It’s been a year since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. We’ve worked with partners in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, and Poland, including work with Insight. Insight is a Ukrainian human rights public organization that brings together the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized groups. A year on from the invasion, we spoke with Natalia, a volunteer with the organization, helping to support people displaced and affected by the war.

“On 24 February, I woke up because of explosions. The first thing I did was call my parents… I told everyone that this could not happen and no war can happen to us.”

Before the war, Natalia traveled a lot, learning and discovering new places and things. She dreamed of learning English and was set to begin her course on 28 February. Four days before her studies started, Ukraine was invaded by Russia. With the sound of explosions waking her up, Natalia told us that “everything changed just in one second.”  

In the first days and weeks of the invasion, Natalia’s parents’ home was surrounded by trenches. She told us that her parents were ‘stubborn’ and refused to flee. In July, Natalia started volunteering daily, helping support women, children, and older people, and found that it helped to take her mind off all the conflict happening around her.

“[Volunteering] reassured me. I [am] distracted from all the events that are happening, and I realized that I was making some small contribution to our victory. When I am right here, in the hub with our volunteers, I forget about any problems. You feel at home here. We are one big family, and we support each other. But when you leave and you hear these explosions that happen here from time to time, you still get scared, some memories start to come back, and you realize that you are living in the war.” 

She has found that the team she volunteers with feels like a big family and told us how they all have their own stories and their own experiences. 

“I believe only in the best. You just look at the people who volunteer here. They each tell their own story of what they experienced during the period of war. You look at them and think: God, they’re really cool, they’re strong.” 

Support Those in Crisis Fleeing Ukraine

More than three million people have fled their homes to escape conflict and violence in Ukraine. Around 75% of the refugees are women and girls, who are most at risk to gender-based violence and exploitation, during conflicts and emergencies. ActionAid is working with local partners in Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine to ensure that the needs of all people escaping conflict in Ukraine are met and that they receive equal support and protection.

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