Sofia kneels down in the corner, trying to make herself small. Sofia’s life is now governed by space, or a complete absence of it.
She lives in one room, with her boyfriend and mother as she is 19. They share the same bed, and they are sharing it.
She says, “I hate it.” She said, “I want my own space.”
Sofia Prosyanyk, a former prisoner of Mariupol, fled earlier this year. The city was besieged by Russia and then captured in May.
Yaroslav Moiseenko was her boyfriend. She then moved to Kalynivka with his mother Nadiia, west of Kyiv, where they lived together.
Yaroslav, Nadiia and others returned home to their homes in ruin after the Russian invasion of Kyiv.
They now live together in the outhouse, which was once their “summer kitchen”.
You can cross the floorspace of this room in just three steps. A fridge and bed are located on the one side, while a stove is right next to it.
Between them is a stool that they use to sit down on when washing their hands.
Some say it is even more frustrating that they sometimes have to go inside to flush their bladders when the outside bathroom is too cold.
Sofia says, “I don’t like to do it in front of anyone.”
Now, she only feels normal when she is at work at the local petrol station where there are a toilet and electricity.
As we chat, the lights suddenly go out, which she claims is a regular occurrence. After repeated Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electricity grid, millions of Ukrainians are experiencing power outages.
Nadiia claims they have candles and torches, but the most difficult thing is for the family’s insufficient space. In the summer, they were able to open the doors in the winter. But now the weather is too harsh.
Nadiia’s old home remains are just next to her house.
We dig through the layers of snow that have covered the foundations for the former ground-floor rooms in her home.
It was built by her family when she was 14 years old.
Nadiia, who is about to reach 64 years old, describes herself as “homeless”. She cries when she talks of how difficult it is for her to let go and forget the things that were there.
She says, “When I’m trying to take something with me, I remember where it was in my previous house.”
“There was an unfinished closet by the wall. “Now, when I try to get something out of there, all I can think is – it’s empty.”
Nadiia should be happy to return home from Kalynivka, west Kyiv where the Russians left. Instead, it is a constant source of grief.
The couple hopes that they can soon get, through a charity called Nest a prefabricated home where Sofia and Yaroslav could live together, with Nadiia staying in the outbuilding.
As we travel along the snowy tracks, we reach another village and find men busy building homes for Inna (64 years old) and her son.
We are greeted by her, and she almost immediately breaks down in tears. She is recalling the early days of war.
She tells me that everything was burning. She says, “Shells flew just above our heads.”
The couple left their house in March, and they returned to it in May. They built a temporary home on the spot where their former residence stood.
When we go in, it becomes clear that Inna has been given priority for a prefab home.
Even though the roof is so small, it drips onto a dirty and wet floor. The kitchen, however, is freezing. Because of the swelling in her joints, Inna often struggles to hold her hands.
As we crawl through another door, suddenly it is scorching hot.
Hang your socks and clothes from the washing machine at the ceiling.
It’s still warm inside this home that was built so quickly, but the heat from an old wood burning stove is unhealthy and oppressive.
Inna is suffering from the whole thing, but Inna shows resilience.
She says, “We’ll get through it all.”
She hopes that Ukraine will win the war “as quickly as possible”.
So that peace and tranquility may prevail. To ensure that soldiers are safe and sound when they return to their homeland. That is all that matters. We will get through the darkness without fear.