Motivation for life: One Ukrainian refugee’s mission in Moldova


Tatiana came to Moldova from Ukraine with her mother, leaving behind her husband, son and home. At the time, she didn’t even know where her daughter was. But through it all, Tatiana has not only managed to survive but help other refugees through her work with the Association “Motivație” from Moldova, a partner organisation of UN Women that is financially supported by the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF).

Tatiana is originally from Shevchenkovo, Mykolaiv oblast in southern Ukraine. On 27 February 2022, her husband went to war and her children were studying in different cities. In March, when the fighting was getting closer to her village, Tatiana took her mother, who has a mobility impairment, and together they travelled to Moldova.

world humanitarian day
Tatiana’s speech during the event on World Humanitarian Day, organised by UN Moldova.
Photo credit: Aurel Obreja

"The volunteers got my mother off the bus in their arms,” says Tatiana. “We didn't know what we were going to do or where to go, but we were greeted warmly and we’ve been helped from the first moment we arrived”.

Even though Tatiana didn't know where her daughter was and whether her husband and son were still alive, she offered to help other women refugees from the first day she arrived in Moldova. She connected with volunteers from the Association “Motivație” from Moldova, who were working on the ground to help refugees, particularly those with special needs, with accommodation, food packages, first aid and psychological counseling. Together, Tatiana and the Association have worked to address the problems war has generated for these refugees and help thousands of Ukrainian women and girls navigate their new ‘refugee’ status in Moldova.

"I am a simple woman who is used to working and cooking for my family,” says Tatiana. “I started looking after an elderly woman and continued to volunteer. Then my colleagues from the Association “Motivație” from Moldova offered me a paid job and taught me how to properly approach people who needed our help”. Since arriving in Moldova, Tatiana has worked with local organisations that host refugees to better understand the crisis and how to remain effective during tense times with high flows of people, particularly those with special needs, whom she describes as being confused by the uncertainty they now find themselves in because of the war. “Personally, only when I started earning my own money did I regain confidence and a slight sense of normality," she says.

Along with her colleagues from the Association “Motivație” from Moldova, Tatiana has travelled around the whole country with aid packages and kind words to help local authorities and civil society groups better understand the situation of refugees in Moldova, especially those with special needs. She says she has received thousands of calls since starting this work. "People need help, but they also need moral support,” she says. “Helping them makes me feel better, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do something necessary and useful during this very complicated time for all of us".

After taking a journey that was far from safe – traveling across Ukraine, from Mykolaiv to Poland and France – Tatiana’s daughter finally reunited with her mother and grandmother in Moldova. She also joined the volunteers. Today, she works and continues her studies online, even though there are sometimes no classes for weeks because of missile strikes and power outages in Ukraine.

For the first time since the war began 10 months ago, Tatiana is going to see her husband and son after the Christmas holidays. "They will have a short break,” she said, explaining that priority is given to fathers of small children to see their families during the holidays, but she hopes they will see each other again soon. “We will go to Vinnitsa, where my son's family has settled. Our village was liberated only a month ago and public utilities have not been reconnected yet, but I am also afraid to see what might have been left of our house" Recently, she adopted a puppy from a shelter in Moldova and named her Mira (peace), the name of the street where she lived prior to the war. It is also Ukrainian word for peace.

For 22 years, the Association “Motivație” from Moldova has been improving the quality of life and social inclusion of people with disabilities in Moldova. During 2022, the Association implemented the "Solidarity and Activism for Peace" project, with the technical support of UN Women and the financial support of the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund. Tatiana got involved in this project, being helped to strengthen her capacities and involvement in planning and managing Moldova’s response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

Throughout 2022, UN Women, with the support of the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund, developed partnerships with six women-led groups and women's rights organisations to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to refugee women, increase women’s participation and leadership in humanitarian response and create inclusive and resilient communities.