One year since the war started: accepting the uncertainty and manifesting solidarity

While craving for peace, we embrace solidarity.

UNDP in Moldova
UNDP Moldova
Published in
12 min readFeb 22


A year ago, at the border with Moldova, on an seemingly ordinary morning, millions of lives were suddenly thrown into turmoil. Thousands of people were awakened from sleep by frightened voices, thousands of coffee cups grew cold and untasted, thousands of suitcases were hastily packed, thousands of houses were abandoned with the thought that they would never be seen again, thousands of animals were set free to find shelter and food in the absence of their owners, thousands of the sick and elderly were entrusted to those who had decided to stay. Countless plans for the future, dreams, and daily rituals were shattered, on a morning that was supposed to be an ordinary one.

And although for many the war seemed to last a few days or weeks, it has been one year already since it is destroying lives and families, neighborhoods and cities. Initially, Moldova oscillated between fear and the desire to help hundreds of thousands of people crossing the border, left suddenly without a future. Managing such a crisis proved to be an equally unexpected, complex, and painful experience as the recent COVID-19 crisis.

Starting with the first days of the war, the UN family in Moldova, in coordination with volunteers, national and local authorities, provided immediate support to people from Ukraine who sought refuge in the Republic of Moldova.

Also during the first days of the war, the authorities, private sector, and communities in Moldova showed solidarity with Ukrainian refugees and promptly took steps to meet their basic needs.

Guesthouses and families from all over the country opened their hearts and homes to offer shelter for an indefinite period of time to refugees who did not want to relocate too far from their country. For a year already, they await that morning with news that will allow them to return home permanently.

UNDP Moldova, like all other involved actors, had to overcome the initial shock and denial that often accompany a crisis and activate all available resources to facilitate the integration of refugees into host communities. Partnerships were established between international organizations, local public authorities, private sector companies, educational institutions, volunteers, etc.

Here are the impressions of refugees, volunteers, mayors, and entrepreneurs about the year that either took them away from home or had them always on high alert to help their Ukrainian neighbors.

Yulia is 36 years old and until recently, lived in Kharkiv. At the end of April, she decided to leave Ukraine, accompanied by her mother. They were hosted by relatives in Edineț, where Yulia also participated in an interior design training programme organized with the support of the UNDP for 30 participants, both locals and refugees from Ukraine.

“I have always followed this field and was very interested, so when I was invited to attend these courses, I accepted. This period offered me the opportunity to learn something new and opened perspectives for new professional achievements.” — Yulia

While Yulia was still attending the courses, representatives from the local company “Edineț Info” expressed interest in a potential collaboration and Yulia was later hired.

“Yulia was one of the students who attended the classes without missing any of it and she has always prepared her homework. I saw that she is responsible for her work and that she likes it. We have already concluded an employment contract with her and started working on the very first project. The fact that she comes from another country did not scare us because her work can also be done remotely.” — Ina Bizdiga, employee, “Edineț Info” enterprise.

Until she returns home, Yulia lives and works in Moldova, alongside her mother and relatives. The new job comes with new challenges, after a very difficult year for her family.

“Of course, I want to return because that’s where my home is. But now it is not safe to return to my city, so we stay here. Moldova is very welcoming.“ — Yulia

Since the first days of the war in Ukraine, six teams of volunteers were formed on the left bank of the Nistru river.

This was possible thanks to the cross-river Health and Education Platforms, established within the European Union’s “Confidence Building Measures” Programme, implemented by UNDP Moldova.

So, the refugees benefited from essentials, but also from information, educational and socialising activities.

“One of the aspects that we cover is the health of the refugees who have found shelter here [on the left bank]. We involved doctors from Tiraspol and from Chișinău. The focus was on people who really needed help: mothers with children, families with many children, older people, people with disabilities. We helped them to find doctors and adapt their treatment to the medicines available here.” — Veaceslav Popescul, volunteer, Tiraspol

Veaceslav also shared how difficult it was to find other volunteers to work with people in a state of shock, so as not to upset those who have emotional breakdowns and can become impulsive or even aggressive.

“The most complicated thing was to deal emotionally with those stories that the refugees were telling. We didn’t just offer them help and leave, we actually tried to talk, ask them how they feel, offer them psychological help and we very often felt their stories like our won. These stories were not just 1–2 a day, there were a lot and there were times when you could not provide the necessary support, products and this affected us.” — Ilona Cechir, volunteer, Tiraspol

Since the assistance was initially offered in Tiraspol, volunteers also travelled to other towns to help refugees at their location. Medical students were involved, also refugees from Ukraine offered to help their co-nationals. Often, when refugees came to receive humanitarian aid, they left many things for others, stating that they had enough supplies and that someone else may need them more.

“There was a refugee from Odessa who came to us. She was older, she had health problems, she had asthma and we ensured to her much-needed costly medicines. After we helped her, she thanked us and invited us to the seaside, in her home city: Come and live with me.”— Dmitrii Komarovskii, volunteer, Tiraspol.

“On 24 February, in the morning, I was at home, of course, sleeping, as all Ukrainians and I got a call from my father, at 6.a.m. I think or even 5 a.m., that the war has started and I have to get up and to go to the shelter or just be ready to move immediately to any safe place.

During this year, I learned about myself that I am not such a brave person. I understood that I could help more If I would be abroad, even my family.” — Oksana Vlasenko, refugee.

Oksana left Kiev and Ukraine a week after the war started. She stayed at her friends in Croatia for a while, but then decided to find a job in Moldova in order to help the refugees and be closer to her country.

“This was the year of learning about myself, about self-discovery, how adaptive I am and how flexible I am. I still try to focus on the good stuff. I think that all difficult situations make you stronger. You realize how important interpersonal connections are. We do not have access to live communications with your friends and family in your language.

I realize what peace is, the meaning of this word, how crucial is when you do not have it. A war in your homeland brings a lot of pain, everyday, people struggle…

I am proud to be Ukrainian. This is a strong nation and I am proud to be one of them.” — Oksana

Oksana is now supporting her peers though her work at UNDP. The Mayors for Economic Growth, the EU-UNDP facility that employs her, looks to support Ukrainians to find a job, to have access to essential services and to move on.

Eduard Sturza is the mayor of Geamăna village, Anenii Noi district. Alongside locals, he has mobilized to support refugees from Ukraine who who were transiting or staying for a brief period in the village.

“Many people from the village mobilized themselves with gifts such as clothes and food products. Young people from the hometown association collected these goods, even food.

People were very scared. We tried to tell them “We are with you, we support you,” but they didn’t believe us. They didn’t believe in anyone anymore. Over time, they saw that people mean well and that the village is peaceful. Ukrainians saw the support of ordinary people from rural areas, hence, the saying: “such a small country, but such a big heart”. — Eduard Sturza

After a year of war in the neighboring country, local authorities in Geamăna are making efforts to be better prepared and equipped if faced with crisis situations.

“When we bought a large-capacity generator for the kindergarten to be autonomous, I also explained to the councilors: imagine that in a crisis situation, the kindergarten becomes a placement center and there is no light, but we will have a generator. We started many new processes, repaired spaces, even the basement of the cultural center, which is now unused. Using these practices, we try to reach a certain level of preparedness in case of crisis situations.” — Eduard Sturza

Ludmila Coiman, the manager of “La Lavrușca” guesthouse is also from Geamăna. Her family decided to restore their grandparents’ house and turn it into a guesthouse. In the spring of 2022, they had to put the construction on stand by so they could host a family of refugees from Ukraine.

“Our family is also big, so we would come and see them, and even if the women were sad and cried often, when they saw us, they would stop, everything would pass.

They returned home, they were from the city of Mykolaiv. They didn’t take all their things, they left them because they don’t know what awaits them there, in case they return back. We wait for them with arms wide open, but may God bring peace to their country.” — Ludmila Coiman

Ludmila still keeps in touch with the refugees she hosted. She talks to them every day, and the children from Ukraine talk to the children from the village, with whom they managed to make friends. The boy even played soccer for the village team.

- How are you?

- Dear Liuda… Yesterday we didn’t even have electricity, but thank God, everything is fine.

Ludmila says that after everything she went through with the refugees, her main focus is no longer on household chores, but on her hope for peace in the neighboring country where her second family is now.

“When they left, we gathered at the gate and for an hour and a half, I had to leave for work… We struggled to say goodbye, crying, wailing… as if it was during the war, when people parted ways, unsure if they would ever see each other again.”

Less than 60 km away from the port of Odessa, at the border with Ukraine, the village of Palanca was the first shelter for refugees from Ukraine.

Ludmila is originally from Palanca and fled the war from Odessa, where she studied and lived. She worked as an accountant, her daughter was born there. Her daughter and grandchildren moved to Chișinău, while she stayed in her home village.

“It was five in the morning, I was alone at home and I heard my apartment doors shaking, and five minutes later my daughter called and told me that the war had started and we left. By 8 o’clock, we were already in Palanca. We did not come here without purpose, my parents’ house is here and even it was a cold, empty one, it’s ours. That’s why we came here.

This is my home village and my birthplace. All of my friends, relatives are here. They all helped each other, each in their own way. I was shocked initially, but now I’m even thinking of returning to Odessa.“ — Ludmila

Currently, Ludmila is volunteering and helping the local administration with financial management. She says that her extensive experience might be of good use, and her colleagues support her.

Originally from Palanca is also Cristina, who returned to her home village after ten years of living in Ukraine.

“I lived there until all this nightmare started. Moldova is a lifesaver. Moldova is our home. But, I hope everything will calm down and we will return.” — Cristina

From time to time, Cristina travelled to Ukraine to pay bills and check her apartment. In July 2022, Cristina saw on the news that the building she lived in was hit by a missile.

“I have actually suffered from this war, my house was destroyed on 1 July. I have tears coming and I said I wouldn’t cry. I wanted to stay overnight then, and thank God I didn’t. It’s terrible. I’m grateful that we’re alive, even if we have nothing. We move on, there’s no other choice.” — Cristina

Cristina was hired as a secretary at the Mayor’s office and is actively involved in supporting refugees.

“I knew there was this vacancy, I passed the competition, I’m satisfied, I have a place to stay, I have my job. I started from scratch, I’m happy, I’m alive. We got used to it, but I think we will return.” — Cristina

Half of the houses in Palanca opened their doors to host those fleeing from the war. Cristina and her mother also offered accommodation to other refugees.

“We accommodated friends who needed help. We helped, we called, we obtained information. For me, peace is very important now.” — Cristina

For a year now, we have been witnessing many stories of loss, destruction, and regret, but also stories of remembering and appreciating the routine of life before the war, those simple and ordinary moments that shaped a day in someone’s life. These stories also carry examples of big and small personal victories, rediscoveries, career transitions, fresh connections, new beginnings, and reassessments of core values.

Moldova, too, has gone through a difficult, unprecedented exam. Despite its limited resources, the “small country with a big heart’’ surprised itself, demonstrating inexhaustible resources of solidarity, empathy, and giving.

“Moldova is in the front line of preservation, peace and stability in the world,” stated António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, during his visit to Moldova.

Moldova and its citizens are on the front line, ensuring normality for thousands of refugees for whom the cities and villages here have become a second home.

Despite the immense price of those small and big victories obtained during this year, the efforts of all those involved in gathering the glass shards and creating a functional mosaic have become a source of inspiration and renewed hope for people all around the world.

UNDP is working in more than 75 host communities from both banks of Nistru river to ensure that more than 38,500 Ukraine’s refugees receive the support they need. Find out more at: War in Ukraine | United Nations Development Programme (




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