My name is Nataliia. I am a Young European Ambassador from Ukraine, from the Sumy region, which is located in the north-eastern part of my lovely country that was the first to meet the Russian troops on 24 February 2022 when the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began.
In 2015, when I had just entered Sumy State Pedagogical University named after A. Makarenko, I started to take part in volunteering projects in the cultural sphere, and later got involved in the organising teams of such projects. For instance, I was a co-chief of the Enlightenment Stage at the SHEfest, the annual cultural festival in Cherkasy region, and publishers’ coordinator at the CheBookFest book festival in Cherkasy. It helped me to create a network of trustworthy active citizens who share common values and goals.
Since 2015, after Russia started the military aggression against the Donbas region and annexed Crimea, I have visited the Donbas many times, bringing supplies, tactical aid kits, food and sweets to our people there. Later on, a Ukrainian writer from Severodonetsk started the action ‘BRING A BOOK TO A DEFENDER’, and together with her I began looking for ways to bring as many Ukrainian books for people to read there as possible. Thanks to this action, more than 20 local libraries were provided with modern and classical literature to help maintain the mental health of those who were on the front line. From time to time, as an ecology expert, I was invited by local activists from Soledar, Lysychansk and Bachmut to come there and give lectures to locals about eco sustainability in terms of war.
In October 2021, as a participant of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt fellowship programme, I moved to Germany to work on my PhD research project dealing with forestry management in Ukraine and Germany. My fellowship was supposed to end on 31 March 2022, but on 23 February 2022, the day before the Russian invasion, I prolonged it until the end of May 2022.
On 24February 2022, I woke up as a Ukrainian who could not go back home. At that very moment I understood that there was no way I could stand aside, especially taking into account my previous volunteering experience.
War brings you not only the suffering and worries about your relatives, friends, and neighbours. It also brings you ‘your’ people – people with whom you can bring the #StandWithUkraine movement alive and work on supporting your country, even if you are based abroad. For me, #StandWithUkraine is not only a popular hashtag, a trendy worldwide movement or some kind of mass media ‘hype’. It refers to the position of being free, standing for democracy and for European values.
A few days after the Russian invasion, together with my friends in Kassel, Hessen, Germany, we set up the ‘MENSCHEN HELFEN MENSCHEN’ (‘PEOPLE HELP PEOPLE’) campaign to collect donations for medical and tactical supplies to be sent to Ukraine. Before that, one of my friends created a Telegram-bot @med_gear_de_bot to find the items needed in Germany and to easy the process of their purchase.
The idea to establish the campaign appeared randomly with the support of those locals who strongly supported Ukraine (it would be fair to say that many Germans didn’t have a clue of how they could help Ukrainians at that time). Currently, our team of two Ukrainians and seven Germans specialises on the delivery of tactical medical supplies and military safety items, such as CAT-tourniquets, Israeli bandages, LED-flashlights, tactical gloves, tactical earphones, painkillers, Quickclot-s etc. The majority of the items we collect are transferred to the hotspots though existing networks of Ukrainian volunteers on the ground.
The main challenge of the first round of the campaign was to spread the information about it, as well as to manage the purchase of supplies. Despite all the challenges, we managed to collect more than €14,000 instead of the €10,000 initially planned to buy the items for the war zone. You can check for more details HERE. Recently, we have sent two huge trucks and several vans with medical supplies, tactical appliances and hygienic items to some of the worse hotspots – the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kharkiv regions.
The main challenge of the second round of the campaign is to keep it going, because it seems that people are getting a bit ‘tired’ of war news and ‘tired’ of supporting Ukraine. Thus, the initial goal of our campaign was developed further and now our sub goal is to raise awareness about the war crimes of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and not to let mankind forget about the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine is the way to feel the idea of European values in action and to truly show solidarity with each other, just as my German friends have shown solidarity with me and my people by helping to launch and deliver successfully the ‘MENSCHEN HELFEN MENSCHEN’ (‘PEOPLE HELP PEOPLE’) campaign. Let’s keep standing for Europe together and we are stronger together!
Can’t get rid of these people…
Shouting shootings, sky bombing, artillery shelling
Grannies planting potatoes
Women creating new protective nets
Kids drawing a peaceful country in blue and yellow
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