Ukrainians Find Shelter and Open Hearts in Moldova

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When Yana and her family arrived in Chisinau, Moldova, they acted like tourists admiring the beautiful sites of the city. But this was not a vacation.

“We didn’t really feel like sightseeing because we were anxious, glued to the phone the whole time, reading the news,” Yana says.

Yana, her husband and several other family members had just fled Ukraine because of the Russian invasion. Her parents stayed behind.


two women talking on couch in Moldova

After leaving her home in Ukraine as the war threatened, Yana, left, was welcomed into Vera’s home in Moldova.

Photo by Schimbator Studio for CRS


“We were worried about everyone, calling them all the time. We didn’t really feel like taking walks and having fun.”

Before the war began, Yana says they lived and worked like everyone else. She was employed at a freight company, her husband had his own business and her children went to school. At the start of the invasion, they decided to wait it out in Ukraine, but when missiles began flying around them, Yana says that was the last straw. They packed what they could and traveled to Moldova.

“We thought it would be over quickly,” Yana says. “A week or two and then we would go back home.”

Yana says there were many of them in Moldova and they were greeted by Vera Pleșca, who welcomed them into her home. Vera has close ties to Ukraine because of her work and immediately offered to help families who needed a safe place to stay.

“I said my home was small and not so rich, but I could host their wives and children,” Vera says. “That’s how they came to stay with me,” she says of Yanna and her family. “I met them at the rail station.”

While some people who came to Moldova at the start of the war stayed in shelters, most lived with hosts like Vera. In the first few months of the war, Moldova hosted more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other country.


women looking at phone in Moldova

At the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Yana, center right, and her family decided to wait it out in Ukraine. When missiles began flying around them, they packed what they could and traveled to Moldova.

Photo by Schimbator Studio for CRS


“People were incredibly generous, often hosting families for free,” Svetlana Cires, a Catholic Relief Services project manager in Moldova says. “But that’s not a long-term solution, because it obviously can be expensive to have several extra people in your home.”

CRS, along with partner Caritas Moldova, provides safe and dignified accommodations for refugees from Ukraine in Moldova. With support from Caritas Australia, Caritas Germany, the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and CRS private funds, CRS and Caritas have worked with refugees in need as well as host communities. The program offers cash assistance, rent and utility subsidies, and small repairs.

“Some Moldovans have apartments to rent, but they need some work done to make them acceptable to live in,” Svetlana says. “That’s why we offer repairs. For refugees, they might need help paying rent or utilities. People have different needs, so we do what we can to accommodate them.”

Vera received cash to support refugees, which she says helped her get through the winter, when heating costs are high. Yana’s family has now been living with Vera for nearly two years. They eat together, celebrate birthdays and holidays together, and take care of each other.


two women standing outside in Moldova

Yana, left, and Vera, right, live together in Moldova. Vera welcomed Yana into her Moldova home soon after she fled Ukraine.

Photo by Schimbator Studio for CRS


“We’re like a family now,” Vera says. “Everybody knows their duties. If I need help and she’s home, she’ll go and cook for my child.”

Yana says they were moved to tears by the generosity of people when they arrived in Moldova, and that the neighbors are nice and friendly. “It almost feels like home, but our hearts are still back there,” Yana says or Ukraine. “Words cannot express how much we want to go home.”