no one, since my mother had died almost two years ago, and that was the greatest pain I had ever felt in my life. I had almost no contact to my grandmother and it was very difficult to reach her. Every time I spoke to her, I could hear very loud gunshots. On each occasion I asked her to leave, but she refused. But one day I managed to persuade her and they left on the evacuation train and came to me. I was so happy to see them alive and well! Now I seem to be in a safe place, although there are constant alarms and occasional shellfire. I curse the whole of Russia, Putin. I have a whole lot of rage inside of me."

"All of a sudden it was all over, finished. It's worse than death, because you don't die physically; you watch your life being snatched away from you... You just exist."

June 2022

A 5X-year-old woman, age changed) called the hotline and requested that we just talk to her and listen to her. She called from one of the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine. "Please try to understand, I was living and working and taking care of my parents, and my grandchildren and children came to visit me. All of a sudden it was all over, finished. That's worse than death, because you don't die physically, you watch your life being snatched away from you.... you just exist. I have no plans, no desires; I am just a living being. The fear I experience every day during the bombing has already become the normality. I can't leave because our old parents live with me. So we just sit there and expect to die every day. I wonder if you can understand what it means that a person is waiting to die. I am now without work, without teaching, because I have no time for it, because every minute you are anticipating the next explosion. I don't feel anger, hate or outrage - I'm just in a state of shock." The psychosocial team offered support to the woman and told her that she understood her because she too had left the war zone, but her relatives had not. The woman was very happy: "You can't imagine how happy I am to have the opportunity to talk to someone who understands me not only with words, but to a person who has been through the same experience. I am sure that when the war is over, we will definitely meet again and I will embrace her. You cannot imagine how happy I am to hear the voice of a fellow countrywoman. I am very grateful that you listened to me and didn´t say anything superfluous. I was able to speak from my heart and it became easier for me, plus the fact that you are my countrywoman is the biggest bonus. Thank you very much!"

"In April, a grenade hit our house and my husband died of shrapnel wounds."

October 2022

The hotline received a call from a woman from the Kharkiv region who said she did not know whom to turn to with her problem of constant depression. "In April I suddenly lost everything - my house and my husband. He died during the shelling. I went to Western Ukraine on 24 February and in April a shell hit our house and my husband died of shrapnel wounds. I don't understand the meaning of life..., how can I live? Half a year has passed. I remember all our happy times; how we tried to build a house and a farm, and suddenly I was without both of them. Tell me what I should do, tell me, is this pain forever? We have two daughters, they feel sorry for me and they cry with me. Even if he was not their real father, he raised them nevertheless. I understand that somehow I have to learn to live. Children need a calm mother, not like the mother I am now, I don't know how to keep going!" The psychosocial expert listened and suggested certain art therapy techniques as well as spending a lot of time with the children - going for walks, finding a common hobby for her children and herself to distract themselves as well as sharing the pain of loss together. It was difficult for the woman to get on the same wavelength with the children as everyone was under a lot of stress. The psychosocial experts worked with the woman several times to stabilise her condition. Later, a session was held with the children. After several sessions, she could already recognise some positive changes.

"We fetched water from the nearby reservoir and cooked our food on the fire outside"

October 2022

An IDP (internally displaced) woman from the Donetsk region (2X years old), contacted the psychosocial team at the hotline: "My husband and I did not want to leave the house, despite the fact that there was no electricity, gas or water for a long time. We fetched water from the nearby reservoir and cooked our food on the fire outside. Whenever possible, our friends, who had left the town, sent us food parcels, but this was very difficult because few people come to our town. We survived until several rockets hit our house. It was in the evening and we were in the house. Already after the first rocket, the whole house was destroyed. We managed to dig ourselves out of the rubble and miraculously survived. While we were rescuing ourselves from the rubble, the second rocket hit what was left of the house and a fire broke out. My husband and I were injured, but we could still walk, so we decided to go on foot to our relatives' flat at the other end of town. We returned to our destroyed house the next morning to see if some possessions and documents could be salvaged, but when we reached the house, we saw that everything had burnt down. All our possessions and documents. We left the town wearing the same clothes we had worn that day". After talking to the woman, the psychosocial team conducted a counselling session and recommended several calming exercises to reduce stress. After a joint analysis of the woman's situation, it turned out that she had relatives whom she could ask for help. They actively helped her and offered her a flat.

"I have nightmares at night and sometimes when I think of something, my fear overcomes me and I get pains in my chest"

December 2022

While conducting classes with children and parents, a man attending parent meetings approached the psychosocial team. He asked for individual counselling. During the conversation, he shared his life story. "I am 3X years old and have lived all my life in a small town and worked in a mine. I have two small children and I lived a happy life, even if I did tend to complain a lot. I only began to appreciate it when I lost everything I had worked for. On 24.02.2022, I woke up early in the morning to find my house shaking, a war raging outside and my five-month-old son sleeping in a cot nearby. There was no way to escape and we could not get our hands on very much money. I talked to my wife and we decided to wait at home for the time being. I set up the cellar, but it was very cold and the children got sick and caused us a lot of worry. Later we lived in the basement of the school. It was difficult and scary, and one day there was gunfire, during which the friend of my acquaintance was killed. At that moment I decided I had to save my family. I put them on a bus and they left - I didn't even know where the bus was going to. There was no communication and I didn't know how they were. After a while, the area where we lived was occupied. I didn't leave the basement for a week. People were killed and punished. With the last of my money, I managed to escape to the Crimea. From there I was able to contact my family. They were alive, and that was the main thing. I worked part-time to raise some money and struggled to get to Dnipro. I experienced terror and fear when I drove through the checkpoints. Now we are together, but I am plagued by guilt because I am not defending our country, but trying to save my family. My eldest daughter was quiet and cried all the time, she refused to eat or go for a walk. She only stared at the phone, which alarmed me. I then sought psychosocial counselling, which helped a little. And now that we have been in your group, I have seen how my daughter has come back to life. She smiles and is happy to come to see you", the man said with a laugh. "But I don't know how to go on living. Our house is destroyed. I don't know how to live. My parents are still there, yet I don't even know if they are still alive. I have nightmares at night and sometimes when I think of something, fear overcomes me and I get pains in my chest". The project team provided initial psychological help, talked to him and offered him support. They did art therapy exercises together so that the man found it easier to open up and express his feelings. They practised breathing exercises to calm and stabilise him. After analysing the situation with the man, now that the family is there, he felt much better. The art therapy exercises helped a great deal and the man was quite surprised. "When I was painting I could feel like a child!" Together they collected exercises that, together with the family, could improve the psychological state and the relationships in the family. The psychosocial team also offered recommendations about how to behave with the children during the war. This map shows from which regions of Ukraine the calls come from. The majority of callers are from the east of the country and many from the occupied territories.

Karte Anrufe
PSS calls locations.png

The map illustrates from which regions of Ukraine the calls are coming. Most people are calling from the east of the country, many from the occupied territories.

Intevierw Alexandra

"I was shocked, outraged and desperate. These feelings have accompanied me ever since, but my work, initially as a full-time volunteer and then as part of the IsraAID Germany team, has helped me to deal with the situation."


Alexandra Budnitski at a community event to celebrate Halloween for Ukrainian refugees in Frankfurt a.M.

For me, it is unbelievable that the outbreak of war in Ukraine was already a year ago. I already suspected it was going to happen, as at that time there were many rumours about a possible invasion, but there were also a lot of people in Ukraine who didn't think it was really a possibility. On 24.02.2022 I woke up in the morning and listened to the news. Suddenly there were missiles flying over Kiev. It was terrifying. It was immediately clear to me that we would soon be receiving many refugees from Ukraine here in Frankfurt. I was shocked, outraged and desperate. These feelings have accompanied me ever since, but my work, initially as a full-time volunteer and then as part of the IsraAID Germany team has helped me to deal with the situation. On 2 March last year, for example, I received a video from friends showing Russian tanks driving past my parents' house where I grew up. This is in the north of Kiev. This same horror and outrage I felt is also felt by the Ukrainian women I work with. We share these feelings and that unites us. That's why the work gives me so much personally. We ask each other: this is so terrible how we feel, isn't it? These feelings are just as present now as they were a year ago. However, the situation for the people here has changed somewhat. After the initial arrival procedure, which consisted mainly of attending to administrative matters such as the registration process, they have now come to the point where they are faced with the situation of examining their own perspective. They are starting to realise and accept the fact that the war will last for many more months. Some of them I know, tried to go back to Ukraine and stay there for a while, but daily sirens, explosions and several hours in bunkers as well as permanent power cuts seriously disrupt daily life. The end of the terror is unfortunately not in sight. Now people understand that at the moment they have no choice but to settle down here. That's why I don't know a single Ukrainian woman in the meantime, who wouldn't attend a German course. Many of them can already communicate quite well. And more and more women are looking for meaningful activities that they can do and which will connect them with other people - from Ukraine, but also, above all, from here in their host communities in/from Germany. All the events we offer from IsraAID Germany - be it a cooking event, children's party or reading club - are in great demand. Our programmes start exactly at the right point: We create possiblities to integrate into society, to build contacts and to strengthen one's own community. These are great opportunities to take the first steps into society. People slowly start to rebuild their lives. How can we help best? The opportunities to bring people together are exactly what are needed. But, things can always get better, of course. Since the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, many projects and initiatives have been set up here in Frankfurt. There is a lot being offered, but there is also a high demand. In order to offer the best possible help, however, I believe that better coordination is still necessary between the various aid and welfare organisations. This effort will be launched in the near future and we will actively support this project.

Here you can find the Aktion Deutschland Hilft podcast, in which our helpers can be heard.

Who Cares Podcast Folge 23Aktion Deutschland Hilft
00:00 / 22:41

Darya (former project coordinator) and Artur (emergency officer) inspecting relief supplies in the camp on the Romanian-Ukrainian border

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