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A displaced woman checks in at a center set up to aid people displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. Depending on her family?s makeup, she will be sent around the complex to pick up food, clothing and other items for which they qualify, Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2015.

A displaced woman checks in at a center set up to aid people displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. Depending on her family?s makeup, she will be sent around the complex to pick up food, clothing and other items for which they qualify, Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

A displaced woman checks in at a center set up to aid people displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. Depending on her family?s makeup, she will be sent around the complex to pick up food, clothing and other items for which they qualify, Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2015.

A displaced woman checks in at a center set up to aid people displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. Depending on her family?s makeup, she will be sent around the complex to pick up food, clothing and other items for which they qualify, Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Iryna and her daughter, Victoriya, pose for a portrait in their one-room apartment at a center for people displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. She lives in the apartment with her husband and older daughter, Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015.

Iryna and her daughter, Victoriya, pose for a portrait in their one-room apartment at a center for people displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. She lives in the apartment with her husband and older daughter, Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Iryna and her daughter, Victoriya, enter their one-room apartment 


they share with her husband and older daughter at an abandoned Sanatorium that has since been refurbished into housing for those displaced by the war can live, Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015.

Iryna and her daughter, Victoriya, enter their one-room apartment they share with her husband and older daughter at an abandoned Sanatorium that has since been refurbished into housing for those displaced by the war can live, Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Marina and her husband, Vladimir, pose for a portrait in their tiny, one-room apartment in an abandoned Sanatorium that has been converted into housing for those displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. The center is in Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015.

Marina and her husband, Vladimir, pose for a portrait in their tiny, one-room apartment in an abandoned Sanatorium that has been converted into housing for those displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. The center is in Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Iryna and her daughter, Victoriya, play outside the converted sanatorium where they live in Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015. They have been displaced by the war in the country's east.

Iryna and her daughter, Victoriya, play outside the converted sanatorium where they live in Vorsil, Ukraine, April 23, 2015. They have been displaced by the war in the country's east. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

A boy plays outside a sanatorium in Vorsil, Ukraine, that has been converted into housing for refugees from the war in the country's east, April 23, 2015.

A boy plays outside a sanatorium in Vorsil, Ukraine, that has been converted into housing for refugees from the war in the country's east, April 23, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Nina Rusalkina, left, and her husband, Zhenya Kravchenko, play with their daughter, Danila, in their apartment at a retreat converted into housing for  displaced persons, Pushcha Vodytsya, Ukraine, April 23, 2015.

Nina Rusalkina, left, and her husband, Zhenya Kravchenko, play with their daughter, Danila, in their apartment at a retreat converted into housing for displaced persons, Pushcha Vodytsya, Ukraine, April 23, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

A displaced woman helps in the kitchen at a complex  in Pushcha Vodytsya, Ukraine, that has been converted into housing for refugees from war in the country's east,  April 23, 2015.

A displaced woman helps in the kitchen at a complex in Pushcha Vodytsya, Ukraine, that has been converted into housing for refugees from war in the country's east, April 23, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

A girl whose family was displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine, rides a tricycle at a refugee center set up in Kiev, April 22, 2015.

A girl whose family was displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine, rides a tricycle at a refugee center set up in Kiev, April 22, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Ukrainians displaced by the war in their country's east pick up food, clothing and other items at a center set up to aid displaced persons in Kievl, April 22, 2015.

Ukrainians displaced by the war in their country's east pick up food, clothing and other items at a center set up to aid displaced persons in Kievl, April 22, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

A girl whose family was displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine looks for toys at a center set up to aid refugees, Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2015.

A girl whose family was displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine looks for toys at a center set up to aid refugees, Kiev, Ukraine, April 22, 2015. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stri)

An elderly man scoops water into his cup on April 23, 2015, at the Dzherelo center, an old retreat in Pushcha Vodytsya, Ukraine,that was converted into housing for those displaced by the war in the east.

An elderly man scoops water into his cup on April 23, 2015, at the Dzherelo center, an old retreat in Pushcha Vodytsya, Ukraine,that was converted into housing for those displaced by the war in the east. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

PUSHCHA VODYTSYA, Ukraine — Nina Rusalkina wants to go home. But it’s a risk the 26-year-old mother of two isn’t willing to take.

She and her husband, Zhenya Kravchenko, fled eastern Ukraine with their son in June, when the war in the country’s east crept too close to home. She was six months pregnant at the time. Now she has a new baby and lives in a former political retreat outside Kiev with some 240 others displaced by the fighting.

It’s safe here, she said, but it’s not home.

“If everything quiets down, we’ll go back,” her husband said. “But for the moment, we’re here.”

In fleeing west, many of Ukraine’s internally displaced people, or IDPs, find they’re trading one kind of insecurity for another. The high cost of living in and around the Ukrainian capital has come as a shock, as has the difficulty of finding a job in a city that’s taken in some 75,000 war refugees, nearly half of them working-age adults, according to the United Nations.

“Many of the people here are older than 50, and for them it’s maybe the hardest time,” said Anna, a 25-year-old mother who asked to go by a pseudonym out of fear for her family’s safety.

Her husband found a decent job in Kiev after the family fled six months ago from Luhansk, the capital of a separatist enclave that was the scene last year of heavy fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers. If it weren’t for that job, she doesn’t know where they’d be.

Some of the other families who came to Kiev from Luhansk had to return to their homes in the breakaway enclave, she said, “because they didn’t find opportunities or they didn’t find a job, and it’s too much to rent a flat here.”

The cost of renting an apartment in Kiev is about four times what it was in Luhansk, and just making enough to get by has been hard, she said. “I want to go home, but right now I feel that it is not safe.”

Anna’s father suffered a near-fatal injury in late April when he stepped on a mine in Luhansk while checking on her empty house. She doesn’t know if the mine was placed there to target her family for fleeing west or just a remnant of the bloody fighting that choked the city last year. Many people in eastern Ukraine view the government in Kiev, which came to power after the ousting last year of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, as illegitimate.

“We’re trying to make our life here and to get the best for our son,” Anna said. “It’s difficult, but it’s safe.”

A report issued in mid-May by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, found that most of the aid that IDPs receive comes from international and domestic nongovernmental organizations rather than the Ukrainian government. The government, the report found, had “fallen behind” on every benchmark Brookings uses to assess countries’ responses to similar crises.

Nevertheless, because of government propaganda, overly positive news coverage or some combination of the two, some IDPs arrive in Kiev expecting to easily settle into something like a normal life.

“On TV, everything looks beautiful, like everybody’s helping out,” said Iryna Kipina, who escaped Kramatorsk last summer when Ukrainian troops and separatist rebels fought over the city. “But many people don’t want to have IDPs as employees or rent to them.”

Kipina, her husband and two daughters headed to Kiev with little savings. Landlords didn’t want to rent to them because they didn’t know if they could pay, she said. Employers have been reluctant to hire them because they don’t want to invest in training someone who is likely to leave when the fighting in the east subsides.

For now, Kipina and her family live in a single room in a former government sanitarium in Vorzel, west of Kiev. A local school took over the complex last summer and turned it into an IDP center.

millham.matt@stripes.comTwitter: @mattmillham


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