Volunteering to help after leaving Ukraine

By Angela Hill, IFRC
For many people who have left Ukraine since the end of February, helping others is a priority, both those who have also fled and those in their new communities. These are the stories of some women from Ukraine who are now supporting the work of the Romanian Red Cross.
Liudmyla Telfus
Leaving Ukraine came with an impossible decision for Liudmyla Telfus – should she stay with her adult son and continue to care for her aging parents, or leave with her 13-year-old daughter?
She decided to leave with her daughter and travelled to Bucharest, but continues to send messages to her parents, son, and friends daily. It has been hard.
“My father, he was born in 1940, and he told me that ‘he was born in the war [Second World War] and he will die in the war,’” she said.
“How do I feel? I am not confident in tomorrow. I don’t know what will be tomorrow. We had a full understanding of our life. We had jobs. We had a house. We had an understanding of our studying … now we have nothing.”
To deal with the difficulty of the situation, Liudmyla and her daughter looked for ways to give back.
“I wanted to do something for the Ukrainian people and for Romanians,” she said.
Liudmyla is now working with the Romanian Red Cross’ financial assistance program, helping others who have fled access emergency relief funds. She and her daughter participated in a garbage pick-up day in Bucharest, giving back to the community that has welcomed them.
Two women in Red Cross vests sitting together on a large brown couch
Svitlana Rostetska, left, and Inna Pronoza are best friends and refugees from Ukraine, now working with the Romanian Red Cross in Bucharest as part of the financial assistance program. 
Diana Hohol
Diana Hohol will never forget the morning she learned that the conflict in Ukraine had started.
“I woke up in the morning on the 24th at seven o’clock. I checked the news and I saw that we had military state in Ukraine,” she said. “I was in shock. I opened the window and I heard the emergency signal.”
She recalls the early days of chaos. People didn’t know what would happen, where was safe. She made decisions with her family about who would leave the country and who would stay behind.  Her husband is Romanian and doesn’t speak Ukrainian, so they made the difficult decision to leave – her mother stayed behind.
“I asked my mother to text me every morning when she wakes up and every evening when she is going to sleep, just to know that she is okay.”
As Diana left, she was moved by the people who were volunteering to help people like her.

“I’m appreciative of these people because instead of going to another country … they were just staying and cooking for people who were running.”

It inspired Diana to look for ways she could also help others from her country. She found her way to the Red Cross and now works as part of the Romanian Red Cross financial assistance program.
“I have stopped checking the news 24/7, and I have stopped worrying. I feel very happy that I can help and that I am close to such amazing an organization as Red Cross.”

Svitlana Rostetska and Inna Pronoza
Svitlana Rostetska and Inna Pronoza have been best friends for 24 years. They met attending class at university, their families are close, and until the escalation of conflict in Ukraine they both taught at the same university.
When the conflict began, it wasn’t even a question, both families travelled west to stay with Inna’s inlaws, where they stayed as long as possible. Then the friends made the difficult decision: they would divide their families. Inna with her youngest son, 17, and Svitlana with her daughter, 20, travelled to Bucharest.
Now they are working alongside the Romanian Red Cross helping others fleeing the violence.
“When we came here and read about the Red Cross, I said to Inna, ‘Inna this is the dream, I must do this work,’” Svitlana said.
“Not only my dream. I think it’s our mission to help my people. It’s not important where I live, Ukraine or Romania or maybe I will live in another country, I have a role to play. If I have a chance to help my people, I will every time do this.”
At the Red Cross service point in Bucharest, they speak with people whose experiences are so close to their own
Inna talks about helping one man, who just wants to go home:

“He said, ‘We want to go back home. We want to die in our home. It’s our home there, we cannot stay here.' I started crying only after he left. I like to work in this service centre. I need to help our people. This job is the best because you can help. You move a bit forward from the thoughts in your head and you can help.”

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