Ukrainians worry about displaced during Christmas [Winnipeg Free Press]


By: Carol Sanders

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians displaced by conflict face a cold Christmas away from home.

“It’s hard to celebrate when you’re far from home and when you don’t know when you can return,” said aid worker Ruth Plett, Mennonite Central Committee co-representative in eastern Europe.

Most of the people who fled the fighting in eastern Ukraine last summer never expected they’d be spending Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7) still away from their homes, she said.

“They thought they were going for a week or two weeks — they had no idea they’d be away six months. And it doesn’t look like there’s any chance of them going back in the near future.”

Mennonite Central Committee has partners in oblasts, or provinces, that border the conflict zone. In Zaporizhzhya, 47,000 have registered as displaced persons, but a more accurate number is three or four times that, said Plett. Some didn’t register for fear they might be conscripted. Others feared if they registered as displaced people, their property in eastern Ukraine would be confiscated — a warning issued to residents by rebel leaders. In many cases, the men stayed home and women and children fled for safety, said Plett.

They left when the weather was warmer.

“They ended up in old summer camps and dormitories from Soviet times — in buildings not winterized,” said Plett.

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