By Iryna Bushmina, District 2232 (Ukraine) Rotaract Representative
I left Kyiv in the first hours of the war. My sister, her husband, her 3-month-old baby and a cat were in the car. When we reached the border, men were already not allowed to leave the country, so I went on with my sister and a little nephew. We were five days in the car, six days until we got to Vienna.
We stayed for the night in different countries three times. These were not hotels but homes of Rotary and Rotaract families. I used to just say that Rotary International is a big family, now I really believe it. And I am convinced that this is a family that will stand by you. These are no longer beautiful words to me, this is reality.
I was still in the car when I got the idea to mobilize Rotaract Europe. I realized that I was not the only one who needed help and support. My sister was driving, and I had my hands free. I started writing to all chats I knew where there were Rotaractors about the situation in Ukraine. A lot of Rotaractors instantly responded. People immediately created groups with different directions and helped me to lead them. These were not perfectly thought-out projects, but they were projects that started working from the first day.
Rotaract responded very quickly, and I realized that we needed to start very rapidly with the small projects to help Rotarians and Rotaractors of Ukraine find accommodations in other countries. Now, the project has grown, and we are helping many Ukrainians find a new home for the first time. We have lined up more than 2,000 host families to take in refugees.
The requests we are processing vary from assistance with relocating, to finding accommodations, to providing other humanitarian support. Some cities ask for simple things – food and water. And that’s what hurts the most. Especially when we all realize that the Russian army is blocking us from bringing humanitarian aid to civilians and they are dying from hunger and dehydration.
There are more than 100 people in my international team alone and around 50 people in the Ukrainian team. I don’t know exactly how many Rotaract members are involved in helping Ukraine. Each country has its own projects. Some clubs also organize assistance separately. Some are more involved, some less, but even the smallest contribution is valuable and could save lives.
We work in four directions:
1. Distribute truthful information about the situation in Ukraine
2. Find accommodation and hosts for Ukrainians in flight
3. Send humanitarian aid
4. Secure financial support for those that need it
Not all of the people write or express their gratitude. But to be honest, I don’t expect this. After what these people have gone through – the fear, stress, spending three to four days at the border – we do not need them to say, “thank you.” We just need to make sure these people are safe and that they get what they need to survive.
Now is the time for understanding. Of course, when some of the people do write their appreciation, it is a pleasure.
The Rotary Foundation has created a channel for direct humanitarian support in the Ukraine region. Follow updates on how Rotary members are providing humanitarian relief on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and on Rotary.org and My Rotary.