Bucharest, 6 February 2023 – Dima and Nika had only been together for a short while, but when the situation in Ukraine started to escalate last February, the two immediately decided to get married, hoping this would make it easier for them to flee.

It was only a few weeks later, once martial law was officially introduced, that the couple realized that they were free to leave because Dima’s impairment made him temporarily unfit for military service.

“Of course, he says he married me because he loves me first and foremost,” Nika laughs.

According to Dima, when he was five years old, he was given a type of antibiotic which made him lose all hearing – a common issue at the time, the couple explains. Dima retained his ability to speak, but he has not been able to hear without hearing aids ever since.

For a long time, Dima refused to wear them, particularly when he became a teenager because he felt too self-conscious around girls. Over the years, he begrudgingly agreed to use them, and his family was able to acquire different assistive devices, but none completely suited his needs. Since hearing aids have a limited lifespan, his family was forced to find the means to purchase a new pair every few years.

After reaching out to IOM, Dima was referred to a specialist who performed an audiogram which he used to purchase new hearing aids. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

Dima and Nika did not want to leave Ukraine immediately after the war started, convinced the situation would not last long. “The first time they bombed the city, we decided to wait and see if it happened again – and then it happened again,” Dima recalls. “The third time, we didn’t want to stick around any longer and grabbed our things and left.”

Nika’s grandmother and sister had already sought refuge in Romania at the beginning of the war which made it easy for Nika to decide where they should go. The family is part of the over 3.2 million Ukrainians who have fled to neighbouring Romania since 24 February 2022 (as of January 2023).

Given that almost 105,000 Ukrainians are now residing in Romania and that the COVID-19 pandemic has only now subsided, public hospitals and social institutions have been under unprecedented pressure.

To ease the strain on the national health system, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Romania has since provided over 18,000 health services, including 2,600 referrals to specialized care, via its four offices, seven implementing partners and six mobile teams across the country.

IOM has recently supported the Clinical Hospital Dr. Ion Cantacuzino in Bucharest with five brand new cardiographs and other medical equipment. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

IOM is working closely with its partners, including UN agencies, civil society, central government, and local authorities to ensure that everyone fleeing Ukraine is receiving comprehensive assistance, including interpretation services.

The health assistance provided by IOM covers medical evaluations, prescriptions, recommendations, and referrals to specialists. During the visits conducted at collective centres across the country, IOM mobile teams perform health assessments, distribute medicine, and refer people for additional tests as needed.

To further facilitate their inclusion and integration, IOM has also registered more than 1,400 Ukrainians with a family doctor and accompanied more than 1,000 people to hospitals and county offices to provide interpretation support.

To ensure the sustainability of its support, the mission has also donated crucial medical equipment to various facilities which will benefit the refugee, migrant and local communities.

The Neuromuscular Rehabilitation Department at the Emergency Hospital Bagdasar-Arseni in Bucharest is now the only ward equipped with an M6 Laser offering cutting edge technology for patients with chronic pain. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

With support from IOM, Nika’s grandmother received a new pair of glasses and Nika’s sister a referral for a dermatologist, while Nika herself has since been able to visit an endocrinologist to continue her treatment.

After years of struggling with hearing aids, Dima initially felt defeated and reluctant to ask for medical assistance. “I have often heard people comment that older people don’t need hearing aids anymore and that younger people should be able to purchase them themselves,” Dima explains.

After his initial physical examination, IOM referred Dima to a specialist who performed an audiogram and looked over his medical history. The Organization followed up on his case and covered all the necessary expenses, including for a brand-new pair of hearing aids from a specialized shop in Bucharest.

Authorities and emergency services at the Sculeni border crossing point are on standby, ready to provide immediate assistance to all those crossing Moldova’s border with Romania. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

The Saint Mary Emergency Children Hospital in Iași is one of the over 30 medical facilities that have been supported by IOM, where doctors are currently working round the clock to provide urgent support to approx. 350 children. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

Dima says he is extremely happy with his new hearing aids, which he also uses as earbuds to listen to music. He used to struggle to charge his previous pair, but now he can easily do it using the docking station provided.

Dima’s hearing impairment never stood in the way of his love for music. This is what brought Dima and Nika together in the first place, seven years ago when they started working together in the same bar in Zaporizhzhia, and little by little, discovered that they both loved music: Dima by playing the guitar and Nika through singing.

Dima taught himself how to play the guitar by watching YouTube videos, while Nika’s passion for singing saw her as one of the finalists of The Voice of Ukraine. “He doesn’t understand my passion for jazz, but it will grow on him,” Nika says with conviction.

Nowadays, Dima and Nika share their love for music with others in different places across Bucharest. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

Nowadays, Dima and Nika can often be seen playing music in various places around Bucharest. They say it’s enough to get by for now, but they hope to find other means to provide for themselves, fearing the assistance they receive might soon come to an end.

Finally reunited with relatives, the two are happy to stay in Romania for a bit and hope to one day celebrate their love as they have always dreamt. “We didn’t get to have a proper wedding, so we are waiting for things to calm down and throw a big party,” the couple says.

When the war started, the two started taking care of pets that had been left behind by their owners. They even brought some with them to Romania, and soon after arriving, they started caring for a new dog. “The war made me realize that we shouldn’t wait to do the things that make us happy,” Nika explains.

IOM’s health response in Romania is possible thanks to the support of the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), Government of Japan, German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and the Government of Korea.

If you are interested in donating to Ukraine relief efforts, please visit IOM's fundraising page.

Written by Monica Chiriac

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions