Ukraine Couple Finds Shelter in Moldova

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Lyudmila Zhumailo and Yuri Popov had always planned to enjoy a peaceful retirement at their home in Odessa, Ukraine. But after the war started in February of 2022, the sound of air raid sirens—signaling a possible or oncoming attack—became a regular occurrence.

Lyudmila and Yuri sheltered in place. For hours or sometimes days at a time, they would retreat to a room without windows. “We just sat on the floor all night, covered by pillows,” Lyudmila says.

But when heavy artillery attacks on Odessa began in July of 2023, Lyudmila and Yuri decided it was time to go. They went to Moldova for what they hoped would be a temporary stay until things back home quieted down. Instead, the attacks in Odessa continued. Unable to find an affordable place to stay, Lyudmila and Yuri began living at a refugee center.


seated Ukraine couple in Moldova

Lyudmila Zhumailo and her husband Yuri Popov left their home in Ukraine and are now living in Moldova after receiving support from CRS.

Photo by Schimbator Studio


“My husband has a disability,” Lyudmila says. “He just needs relative quietude. And that place was very noisy.”

Since the beginning of the war, more than 1 million people have crossed the border from Ukraine to Moldova. While many stayed in homes or apartments with families, those who could not relied on refugee centers for safe shelter, food and other essentials.

“Those shelters are very helpful to people, but for longer stays, most people feel much more comfortable in a home,” says CRS Project Officer Irina Osoianu. “That’s why with our shelter work, our goal is to give people that space so they can cook their own meals, have their own bathroom, and have private time with family.”

Catholic Relief Services, along with partner Caritas Moldova, has provided safe and dignified accommodations for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova since the war began. Support includes providing cash for rent, utilities and other expenses, and is funded by Caritas Australia, Caritas Germany, the U.S Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as CRS private funds.

“We prefer to give people cash because it gives them the flexibility to buy what they need,” Irina says.


Ukraine couple in Moldova

Lyudmila and Yuri participated in the CRS shelter program and were able to find an apartment faster than they expected.

“The neighborhood is nice,” Lyudmila said. “The apartment is on the fifth floor but climbing stairs is good for us.”

While Lyudmila and Yuri say they are now living quietly and peacefully in their apartment, it’s difficult for them to think about the future. Their children and grandchildren are still in Ukraine. They say they just have one wish.

“To see an end to this war, to go back home and of course, to see everyone,” Lyudmila said. “We wish everyone was on their land, where they belong, and we wish for peace on earth. It’s the greatest of our wishes. There is nothing else.”