Far from home, displaced Ukrainians seek baby clothes and blankets


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Lviv (Ukraine) (AFP) – Standing between boxes of donated clothes in western Ukraine, Tatyana Kaftan clutched a soft baby bodysuit and tiny pants against the green sweater clinging to her stomach.

Expecting her first child and with her due date just three weeks away, she arrived in the city of Lviv three days ago after fleeing Russian shelling from her home in the south.

“We left everything at home,” said the 35-year-old travel agent, who traveled with her husband all the way from Mykolaiv on the Black Sea.

“We have nothing.”

At a financial advice office turned aid distribution center in Lviv, she quietly asked a volunteer if he could get a stuffed animal for her unborn son.

Her husband, who is waiting to be drafted into the army, stood by her side.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February sparked one of the fastest-moving humanitarian and displacement crises ever, according to the United Nations.

The war has displaced more than 10 million people, both inside and outside Ukraine.

The population of Lviv, the country’s largest city near the Polish border, has exploded in recent weeks.

To help those who have left home with little more than clothes on their backs, aid distribution points offering children’s clothes, blankets, sheets, shoes and toys have sprung up across the country. city.

“Nothing I needed”

Beneath a motivational quote on the wall, Ukrainian dentist Yana waved a little denim jacket at her five-year-old daughter Maya to see if it would fit her.

The mother-of-two, who did not give her middle name, said she spent 12 days in a basement hiding from shelling in the eastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, before the Ukrainian army could not organize a convoy of cars and buses to evacuate them at the beginning of March.

Yana, who had her own dental practice in Kharkiv, said former clients offered her and her children sanctuary in Lviv.

But she burst into tears as she explained that her mother and stepmother had stayed behind.

Yana said that she fled from the bombardment of Kharkiv Yuriy Diachyshyn AFP

Volunteer Severyna Padovska said hundreds of people went every day at the start of the war to collect clothes, toys, baby food and nappies.

Today the numbers are down, but the help center is still busy.

A block away, outside an administrative building, Natalia Ivachenko, 55, clutched a red folder containing her passport and other documents to register in the city.

She left her home in the eastern region of Donetsk last week to join her daughter who was already in Lviv.

“I was able to grab some things, but those were the first things I saw, and I didn’t need anything,” the post office manager said, laughing to herself.

“I didn’t take anything to put on,” she said, wrapped in a gray jacket with a hot pink lining.

Hats near the popcorn

Up the street in another queue, Katerina, 38, waited outside a cinema giving out clothes and toys, her six-year-old son Ilya holding a stuffed panda by his side.

She had arrived in Lviv in early March with Ilya and a 13-year-old second son from the central city of Dnipro.

“When we left, my son took a backpack with materials, because he is a programmer and he needs to study, and I only took a backpack with products from basic necessities,” she said, wearing a pink tracksuit and a silver puffer jacket.

Katerina arrived with her two sons from Dnipro at the end of March
Katerina arrived with her two sons from Dnipro at the end of March Yuriy Diachyshyn AFP

Inside the revamped cinema, near the popcorn stand, she examined colorful woolen hats in a box on the floor.

Other mothers stared at coats, stepping on a giant poster of the 2020 fantasy film “Mulan” on their way.

In one corner, Ilya made a new friend, each taking turns pretending to play a blue and red toy trumpet.

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