The sets were quickly taken down and the audience seats removed. This cultural center is now a temporary shelter for dozens of refugees.
The Les Kurbas theater in Lviv is now a temporary shelter for dozens of refugees. Source: SBS / Ben Lewis
Andrii Vodychev would normally perform in the 200-year-old hall. Now he spends his days helping fellow countrymen who need food, shelter and, often, someone to talk to.
“We couldn’t sing or rehearse, so we decided we would be more helpful in helping people who need help,” he says.
“We’re not actors anymore, because the drama is happening in the real world. I want victory for Ukraine so we can start playing for the people again.
Among those treated is Ludmilla, from Dnipro in central-eastern Ukraine.
She went there with her daughter and seven-year-old granddaughter, Lera. Together they slept in the stalls for several nights.
“It’s very comfortable, everything is good here – food, warmth and a place to sleep. But you can’t stay here forever,” she says.
Ludmilla, from Dnipro, traveled to Lviv with her daughter and seven-year-old granddaughter Lera (pictured). Source: SBS / Ben Lewis
Ludmilla hopes to leave Lviv in the next few days to cross the border and eventually reach Germany.
Recent Russian airstrikes in western Ukraine mean that nowhere in the country feels safe.
“Never in my life [have I] thought I would be a refugee in my own country. It’s completely awful. No one would have ever thought something like this would happen.
On the outskirts of Lviv, a 35,000-seat football stadium dominates the landscape.
For many who arrive in town with nowhere to stay, this is their first stop.
Local authorities are providing food, clothing and short-term accommodation until a more permanent solution can be found.
Ivana Herus coordinates the football stadium project on the outskirts of Lviv. Source: SBS / Ben Lewis
“Our city has the slogan ‘Lviv is open to the world’, but Lviv is also open to all of Ukraine”, explains Ivana Herus, who coordinates the project.
“We will give these people everything we have, for as long as it takes.”
Stanyslav Kopitsa, his wife and their three young children have just arrived from the city of Kramatorsk.
This is not the first time he has had to flee Russian forces.
In 2014, the family was forced from their home in Donetsk when Moscow-backed separatists took control of the region.
Stanyslav Kopitsa, his wife and their three young children have just arrived from Kramatorsk. Source: SBS / Ben Lewis
“We thought it would be the last time we had to leave our house and start our lives over again,” he says.
“Now we have to do it again. I can barely find words, just emotions.
Once accommodation has been found for his wife and children, Mr. Kopitsa will return to the east and volunteer for the armed forces.
“I will stay in Ukraine until the end.”