Kyiv (ICRC) – Commuters passing through Kyiv’s Train Station – South Terminal over the coming week may notice unusual figures standing in the station’s waiting room.

The figures, which represent family members of people who have gone missing during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, form an installation entitled “Still Waiting”, which was created by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to mark the International Day of the Disappeared, 30 August. Across the country as well, families of the missing are marking this day, including at events in Sloviansk, Sievierodonetsk, Mariupol and Dnipro.

In “Still Waiting”, ten figures – male and female, old and young, each holding a quote by a family member of a missing person – symbolically wait for their missing relatives at the station. The aim is to help passers-by and visitors understand the anguish of those whose wait for loved ones never seems to end.

“Family members of those who go missing during armed conflict live with excruciating uncertainty, sometimes for years on end. Families can experience physical and emotional breakdown, as well as legal and administrative problems. They may have lost their breadwinner and struggle to pay the bills, or spend all of their money on searching for their loved one” said Alain Aeschlimann, the head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine.

Responding adequately to all these needs requires continuous and sustained commitment from communities, local actors and authorities at all levels. A holistic approach by the authorities towards these families is essential, primarily to ensure efficient support the families during the search process. The armed conflict in the Donbas has also resulted in a large number of unidentified bodies which should be identified. The process of identification is extremely important to people whose relatives are missing.  Finally getting answers about their loved ones’ fate means they can grieve at last.

“Ukraine’s new law on missing persons, which entered into force this month, is a major development and an encouraging step in the right direction, and we warmly welcome it,” said Mr Aeschlimann. “This law recognizes the many needs of such families and introduces a unified national register of missing persons and a national coordinating mechanism, both of which have been lacking so far. We hope to see the law fully implemented without delay so that it can start to make a tangible difference very soon.”

As part of its ongoing work on the issue of the missing, the ICRC is planning to organize an international conference in Kyiv in October, which is expected to bring together more than 100 practitioners and experts from around the world. The two-day long event will aim to exchange experiences on an integrated and coordinated approaches to the search for the missing, the identification of bodies and the response to the many needs of the families.

“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment towards the missing and their families on both sides of the contact line. While recent developments give us much hope, our work in Ukraine is far from completed”, said Mr. Aeschlimann.

Do you have a relative missing as a result of the conflict in Ukraine? You can call our toll-free number: 0800-300-155