«Physics of charity: the „fulcrum“ is hope and the „lever“ is our aid», Yuriy Ryzhenkov.
Metinvest Group's Chief Executive Officer Yuriy Ryzhenkov talks about the evacuation of people and provision of aid when being shelled and about the most critical problems of residents in Luhansk and Donetsk regions and how volunteers are helping to resolve these problems.
- For more than a year, there has been an armed conflict in Ukraine. Many of Metinvest enterprises are located in the conflict-effected area. These are your people: employees and their families. What has Metinvest done to help them survive in these conditions?
- We started rendering aid to people from the first shot. We have always been near. In the very beginning, this was somewhat chaotic, I would say, ad hoc aid. We responded to problems rapidly. We delivered medications. We evacuated elderly people, women and children from dangerous areas. We allocated materials to repair damaged buildings. Many of SCM's enterprises did that at the time. However, there was no clear system. Understanding the horror of the situation in Donbas region, SCM's shareholder decided to render aid on a systematic basis. This was how Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center was born and became an "ambulance" for peaceful residents in Donbas. It appeared at the exact moment when millions of Ukrainians needed support.
- What did Metinvest's actions entail following the establishment of the Humanitarian Center?
- We started working together from the first day. Every day. From artillery shelling to artillery shelling. We created volunteer committees, teams and mobile groups at our enterprises. Our priority was the evacuation of people and arranging for temporary accommodation for them. Metinvest and the Humanitarian Center's volunteers evacuated orphans, mothers with many children, disabled people, critical patients and pensioners. We evacuated the employees of our enterprises and their families.
- How did you address the issue of accommodation for the people?
- Temporary accommodation was provided in recreational centres in Zaporizhya, Kharkiv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions and in safe areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. We evacuated over 1,600 people from the dangerous territory. Volunteers organized wholesome nutrition for displaced people and arranged amenities. They gathered clothes, toys and books for children and did everything to organize recreation for them. This included personal hygiene products and health care. Hundreds of wounded and acute patients went there. Special attention was given to psychological support.
Around 300 volunteers from Metinvest rendered administrative and informational services. They formed lists of people, including those who needed urgent medical care. We helped with getting documents re-issued. We created databases for further employment of internally displaced persons. We provided legal advice.
- What other areas did you work on together with the Humanitarian Center?
- We delivered humanitarian aid. We rendered targeted help to children, the elderly and disabled people. Hundreds of thousands of residents of the ATO zone and frontline received support. We helped rebuild housing. We repaired schools, kindergartens and hospitals. Employees from our enterprises formed the lists of people in need. We developed logistical routes. We rendered any possible help for the humanitarian aid deliveries. People who were not able to show up for aid kits received them from our volunteers who went to their homes.
The cities in that area had geriatric homes, orphanages, and critical patients in hospitals. Kindergartens and schools were left without organized food service. Jointly with the Humanitarian Center, we helped resolve this.
We did not allow emergency response services to stop functioning. We allocated fuel and lubricants for ambulances too.
- Since the system has been in place, has it become easier to work?
- The systematic work of the Humanitarian Center has facilitated the survival of hundreds of thousands of peaceful residents. Humanitarian Center was created in the spirit of charity. It is like in physics – there is a fulcrum and there is a lever, which can be used to lift anything heavy. So, in this case, the "fulcrum" is hope and the "lever" is our aid.
I sincerely admire the Humanitarian Center's volunteers. Most of them are from Donetsk and Luhansk regions. These people are experiencing difficulties like those people who stayed behind the frontline. But they are younger and stronger. It has been a year since they have started to help those who remained under fire, cut-off from their relatives. Without means of subsistence. Alone with their thoughts and fears.
Getting through dozens of checkpoints, humanitarian convoys with food packages and children baskets have become almost the only pivot point for Donbas civilians. Even today millions are awaiting survival kits.
- Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center summarizes the results of its first year. What would you wish to the people who work there?
- First of all, patience. Their work is invaluable. They are non-indifferent to those people who are prepared to stay near some of the most tragic situations in life. The Humanitarian Center's volunteers give people hope. Only people who believe are capable of doing the impossible. They can change the world around us. And I wish that their kind deeds return to them hundred-fold during their lives.