Childs drawing from Ukraine, 2023.

Daniela's Story

Meet Daniela, aged 35, she was living in northeast Ukraine before the war started. Now, she lives in the Refugee Accommodation Centre in western Ukraine with two of her four children.

The most important thing for Daniela is that her children are safe. The apartment where they used to live was in the middle of a conflict zone, “I heard explosion in my yard, and I was 6 months pregnant.” Desperate to keep her family safe and struggling with the reality that she’d be bringing a baby into the world while a war engulfed her country, her eldest son was able to travel to Switzerland to live with her first husband. Her mother-in-law agreed to help support her daughter in southern Ukraine and her younger son, Andriy, stayed with her.

Daniela has observed many changes in Andriy since the war started. He has spent most of his time indoors and on a phone. He has become “much more closed, reserved, clingy and protective” of his family. Since moving to the Refugee Accommodation Centre things have improved for Andriy, he’s able to go outside and to play with other children.

Day-to-day life

Before the war started Daniela owned a small business selling goods at a local market. She worked hard and saved for 6 years to a buy a car so that the family could travel. On the first day of the war her car was set on fire by bombs and all her goods, her livelihood, were destroyed.

“My town was green. It was horrible to see the centre of my town burn down, black, the black walls of the buildings.”

I have no home, no town. My childhood park all ruined with missiles; I cry almost every day when I think back to before.

Context and reality

Daniela, her husband and Andriy lived in a bomb shelter for one month. At the time Daniela was 7 months pregnant. “The basement is usually abandoned. There was water, so we had to find something to make the floor higher, to not sit in the water.” The water came up to Daniela’s knees. They made a bed using discarded pieces of wood, creating a makeshift platform above the water.

“We were standing tight, with children in our hands, carrying the children. We tried to make beds and just slept there in turns every three hours.

Some people, mostly older people, decided to go back up to their flats. They decided that whatever happens, they cannot stay here. They said, ‘if it happens that I’m killed, then this is what should happen’. I was afraid, frightened to go out, I had the feeling that as soon as I go out, I’ll be attacked by the missiles. I was more afraid for the children.”

Daniela and her baby Andriy in Ukraine, 2023.


Whilst living in the bomb shelter, Daniela developed pneumonia and an infection. She and her unborn baby became dangerously unwell, Daniela was struggling to breathe. They were taken to a maternity hospital over 13 hours away. This is because all the local maternity hospitals had either been bombed or didn’t have the facilities needed for an emergency c-section birth. Daniela and her baby were critically ill. On arrival, she remembers seeing “new born babies with parents, sleeping on their chests because there were not enough beds. They made beds on their own for the babies.” Daniela and her baby remained in the intensive care unit for 2 months. Andriye stayed by her side.

When the time came for them to leave the hospital, they were provided with free accommodation locally. This was a difficult time for Daniela. Not only was she in a completely new city without the support of family, but “there was a bomb attack at the corner of our house. The corner the building was just destroyed.”

This accommodation was only temporary, and Daniela didn’t have the means to pay for another room. “I asked volunteers to help us to find another place to stay. While they were doing that, we slept at the railway station. The baby could sleep in the pushchair, the baby was comfortable even at the railway station.”


War Child's work in Ukraine

A year on, the war in Ukraine rages on, and the humanitarian needs remain high in Ukraine and neighbouring countries - exacerbated now by freezing temperatures during winter.

Find out more