5 ways to help on World Refugee Day

Train station in Pardubic, Czech Republic.
People displaced by the war in Ukraine arrive at a train station in Pardubice, Czech Republic. April 2022.

World Refugee Day, 20 June, is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe. Members of Rotary and Rotaract clubs have been taking action through a variety of international projects to help raise awareness of the plight of refugees, advocate for humane policies related to refugees, and provide for immediate needs of refugees. Quentin Wodon, Chair of the Rotary Action Group for Refugees, Forced Displacement, and Migration, has written a blog on 5 ways to support newcomers and migrants on the Rotary Service in Action blog. Also read about some of the efforts of Rotary and Rotaract members to support refugees through the years:

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Academy enables gifted Ukrainian musicians to continue their dreams

Music students
More than 40 gifted young musicians from Ukraine are continuing their education through the Phoenix Music Academy in Dortmund, Germany.

By Alexander Ostrovski, a member of the Rotary Club of Dortmund-Romberge and director of the Phoenix Music Academy

Having grown up in Crimea, when it was both a part of the Soviet Union and then Ukraine, I was shocked when I saw the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

From 2002 to 2008, I worked professionally with the Ukrainian national chamber orchestra, and before that, spent half my life in Moscow. I studied at the Moscow Conservatory where my colleagues were Russians and Ukrainians. Our differences didn’t matter. Ours is the musical tradition of Tchaikovsky, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. The brutal attacks that began 24 February trampled on this beautiful culture. In many ways, I feel personally attacked by the war.

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Hungarian club overcomes challenges to help Ukraine

Rotary Club of Budapest-Margitsziget,
Members of the Rotary Club of Budapest-Margitsziget, Hungary, with supplies they collected for Ukraine.

By Beatrix Turner, Rotary Club of Budapest-Margitsziget, Hungary

My Rotary club wanted to do our part to help the people of Ukraine after hearing about the terrible war in their country. We were honored to be able to join three other clubs, Berlin-Gendarmenmarkt, Germany, Paris-Quai d’Orsay, France, and Milano Sud-Ovest, Italy, to coordinate an €18,000 project to collect and deliver donations to help Ukrainian refugees.

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Suddenly, the war knocked on our door

Oksana Havryliv and volunteers
Oksana Havryliv takes a selfie with some of the volunteers bringing medicine, food and other relief supplies to be reloaded and distributed. Photo by Oksana Havryliv

By Oksana Havryliv, Rotaract Club of Lviv International

Before the war, I was a student in international relations at the university in Ukraine and had been pursuing a master’s degree in political science through the University of Vienna. I dreamed of becoming a diplomat and representing Ukraine. I was busy with studies, planning my life, and hanging out with friends, especially those in Rotaract. That all changed on 24 February when Russia invaded my country and the bombs began to fall.

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Rotary clubs in Lviv find hope, strength in solidarity

Pallets of supplies for the relief effort
Volunteers stand in front of pallets in one of several warehouses in Lviv set up for relief supplies.

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

Orest Semotiuk
Orest Semotiuk

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.

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From Ukraine to Denmark: 17-year-old refugee finds a home with Rotarians

Artem Ziablov looks over his new clothes, courtesy of a merchant in Denmark.
Artem Ziablov looks over his new clothes, courtesy of a merchant in Denmark.

Editors note: Like many Rotary members, Rotary Foundation Trustee Per Høyen, a member of the Rotary Club of Aarup, Denmark, had a desire to take action in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Through the Rotary network, he and his wife learned of a 17-year-old Ukrainian refugee, Artem Ziablov, temporarily staying in Germany. In this second of two blog posts, Artem shares his journey from Ukraine to his new host family in Denmark.

By Artem Ziablov

I am a student of Karazin Kharkiv National University where I am in the first year of my studies for a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science. One week before the war started, my mother took me from Kharkiv to Irpin, a city in the Kyiv region, where I lived before my studies. On the morning of 24 February at five in the morning my mother woke me up to tell me that the war had started and that the country was under attack. I looked out the window and heard the bombs being dropped on Gostomel airport, 10 kilometers from our house. Ukrainian fighters were in the sky very close to us and Ukrainian missiles were firing at Russian troops, so it was very scary to stay there.

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Millions of drops make a difference for Ukraine refugees

Editors note: Like many Rotary members, Rotary Foundation Trustee Per Høyen, a member of the Rotary Club of Aarup, Denmark, had a desire to take action in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Through the Rotary network, he and his wife learned of a 17-year-old Ukrainian refugee, Artem Ziablov, staying in Germany. In this blog post, the first of two parts, Høyen shares their decision to welcome Artem into their home.

Per Hoyen
Per Hoyen

By Per Høyen, Rotary Foundation Trustee

Like most of the world, my wife and I were concerned when we heard of the buildup of Russian military on the Ukraine border. As a Rotary Director, I had been to Ukraine six years ago for a club charter and have Rotary friends in Ukraine. Knowing that my friends were in danger was awful. The day the invasion happened was very hard for us. And seeing the pictures of what was happening brought tears to our eyes. We asked, “who could do this to small children?”

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Music concerts raise money for Ukraine

By Olena Bondarenko Hiraishi

Olena Haraishi
Olena Bondarenko Hiraishi

I grew up in the city of Dnipro in the eastern part of Ukraine with my father, who is Ukrainian and my mother, who is Russian. When I was 21, I moved to Japan to study while working for a water distillation company in Hiroshima city.

Soon after, I met Masashi, an active member of the Rotary Club of Hiroshima Southwest. We now have three teenage boys. It was through my husband that I came to know Rotary. Seven years ago, we traveled to Vietnam and support orphanages there through his club.

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Connecting with others through Ukrainian virtual club

Editor’s note: The following personal account is an excerpt from a story about Rotary in Ukraine compiled by Rotary Magazin for Germany and Austria. Past and current conflicts have had a significant impact on Rotary in Ukraine, making members there more resolute.

By Tetiana Godok, president-elect of the Rotary E-Club of Ukraine

Tetiana Godok
Tetiana Godok

My history with Rotary began when I was a senior in high school. The newly formed Rotaract Club of Yalta ambitiously set out to establish an Interact club, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it.

I didn’t know much about Rotary, and the complex club organization befuddled me at first. But over several months, we visited Interact clubs in Kharkiv and Cherkasy, and I came to learn more about Rotary and gradually immersed myself in the ideas and values of this service organization. With strong convictions about the role I might play, I joined the Rotaract Club of Yalta, serving as president and treasurer, and set a goal to get to know Rotaract all over Europe.

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Creating scholarships for Afghan refugees

By Ademar Bechtold and Quentin Wodon, Rotary Action Group for Refugees, Forced Displacement, and Migration

Quentin Wodon

The number of refugees globally has been steadily rising. The ongoing war in Ukraine has created an even larger humanitarian crisis with millions of displaced people. There is much that Rotary clubs are doing, and can be doing, to help the resettlement of refugees.

About a month ago, Ademar and I joined a combined board meeting of our Rotary Action Group and the Rotary Fellowship for Global Development, discussing what could be done to help the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the United States. Ademar, a professor of economics at Notre Dame of Maryland University, suggested his university might be able to provide one or two scholarships for Afghan youth. We all thought this would be a brilliant idea.

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