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How the mission became history. BLOG by Oleksandr Vyshniakov, the director of the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Centre


During my time at Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center, I met a lot of men and women and also worked with thousands of volunteers. These people started changing in a quite noticeable way - all the put-on things were disappearing. In a state of severe stress caused by military actions in Donbas, they showed their best qualities: mercy, kindness, responsiveness. I have not seen a single volunteer who would come to help the Center under constraint. It always was of their own free will, their need to be useful to those who were in trouble.

For the Humanitarian Center, for the volunteers, Rinat Akhmetov’s philosophy – to respond to someone else's pain - has become a guide to action. We have overcome many obstacles, because we saved people, because human life is the most valuable thing. It's wild and terrible to realize that in the 21st century in a civilized country a child or an adult may be killed under fire or die of starvation.

I remember January of 2015, when the fighting intensified along the entire contact line, very well. It was incredibly difficult for convoys with humanitarian aid to pass checkpoints. I remember how terrible it was to get under fire, and what a shock was caused by the news of the tragedy in Mariupol.

The day of January 24, 2015 was a black date for the city. The MRLS 'Grad' shelling lasted only 35 seconds, but for these instants the appearance of Mariupol has changed. The city - an industrial giant at that time - was an island of salvation for tens of thousands of refugees who has fled the war. But on this January day their hopes for a peaceful life collapsed. The city was in panic - 31 people were dead, 118 wounded. The infrastructure was destroyed, there was no mobile connection. People were afraid of repeated shelling, many of them had no idea if their relatives were alive.

In this situation, the volunteers of the Center, employees of Ilyich Iron and Steel Works and Azovstal,  continued to form packages with humanitarian aid for those in need. They clearly realized: there may not be another day to carry the products and daily necessities through checkpoints. But this help will be saving for those who are in trouble in the war zone.

I consider this to be the heroism shown by volunteers. It is worthy to go down in history.

The Humanitarian Center’s mission has already become a historic and unique one in Ukraine – a million of saved lives!

This mission was captured by the exhibition, which was opened in the Museum of History of the Ilyich Mariupol Metallurgical Plant. It tells us about the heroic deed of the dedicated Ilyich Plant workers, about the invaluable contribution of the volunteers, about the activities of the Humanitarian Center over the past three and a half years.

Among the many photographs and documents presented in the museum's exhibition there is a stand with books of reviews and memories. There are hundreds of stories about saving aid in them. And there will be many more such stories. They will appear until the war, which changed us, is over, while Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center is fulfilling its mission.