I personally didn’t dare to go on this trip for a long time because of the potential dangers it posed. After all, this area in eastern Ukraine is located close to Russia on one side and near the front line on the other, where explosions can still be heard. Nonetheless, there were people living there in need of support, so one early morning, I went with the team from Kharkiv office on a Medair distribution to provide essential items to those affected.
The drive to our first location took about 3 hours. We put on bulletproof vests, tried on helmets (which needed to be worn in case we heard explosions), got into the car, and embarked on our trip. I held my breath and wouldn’t let go of the camera. As far as the eye could see, the landscape was marred by demolished houses, burnt military equipment, and deteriorated roads. Certain areas exuded an eerie atmosphere, as one could only imagine the experiences endured by the people who once lived there. Our vans stopped in the center of one of the villages, where volunteers gathered to unload them, and people lined up to receive their items. I paid attention to one of the volunteers. She introduced herself as Maryna and agreed to share her story.
“9 years ago, we bought a house in this village and started to build our home. But then began the hostilities. When we saw the glasses on our table shaking, we realized we had to leave for our own safety. We heard explosions on all sides, so we quickly packed up, took our German Shepherd, and moved to another city. We rented an apartment there for 4 months, but soon ran out of money; I’m unemployed and my husband is retired. So, we had no other option but to return.” Maryna said.
“When I entered my house, I was shocked. The place where our dog lived was destroyed. If we hadn’t taken the dog with us, he probably wouldn’t have survived,» Maryna said. «Inside, everything was turned upside down, clothes were scattered everywhere…but the biggest problem was that the windows had been blown out – and we couldn’t replace them because the village was under occupation. We decided to exchange items with our neighbors, and found a stove so we could cook meals,” Maryna said.
“I’m a volunteer for Medair Ukraine now, and help with distributing and receiving goods, registering people and issuing kits. This work – and the way it allows me to connect with people – distracts me from all the horror we had to go through. We’ve finally settled down now and wouldn’t move anywhere else; we actually want to live here,” said Maryna as she hastened to register the villagers for assistance.
I tried to connect with people and decided to put away my camera to be present and listen to their stories. That’s when another woman approached me; a 55 year old named Svitlana. She came to receive assistance together with her husband and adult son, who helped unload the vans. “It was quiet at first, but when the bombs started falling from the planes, we were shocked and couldn’t believe that something like this was even possible. We just fell to the floor, put our hands on our heads, and lay still in the hopes of making it out alive,” said Svitlana.
“The worst thing was that our village was occupied on the 24th of April 2022, the day of Orthodox Easter. We just sat in the basement because we couldn’t get out, and we were all very scared,” said Svitlana.
Six months later, the village was no longer occupied. After being forced to hide in their basements all this time due to the shelling, the villagers finally began to come out to rebuild their homes and move on with their lives. “Fortunately, our house was not damaged. I prayed to God to save it, because if it got destroyed, we would have neither the strength nor the money to build a new house from scratch. And I asked for my family to stay out of harm’s way,” said Svitlana.
“Even in the winter, we received aid from Medair, which helped us endure the season as there was no electricity or heating. Now we’ve received other kits, which are vital for leading a normal life. Thank you for this. We’re just really grateful that our area is finally quiet and peaceful, that’s what matters the most,” said Svitlana.
In eastern Ukraine, Medair helps people through the distribution of shelter kits, cooking supplies, bedding and personal hygiene supplies.
“Within less than one month of distribution in the Donetsk region, we were able to help more than 3,000 people. We’re inspired to see how grateful people are for these kits, and understand that despite the dangers of our work, we’re doing noble work by supporting people and giving them hope,” said Anton and Heorhii, Medair’s staff in Ukraine.
Medair services in the east of Ukraine are funded by Pool Fund (PF) among other donors and foundations.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and HQ staff. The views expressed here are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.
Photos with optimized photos/captions/alt-texts