Three summers of war. Three summers of support. BLOG of Rimma Fil, Coordinator of the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center
We remembered the days of spring and summer of 2014 almost to the last minute. They stuck in memory with fragments of terrible news: about the death of children, about the destroyed houses, about the departures, temporary, just for a couple of weeks.
The life divided into ‘before’ and ‘during’, since ‘after’ has not occurred yet. Our minds refused to accept and understand that a real war is going on, the war which we earlier knew from movies and books. It was difficult to realize that nearby shells are exploding and people are living in cellars.
Fear and despair have crippled thoughts. What should we do? Where should we go from our home? How to keep on living? In this situation, more and more people needed help and support to survive.
In the spring of 2014, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation for Development began evacuating orphanages in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk from conflict zones. Then everyone thought that everything would be back to normal in a week or two. But the war inflamed with a great force.
And in the summer of 2014, Rinat Akhmetov makes an important and timely decision to help and support the civilians in the conflict zone in the best possible way.
The situation changed every minute, and the format of the assistance also changed constantly. Thus, the Humanitarian Center was established where the people made decisions and executed them in a short period of time.
Now, three years after, you realize that the establishment of the Humanitarian Center was very important and even indispensable.
We did not have any strategy. Moreover, we did not know what we should do in a year or even a few months. But we had something most important - it was a target to support people in their trouble.
The Humanitarian Center has been working day and night. The first hotline consisted of family members of the employees. People called and asked fighting back tears to take them away from the cities where the devastating war was on. Thanks to the heroes-volunteers, we took away the old people and children from the flashpoint areas. People carried with them neither fur coats nor crystal. They saved cats and dogs.
The Humanitarian Center evacuated 39462 people among them there were 14784 children. 6939 people were supported during the resettlement.
Evacuation is the most painful talking point for me. Maybe because we all turned out to be refugees and forced migrants, maybe because my seventeen-year-old daughter took calls at one of those nights.
I will never forget how she was deeply engaged in organizing the evacuation of an elderly sick woman after heart attack and her bed-ridden disabled son.
Evacuation, resettlement, assistance to the expectant mothers … All this was done by the Humanitarian Center in the first summer of the war.
Certainly, the largest and the most famous program was the provision with food products. The largest logistics center of providing assistance to the most defenseless population expanded on Donbass Arena.
Survival package … People called so a food package with the most valuable products. Careful selection of the products, quality control, package of the most critical products ... It is just unimaginable scale! The Humanitarian Center became the largest humanitarian mission in Eastern Ukraine.
To be absolutely frank, the food products became a salvation for people deprived of any help, support and social benefits, for those who lived in the firing line and for large families.
Just a very short while ago, I was in the company of Donetsk IDPs. As always, we shared memories and stories. One woman, who had her own business in peacetime in Donetsk, told about herself: ‘If we did not leave, I do not know what would have happened to us.’ Neither I nor my husband were pensioners. And we would not receive the assistance from Akhmetov … I do not know how people would live without his help!
The woman did not know me. After these memories, I ‘immersed’ again in 2014, when the first truck convoy with food products was prepared, when work was arranged in Arena, when cereals and preserves from the humanitarian package saved the old people from hunger…
For three years we have provided:
11832756 survival packages among them there are 10968530 for adults and 86 226 for children.
Three years of the Humanitarian Center existence are three years of dedicated work every minute with sensitive nerves. These are the great tragedies of the little people – ordinary people who became victims of the war. Therefore, the targeted aid program was and remains the most pressing issue. It is impossible to get used to the pain and read letters without emotions where people are asking for help and support to perform urgent surgeries for their children or to provide life-saving and essential drugs.
Within the framework of the program ‘Medicines for Children’, we have been provided 2978 drug kits for children with diabetes, asthma and epilepsy. This assistance has been provided to 1220 children.
1600 people received aid for urgent treatment and surgeries, among them there are 670 adults and 930 children.
Within the framework of the program ‘Healthy Heart’, 15 children have been provided with assistance for heart surgeries. As part of the project ‘Rehabilitation of Wounded Children’, 70 wounded children from Donbass have been supported by the Humanitarian Center, among them 65 children have underwent treatment in the rehabilitation centers of Ukraine. Moreover, 5 children received technical means of rehabilitation and drugs. Three years of work, burning desire to help, survival and support ...
The cliché ‘like yesterday’ here makes some true sense. As if it were yesterday, when Rinat Akhmetov decided to establish the Humanitarian Center. As if it were yesterday, when we announced this news. As if it were yesterday, when the first truck convoy arrived at Donetsk.
During this time, the Humanitarian Center helped to survive more than a million of people. And behind this figure lies a great desire to support and sincere compassion of one person - Rinat Akhmetov.
And I, like everyone who was involved in this great mission, I express my deepest gratitude for being part of this mission, burning desire to help, support in order to survive duting these terrible three summers of the war.