By Orest Semotiuk, Chair of the Public Relations Committee of the Rotary Club of Lviv International, and a member of the District 2232 Public Relations Committee
The morning of 24 February began roughly as any normal morning would. I woke up, went for a jog, and had breakfast. While eating breakfast, however, I heard the news on the radio that Russian bombs were falling on my country, Ukraine.
I immediately called a few friends and acquaintances in other cities to find out how they were doing. Fortunately, most of them were unharmed and safe. Then in the afternoon, a TV station from Regensburg, Germany, where I had spent time during a research assignment in 2018, called me for a comment. Then more media, with an avalanche of requests, and my real work started.
Further interviews with journalists from Western Europe, Asia, and America followed. At the beginning of April, the editor of the Rotary Magazine for Germany and Austria visited us to research and report about our relief efforts and to interview Rotary District 2232 Governor Volodymyr Bondarenko.
Right from the first chat messages, I witnessed how Rotary members worldwide supported each other and extended that support to non-members who were in need. Rotary clubs in District 2232 immediately organized fundraising efforts and humanitarian aid for residents in areas under attack. Our district public relations committee launched a social media campaign to share current developments in Ukraine with our friends in Rotary around the world.
The Rotary Club of Lviv International put together a task force only a few days after the war began to coordinate, among other things, the supply of medicines, hygiene items, and medical equipment to Ukrainian hospitals and children’s homes. In addition, my own club, Lviv International, established useful contacts with international partners – both Rotary clubs and other charitable organizations in the United States, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Norway, and Latvia.
This enormous encouragement from the Rotary network gives us strength and new hope.
In daily Zoom conferences, we determine the needs of different recipient groups – whether refugees, children or wounded people – and plan further activities. We do this in close cooperation with the State Agency for Medical Care of Ukraine. We set up several warehouses for relief supplies in the Lviv region.
The items we supply through these warehouses range from mattresses and beds for hospitals to first aid kits, protective vests, clothing, and food. Everything is shipped to Lviv via the Polish-Ukrainian border where the relief supplies are sorted and then transported to areas affected by the war. A fundraising campaign to purchase more medical equipment for hospitals is also underway.
In the meantime, some of our Rotary members left the country. Others have remained in Lviv and open up their apartments, offices or production halls to be used as accommodation for refugees. Some even offer these refugees jobs so they can earn some money.
One of the things that helps us the most is the broad solidarity. On our club web page and on the “Rotary in Ukraine” Facebook page we regularly report about our actions and receive daily greetings, encouraging comments, and inquiries from all corners of the world. Other Rotary clubs, our partners, but also grateful people and institutions that we were able to help, get in touch. This enormous encouragement from the Rotary network gives us strength and new hope.