Rayisa in front of house

Rayisa stares through her brightly coloured window frames. They cling on to her home – which now stands in ruins. They remind her of a happier, safer time.

The eighty-year-old was napping in her living room when three bombs tore through her home.

“I did not think I would survive it,” she said.

One left a crater in her garden. The other two smashed into the building – burying her in rubble.

Conducted largely away from the glare of the world’s media, a serious conflict is still playing out in Ukraine.

Since March 2014, 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes. The fighting has become more violent in recent weeks.

house in ruins

“I felt completely desperate”

In Rayisa’s case, this crisis is acutely personal. She was dug out by her distraught husband who found her smeared in blood after shrapnel had hit her in between the eyes.

She was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery. When she regained consciousness, she discovered her husband was seriously ill. He died shortly afterwards, leaving Rayisa alone.

“It was such a huge shock – I felt completely desperate,” she said. “I could not understand all that had happened or think clearly. Everything had been destroyed by the bombs.”

The British Red Cross now works through our Red Cross partners in Ukraine to support the most vulnerable people in the crisis.

We have provided Rayisa with food, clothing, blankets, heaters and kitchen equipment. We are  also building her a new house as part of a shelter programme.

A Red Cross nurse visits Rayisa to check on her health and deliver much-needed supplies as she is unable to walk long distances.

“I don’t know what I would have done without that help,” she said. “I’m relieved that despite my age, I am surviving.”

Although she is still haunted by what happened, Rayisa is beginning to feel better:

“I feel calmer and I have even been able to laugh again,” she said.

Nadezhda portrait photo

Running away in pyjamas

Calm is also slowly beginning to descend on Nadezhda, who escaped the bombs as they fell on her district of Horlivka.

For five days, she hid from the fighting in her garden, wearing only her pyjamas. From there Nadezhda saw cars and people tossed through the air by explosion after explosion.

“I was too scared to feel anything. I just hoped the bombs wouldn’t hit where I was,” she said.

“It was terrifying to see the bombs flying through the air because I had no idea where they would hit.”

Although she escaped the blasts, others did not. Her neighbour and many people she knew were killed. The shelling and shooting eventually left the neighborhood in ruins.

She now lives in a centre in Svyatogorsk, nearly 70 miles away, together with other people forced to move by fighting. The Red Cross is providing heating, emergency supplies and health care.

Nadezhda said: “The people from the Red Cross have changed my life.

“They have helped me mentally as I have struggled with the experience of seeing the bombings. But they have also helped me medically as I am often sick and cannot afford to go to the local hospital.”

Without a job, pension or savings, Red Cross support is a lifeline for Nadezhda and others like her.

Red Cross women check blood pressure