Stories of Change

Lilia at work at Healthy City

“I Miss My Home Very Much”

Since March, 2022 Lilia Vitalievna Miasnikova has lived in Balti, Moldova where she receives support from CWS’ partner, *Zdorovii Gorod (Healthy City). Before life in Moldova, Lilia was a successful doctor in Ukraine. Her interest in medicine began when Lilia was just 11 years old as she accompanied her mom, a pediatrician, to her job. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Lilia pursued the highest medical degree and eventually became a neurologist. Unfortunately, in 2022, Lilia’s 41-year career and life as she knew it came to abrupt halt when Russia invaded Ukraine. Here is Lilia telling her story:

We knew that the hostilities would begin. We were warned about the danger but no one believed it. At 5 a.m. on February 24, the bombing of Kulbakino airport began. We have a very big airport in Nikolaev, and it all started there. That day, ATMs ran out of money and gas stations ran out of gas. Traffic formed at the borders very quickly and it was impossible to break through to any borders. Most people drove through Palanca to Moldova. It was unbearable to stay in Ukraine where there were constant air raid alerts. When we went down to the bomb shelter there were a lot of people and the rooms were not safe—there was moisture, mold and fungus on the walls and only one exit. If it collapsed, it would be a mass grave. Many men drank there. There was not enough air and as soon as the alarm ended, I ran up six flights of stairs home because the elevator had not worked since the first day of the war. As soon as you lie down to have rest, the alarm comes again and you need to go back to the shelter. After a while I had no energy left to go there. It was better to leave. There were only 2-3 people in our house. All the youth went to Poland and we decided to flee to Moldova.

From Nikolaev, we traveled for free to Odessa. We took a minibus to Chisinau, and from there by taxi to Balti. We chose Balti, because we knew that there were a lot of people who speak Russian here, and we were afraid of the language barrier. I came with my daughter and two grandchildren. They lived in Balti for a couple of months and then moved to Italy. My daughter knows English well and found a job online, and one of my grandchildren has already attracted the attention of local coaches as a talented athlete. I stayed here alone. Many people left Nikolaev. A lot of them are in Moldova, because they still hope to come back home, when everything is over. Some fled to Canada and Norway, but the reviews from there are not good, and the best option is to stay in Moldova and Poland.

We were very impressed by how actively they are helping the refugees here. Even in Ukraine there was no support like this. At the border we saw the responsiveness of the Moldovans. Refugees without COVID vaccinations were allowed through and offered to receive the vaccine either there or locally in Moldova. We were lucky with housing. We found an apartment in Balti, which the owner rented to us for half the market price. We came here in winter and had left everything. Refugees like us were literally dressed by the locals. They came up to us on the street and asked, “Do you have an old coat?” and almost everyone brought out warm clothes for us.

Almost immediately I was offered a job when they found out that I am a doctor. Work has become a good rehabilitation for me. It can even be seen as a miracle. Now I am working as a neurologist and accepting refugee patients in Zdorovii Gorod. The most important thing in the current situation is to keep yourself doing something so that your brain does not constantly analyze what cannot be comprehended. Logic does not work here, only emotions and they always get in the way. Many people say that it is good that children do not see corpses and blood. When we came here, those moments just appeared in photos of children in Mariupol dying from dehydration.

All my ideas about Moldova were from school books, that this is a sunny country where everyone dances and sings. However, it turned out that living here for people is hard, they have to work a lot, but everybody treats us with understanding and the people are very sincere. In my opinion, there is nothing like this anywhere. I really liked Moldovan cuisine, especially placinti, with all the fillings. The fruits are very good, apricots are pure magnesium. Strawberries are tasty and sweet. I tried all the grape varieties and understood what kishmish is. And the water here is also good. I started cooking so much that I had enough for several days. I had never cooked like this before. In general I did not pay so much attention to the kitchen as I do now since I could buy pre-made food. In Moldova it is expensive to buy food though, so without cooking it is hard to live.

In Balti, we are trying to walk more. This helps to get rid of negative thoughts and emotions, you need to “walk” them so that they do not accumulate inside. We stopped watching TV. Those who were left without homes—from Kharkiv and Kiev, they could not watch the news and talk about war. For those who lost children and husbands, it is harder. The only thing that can help them is medication. I know some nurses, their children were 18-19 years old, they all died when the state administration was blown up. Even though they go to work, they are shadows. Nothing livens them. Just a black scarf and the constant question, why is she alive?

But we read more here. There are very good bookstores in Moldova, a lot of professional literature, children’s and didactic. The most important thing for us Ukrainians is employment. I really like that in Moldova for doctors, they do a lot of seminars and take them to Chisinau, where interesting speakers from Romania and USA speak. I’m constantly gaining new acquaintances and new knowledge. It helps to keep track of these new resources and when everything is fine, I will return back to Nikolaev.

I miss my home very much.

*CWS partners with the local Moldovan organization, Zdrovii Gorod (Healthy City), to support Ukrainian refugees by providing comprehensive services including food and non-food items, social inclusion, and psychosocial support.

To learn more and support CWS’ work with Ukrainian refugees in Moldova, click here.