Skip to main content
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
24 February 2024

Keeping warm, keeping hope alive: how the EU supports people of Kherson on the second winter of war

Kherson, Ukraine. A city that has become a symbol of the Ukrainian people's resistance.

In the early days of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kherson found itself under occupation for 8 long months. When Ukrainian forces regained control of the city on 11 November 2022, the world saw images of thousands of people, tears of joy in their eyes, wrapped in blue and yellow flags, welcoming Ukrainian soldiers on the streets of their hometown. Hope had returned to Kherson.

Today, 2 years after the start of the full-scale war and 15 months since the liberation of Kherson, the city’s new reality is much more grim. Almost daily shelling by Russian forces have turned significant parts of the once vibrant and thriving port city into ruins.

Tears of joy have turned into tears of pain from the constant loss of human life. But hope for a better tomorrow has not abandoned Kherson and its people.

Despite the near-catastrophic humanitarian situation, ruined infrastructure, lack of access to basic life-saving services, and the daily risk of death from drone or missile strikes, thousands of Kherson residents continue to live in their city.

To ease their daily hardships, the European Union, together with its partners, provides assistance to the residents of Kherson with food, drinking water, hygiene supplies, medicine, and a full range of critical humanitarian aid.

With the onset of winter, making sure the people of Kherson have heating is vital, as the city frequently faces interruptions to the central heating system. Hence, in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the European Union ensures local residents have access to special mobile gas heaters and regularly replenishes gas supplies.

Keeping hope alive feels more manageable when your children can sleep in warmth and comfort despite the many challenges around them.

View inside the warehouse. In the background goods are piled in rows. In front a woman holding a child's hand.
In 2023, IRC and EU provided help to thousands of people through this humanitarian storage site in Kherson. Locals registered for cash assistance received gas heaters, winter kits,... A few days after this photo was taken, the hub was attacked by Russia.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
A completely destroyed building, only the walls are still visible.
In December 2023, 1 of the many missile attacks on Kherson left this humanitarian storage site completely destroyed. Luckily, no one was injured in this shelling. However, it served as a reminder of how dangerous life and humanitarian work is in Kherson.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Sviatoslav Rodiuk)
Nina standing in her kitchen, a heater at the right side of her standing on the floor.
Attacks like this are common in Kherson. Nina's building was struck by a drone that caused half the apartments to burn down. Those residents that stayed lost heating. People must wear layers of clothes in order not to freeze.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
A man refilling 2 gas cylinders at a gas station.
The EU and IRC support people like Nina with heaters and cylinders, which they refill with gas every two weeks. Miraculously, the stock of cylinders survived the attack on the humanitarian hub, and volunteers continued distributing them among residents.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
Vira standing outside her house holding a cat in her arms.
Vira’s house was shelled multiple times and flooded after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. ‘When they bombed, a blast wave hit my window. I was standing there. The wave hit me in the back, turned me around, and hit my head against the wall,’ she says.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
Vira holding a heater in one hand outside her house.
Today, Vira is able to keep her damaged but beloved house warm, thanks to the heaters and gas supplied by the European Union and the International Rescue Committee.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
Nataliia, wearing sun glasses, standing outside in front of a garden fence.
Nataliia is a local activist who helps her neighbours by providing them with food. Despite going through occupation and having her house damaged by shelling, she didn’t leave the city and continued her work there.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
An IRC aid worker handing over a heater to Nataliia
The heater and gas supplied by the EU and IRC help Nataliia to keep her house warm during the harsh Ukrainian winter. In a city where infrastructure is severely damaged, such a tool can be critical for the people's well-being.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
Olena, standing outside, holding her young child in her arms.
‘We’ve survived it all: occupation, flooding, shelling,’ says Olena. After two years of war, her four children have already adjusted to the daily sounds of shelling and explosions. However, winter brought new challenges to this brave family.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
Olena, her husband and 4 children standing outside their house.
With all of the food stocks lost in the flood, water in the well polluted and home severely damaged, they remain optimistic and resilient, certain of better days to come. The EU and IRC support them with the means to keep their home warm.
© IRC, 2023 (photographer: Tamara Kiptenko)
  • Photo of Ivanna Bedei

    Story by Ivanna Bedei, Information and Communication Assistant in Kyiv, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

    Photos: © IRC, 2023

    Publication date: 24/02/2024