A refugee’s dream: „sit outside, see the trees and breathe”
21 November 2023
Vova is the eldest of three brothers, with whom he grew up in Odesa.
A few years ago, after celebrating their last day at school, Vova and his classmates went to the seaside in Odesa. The then 14-year-old decided to jump off a cliff into the water, a decision that would change his life forever.
On 1 June, 2015, on Children’s Day, Vova had his first spinal surgery. The boy would spend four more months in the hospital undergoing various procedures.
“I brought my personal belongings to the hospital. We felt like we had moved there,” his mother Irina recalls.
Now 22, the young man, together with his mother and his younger sister live in Bender, Republic of Moldova. They left their seventh-floor apartment, life and friends in Odesa, seeking safety from the ongoing war.
The special bed that Vova sleeps in was brought by Irina disassembled from Odesa. The bed was donated to the family by friends and family and would be too expensive for them to buy themselves.
“My mother often took me to the sea, where I liked to watch the waves, the sunset, breathe the salt air. Since we’ve been in the Transnistrian region, I’ve never been able to go outside because my old wheelchair is no longer suitable for me,” the young man said.
On 23 October 2023, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and AOSIRM, the Association of People with Disability in Moldova, went to Bender, where they distributed wheelchairs to refugees from Ukraine who depend on wheelchairs to move around.
„The first thing I’m going to do when I sit in my new wheelchair is go outside. Simply sit outside, see the trees and breathe,” Vova says.
Forced displacement disproportionately affects people with disabilities. Around 12 million people with disabilities have been forcibly displaced by persecution, violence and human rights violations.
They are often more vulnerable to violence and exploitation, face barriers in accessing basic services and are often excluded from educational and professional opportunities.
At UNHCR Moldova, we work to ensure that people with disabilities have access to vital services and the opportunity to apply their skills and abilities for the benefit of themselves, their families and their communities.