A year after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, we spoke to people volunteering and working for one of ActionAid’s partners, Insight. Insight is a Ukrainian human rights public organization, which brings together the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalised groups.
Liza (name changed to protect her identity) is a volunteer with the organisation, helping to support people displaced and affected by the war.
Liza told us how the morning of the invasion was ‘a nightmare’:
“When the war started, it was half past five and our son called us and said “Are you sleeping? Get up, the war has broken out...” I was like, son, my love, what kind of war? It can’t be true. And he said “Mom, turn the TV on, look up the news and see what’s going on.” We got up, turned on every device we had and saw that indeed, Ukraine was trembling, it was on fire. It was a nightmare.”
Before the war, Liza lived by the seaside, where it was warm and beautiful, attracting holidaymakers. When the war broke out her son was almost 400km north in Kremenchuk. For the first month and a half, he lived with his friend’s family.
“They treated him as their own child. I am eternally grateful to them. I will be grateful to them till the end of my days.”
Liza stayed in her home of twenty years for a while until she was forced to flee. She told us it was a strange and sad experience.
“We just got up and grabbed something to eat. There wasn’t any desire to clean or sweep anything, it was such a... I don’t know… such emptiness... We just didn’t feel anything, didn’t want anything. So, on the 15th of April, at 5 am in the morning, we left... I was crying all the time... I didn’t want to go and leave behind... twenty years...”
Liza has been helping in sending packages to families in need, and one really struck her. It was to a widow with three children, whose husband had died on the front line. It struck her because her husband is also serving, and she waits for his message every day to let her know he is ok.
“For half a day, I didn’t know what to put [in] there... it was the holiday season... Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, and we were sending gifts for children, so they could have some fun.”
Liza told us that watching and being part of the work being done, and all that has gone on as made her realise that “our nation is invincible. That we are indeed the people who are strong, brave, we’ll be able to survive everything.”