How a Displaced Professor Found Food and a New Calling Through WFP

Photo: WFP/Paul Anthem/2022
World Food Programme
Published July 6, 2022

When the war broke out in Ukraine, Nina fled her home with nothing. Now, she is working as a program associate with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Read her story, in her own words.

Nina Yarosh Programme Associate for WFP's office in Dnipro.
Photo: WFP/Paul Anthem/2022

Nina back at the university in Kharkiv where she used to work.

It is only now that I realize I had a dream-like life before the war. I had a house I wanted. I had work I enjoyed. I was surrounded by things I loved. In one day, l lost it all. I had to flee and leave everything behind.

I had to register myself as an internally displaced person and seek assistance from the international organizations supporting Ukrainians affected by the war. While my husband and I were staying with a Roma community in Dnipro, we heard about the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) food distributions.

WFP team in Kharkiv city.
Photo: WFP/Paul Anthem/2022

Nina (second from right) on a visit to Kharkiv with her U.N. World Food Programme colleagues.

At a U.N. World Food Programme food distribution site, I met amazing people who inspired me. I felt empowered around them and told myself: “They are doing so much for the people of Ukraine, and I could be one of them. I could use my skills to help the people of my country.” I was asked if I knew English and if I could help with some translations. I did, and then the head of U.N. World Food Programme operations in Ukraine asked if I would join the newly formed office in Dnipro.

So, visiting a U.N. World Food Programme distribution site provided me with not only food but also a job. Now, I work at the U.N. World Food Programme as a programme associate. I liaise with local authorities and ensure that the U.N. World Food Programme ’s help is directed to where it is needed the most.

Nina Yarosh speaking at meeting
Photo: WFP/Paul Anthem/2022

Nina provides translation during a meeting between the U.N. World Food Programme and the governor of Kharkiv.

I was especially happy when the U.N. World Food Programme started working in my home city of Kharkiv where the food needs are very tangible. It was one of the reasons I had to leave: Active hostilities were followed by food shortages. Throughout these last few months, many people that I know personally have lost their source of income. That is why it is so important that we (the U.N. World Food Programme) are here. When we’re on the ground, we can see the real situation and adapt our assistance as needed.

I am very happy that I can help my country and that the U.N. World Food Programme provided me with this opportunity. Yet, I would be even happier if the people of my country did not need this assistance. If the people of my country could provide for themselves and live peacefully, as they did just a few months ago.

Nina with her husband Eduard
Photo: Nina Yarosh/2019

Nina and her husband Eduard cycling in Kharkiv before their lives changed dramatically.

I sincerely hope that this war will end soon, and we will restore everything that has been damaged. It is enough – I don’t want to see more ruins and more tears. I hope, I really hope, it will end, and Ukrainians will not need international organizations to meet their basic needs met.

Meanwhile, we at the U.N. World Food Programme are doing our best to help Ukrainians restore their war-torn lives.

This war has thrown the lives of Ukrainians like Nina into turmoil. To learn more about the U.N. World Food Programme’s work in Ukraine and neighboring countries, click here.

This story originally appeared on WFP’s Stories on June 21, 2022 and was written by Nina with additional reporting from Yuliya Hudoshnyk and Paul Anthem.