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15.12.2014

Volunteers Anonymous

In the hall of the Ukrainian center in Bat Yam, boxes line the walls. They contain the labels: “Boys 7-9”, “Children’s Items”, “Glory to Ukraine!”. These is just some of the packages that await to be sent to Ukraine from the public organization “Israeli friends of Ukraine”

On 12 December, activists of the organization, together with members of other volunteer groups and representatives of the Ukrainian embassy gathered in the center to took about how they had lived over the last half year, and how they could unite efforts. People took turns to go up to the microphone and start their personal histories with the same words:

My Maidan began on 18 February. This is my mother’s birthday, but I almost forgot to give her my congratulations,” said Anna Zharova, founder of Israeli friends of Ukraine. “The shooting on Maidan began than. I spent all night on Facebook, reading what my friends from Kiev were writing. In Israeli, I started to look for ways that I could provide help in this situation. I saw a post where people asked for help to look for a hospital in Israel for the urgent treatment of two kids. In the comments below the post, there were names familiar from my previous work at Sokhnut – Marina Lysak and Mariya Kishko. We got in touch, and on 6 and 7 March I was already meeting planes with injured people. There were 11 of them…

Anna Zharova

Initially we intended to help victims of Maidan with treatment in Israel. But after the revolution in Ukraine, the ATO began, and all the terrible events connected with it – a lot of people needed aid. We brought another 14 injured people from the ATO, and also began collecting money and packages for soldiers and refugees.

At the initiative of Vyacheslav Feldman, who is also a member of the executive committee of “Israeli friends of Ukraine” and the curator of the projects “Israel helps Maidan wounded” and “Give children warmth”, we started helping orphans in Donbass, in particular in the town of Shchastye in the Lugansk Oblast”.

My Maidan began in January,” says Valeria Babicheva, a doctor at the Kaplan medical center. “I found out what was happening in Ukraine, flew to Kiev and became a doctor on duty at Maidan. People from western Ukraine were surprised. “Oh, you’re from Israel? A doctor? That means everything will be fine!”

Then I went home, and on 3 March I received a message that people were needed to translate the medical documents of injured people in Kiev into Hebrew, because some of them were supposed to be taken to Israel for treatment. Kaplan was the first hospital to receive people.

What the medical conclusions stated and what we actually saw were just night and day. These patients not only faced becoming invalids, some of them faced the possibility of death.

Valeria Babicheva

And this is not the fault of the Kiev authorities. The fact of the matter is that back in January, when students beaten up by special troops were supposed to be taken to hospitals, they got off the stretchers and tried to run away, because at the hospitals, ambulances drove up from one side, and on the other were police trucks. The people who remembered what had happened in February, during the shooting at Maidan, tried to avoid ending up in doctors’ hands, fearing they would be “given up”.

Now there is one patient left at Kaplan, a soldier from the ATO zone. Doctors have been fighting for his life for three months now. The others have undergone treatment and gone home.

But unfortunately there are a lot of injured people in Ukraine. And they can’t all be brought to Israel. So now, at the level of the Rada and the Ukrainian Health Ministry, talks have taken place about Israeli medics helping out in Ukraine. I hope that this is a question of the next few weeks.”

After the break, Yury Moskalenko comes to the microphone, the head of the Belotserkovsky volunteer organization, which came to the meeting to establish cooperation with Israeli volunteers:

My Maidan and my volunteer work there began with work at the hospital that was set up in the Mikhailovsky Cathedral. Injured people were brought there on 18 February. I cannot convey to you the horror, the mass of blood and dirt. The most vivid picture of those days was the bodies of the people killed, especially young people, next to the Main Post Office building.

Then came Crimea and the war in East Ukraine. It turned out that the army wasn’t ready. Ukrainians, if one doesn’t count the Great Patriotic War and the war in Afghanistan, never fought, never waged invasive wars, and only defended themselves. Additionally, over the last 20 years the army had been ruined along with the country.

The urgent need arose to equip our soldiers with something. First I was alone, then my friends began to join me. The soldiers had nothing to eat or drink. Three trucks of ammunition were taken to them. “Shoot back, men”. Food also start to be brought to them.

Guys from the frontline call me and ask: “We have a canister of water here – should we drink it, or use it to wash ourselves, or to wash clothes?” There were serious problems with water, all the volunteers brought it, but there was never enough. In the end, the guys from another volunteer group came up with a solution: they found a company that came to the area and drilled a well, and pumps were put into it. Problem solved!

Yury Moskalenko and Vlad Roitberg

In most of the war zone there were no communications at all. There was an information blockade, you couldn’t talk to your families. I bought one battalion a special receiver and installed satellite Internet. They were so happy! They saw their parents, wives and children on skype, and read the news in the evening. Although this receiver was later destroyed in firing, and had to be replaced.”

Israelis in the hall asked: “Do you drive your own car to the frontline? That’s prohibited!”

Yes, that’s how we drive, we put our flak jackets on and off we go. There are some areas where you need to drive at maximum speed, because the “green men” shoot at you. They hit the wheel, but not the tire. So we got away. What can we do, the guys are waiting for us.”

After the live speeches there were several connections with skype from Kiev. Members of Ukrainian volunteer organizations appeared on screen. Young, frail, fearless, and at the same time shy girls talked about quite “unwomanly” topics: what the NATO first aid kit consists of it and how to make a cheap equivalent, how to sew up a flak jacket, how to get Celox from America illegally, because the Soviet red tourniquets should be thrown away, and the soldiers should at least be given modern Israeli ones, after which the extremities don’t have to be amputated…

No one argued about politics, no one blamed the “guilty”. These people simply help other people who are having a very hard time at present. “Until the army can cope by itself, we won’t abandon the guys,” said one of the speakers.

Israeli friends of Ukraine” continues to collect funds to buy warm items for soldiers on the frontline
Account number: 72988
Branch: 609
Hapoalim Bank
IBAN 600126090000000072988
Israeli Friends of Ukraine

For accounting purposes, please send to israfriends.fin@gmail.com the receipt with the transfer, and indicate what you are donating the funds for.

Paypal: v.a.feldman@gmail.com – buying food and medicine for orphanages and helping elderly people

Additional account for bandages:
Account number: 617661
Branch: 729
Hapoalim bank

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