Living Amid War in Ukraine

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On the morning of February 24, 2022, Tetiana Pikalo received a phone call from her relatives in Kharkiv. They told her the war had started. Tetiana heard the words, but they were hard to comprehend.

“We were shocked,” says Tetiana, who lives in Korobochkyne, a village in the Chuhuiv District of Kharkiv Oblast, with her husband, mother-in-law and son. “We couldn’t believe it.”


Ukraine family outside damaged home

Tetiana Pikalo and her family stand outside their home damaged in shelling during a Russian attack.

Photo courtesy Caritas Spes.


Three days later, Ukraine troops entered the village on their way to engage Russian forces advancing from the northeast. Amid the uncertainty and fear, Tetiana and her family had a decision to make: stay or leave.

“Of course, there was panic at first,” Tetiana says. “What to do? Where to go? My husband said you should leave, and I will stay. But for me, it wasn’t even a discussion. I wasn’t going to leave our home and our animals.”

The family decided to stay together, and they spent the next six months in Korobochkyne trying to make do as Russians shelled Ukrainian positions near their village. In April, a shell crashed into the gazebo in their yard, where the family would sit and drink tea and coffee in the morning. In May, a second shell struck their property, damaging their roof, bedroom wall, and windows. Fortunately, Tetiana and her family were sheltering in the cellar of their home and were not injured.

The impact of the war for Tetiana and her family goes beyond the damage to their home. They lost more than half of the 50 beehives they kept before the war. The homes of their neighbors all along the street have been damaged. The school in Korobochkyne, which their son, Kiril, attended, was hit with several rockets and is now closed. At times it was difficult for Tetiana to cope with the emotions of living through fighting,

“There was a time, when I was literally closing jars of cucumbers that were pickling under artillery fire,” she recalls. “I said, I’m not going anywhere until I finish with these jars. I was so sick and exhausted by the shelling. How can you keep doing this? Who are you shelling? We are just normal people. There are no soldiers here. There are no tanks.”

Since a Ukrainian counter-offensive in September 2022 drove Russian forces out of the area, Tetiana and her family have channeled their energy into rebuilding their life. Tetiana volunteers and works at a store in Korobochkyne, and her husband, a builder, has been repairing damaged walls within their house. CRS and Caritas Spes Ukraine have registered Tetiana’s family for home repair assistance, and the priority work will be repairing their damaged roof. 

“We’ll keep living, keep moving forward,” Tetiana says. “Victory will be with us. We’ll rebuild our home. In the center of our village, you see people now, you see the cars, the stores are opening, and it really makes you happy.”