“I have a lot of friends and my grandparents there but I feel more free now that we’ve moved here.”
Nine-year-old Hrystynka left Crimea immediately after Russia invaded. Her family turned down Russian citizenship, sold their apartment in Simferopol and took out a mortgage near Kyiv.
As of this month, Ukraine counted more than 417,000 internally displaced people.
Hrystynka’s mother Natalia Mykhaylichenko said: “Of course, now there are too many refugees. How many people receive any real help? Some might get a place in a sanatorium. My husband, who’s a very serious person, said the country is in such a state we can’t burden it with our problems. Let’s rely on ourselves.”
The state provides apartments only for around one fifth to one quarter of all refugees. The others must fend for themselves. Human rights activist Olha Skripnyk is co-author of a law passed just days ago, which commits the state to provide accommodation for six months and also simplifies employment applications for refugees. It’s aimed at preventing discrimination and promoting integration.
Ms Skripnyk, head of ‘Almenda’, Centre for Civic education, said: “Many employers ask displaced people to go to Donbas to get their proof of previous employment — forcing people to go back to where there’s an armed conflict. But now the law entitles an internally displaced person to a simplified procedure.”
The law proposed that displaced people get the same rights to buy land as the local population, and exemption from taxation on domestic humanitarian aid, but these measures didn’t pass.
Ms Skripnyk said: “Aid from abroad will not be taxed, but domestic humanitarian aid will be, at standard rates.”
The United Nations said earlier this month that more than one million people have been displaced by the conflict in Ukraine. A Russian immigration official put the number of Ukrainian refugees now in Russia at one million, although Ukrainian officials say the number is vastly exaggerated by Moscow for political reasons.