Valentyna Khromova lives is a small village Korsuntsy in the suburbs of Odesa in the south of Ukraine. She is 81 and has long since retired, but she can’t sit still – Valentyna sells construction materials at a local market and grows vegetables in her garden in spare time. She is used to taking care of herself, but also of others – her infamous notebook is an inexhaustible source of all kinds of information and her neighbors know it well. A phone number of a doctor or a salesman of fertilizers, a hairdresser or an undertaker – Valentyna will find it in a breath.

Anastasia Marchuk/ICRC

Valentina talks to Luibov for the first time after long time of not having news about her.

But one particular number from her notebook stopped answering abruptly and brought the woman into despair. Her sister-in-law Lyubov lives in a town of Torez, Donetsk region. The two have always been close and liked visiting each other. With age, trips became difficult to handle and the contact was maintained over phone. With unfolding of a conflict in the East of Ukraine, the women talked every day in an attempt to ease the growing anxiety. Soon they realized that they were now separated by not only kilometers, but also a line of contact, as Torez found itself in the non-government-controlled area. Daily calls remained the only source of comfort, to be dramatically cut when Lyubov’s phone suddenly stopped answering.

“I thought of her day and night. In our age, anything can happen. My heart was restless to know if my sister-in-law was well. Finally, almost 2 years later I learned about ICRC and called their hotline. To tell the truth, my hopes were not high. I didn’t think they would care for such a triviality – two old women stuck on different sides of the trench.”- Valentyna recalls with a sigh.

Svitlana Kuznetsova/ICRC

Lyubov is going through her family photo album with pictures from Odesa.

To her surprise, a few days later she received a call from Lyubov, who, thankfully, was in good health. Because of the conflict, a mobile operator stopped servicing localities outside of government’s control. Lyubov, like many other elderly people, who find technology difficult, was left in a vacuum until the visit of the ICRC team. Now, being reconnected, the two women animatedly share news and talk of their younger days, like they used to.

Being present on both sides of the line of contact, ICRC strives to restore contacts that were severed or lost because of the conflict.