This year has become extremely difficult for us. We faced the challenge of a lifetime. The war forced the team of our foundation to mobilize everything we knew and could do. Everything came together in one place – skills, contacts, experience, knowledge of languages, the ability to work without sleep, electricity, and the Internet. Our team has become a single organism, and this year we have done more than in several previous ones. We would like to thank everyone who supports our work: the Global Giving and Dobro.ua teams, our friends and partners City 24 and Easy Pay, Monobank and Ukrposhta, International Renaissance Foundation and Care International, all shelters and centers for displaced persons. And mainly you, Ukrainians! We are proud of each of you!

We did our best to prepare these stories about people and organizations we helped this year. There are 10 stories of resistance that impressed us the most.

Berezhny Bogdan

Head of the medical department of the Izyum Central City Hospital

Izyum, 5/4 Zalikarnyana street, Kharkiv Region

Photo: Bohdan Berezhny

On February 24, at 5 in the morning, I started preparing for a meeting on the development of our institution. At 5:30, my relatives called and told me that there had been explosions in Kharkiv. At 5:45 we were notified by the director of the Department of Health that the war had begun. But we continued working, providing medical aid to the military and the injured and complying with the Geneva Convention. On that day, we gathered all the staff for a meeting and expected a repetition of the situation in 2014, when soldiers who were injured during military operations were brought to us en masse.

Since March 5, everyone who was in the hospital was there around the clock. Personally, I was in the hospital for twenty-four-hour from February 24. We moved medical equipment to basements as well as refrigerators in which medicines were stored. We also traveled to Kharkiv and Slovyansk in order to stock up on medicines and blood. We discharged those patients we could, and the first war victims were brought on March 5.

Most of the time we were in the basements. On March 7, when the bridges were destroyed, there were 60 people in the hospital at the time. These were patients and those who were escaping from shelling. And it was on March 7 that the evacuation of workers by the forces of our territorial defense began. Those who could leave the city were evacuated, but there were those who could not due to family/personal circumstances or for some other reasons. On March 12, there were no more people who wanted to leave. We were evacuated by the territorial defense forces, took the documentation, and left the city of Izyum under fire.

I do not know about the work during the occupation, only fragmentary information that the Russians occupied the territory of the hospital around March 14. On April 1 they occupied the entire city, and sometime before the beginning of summer, medical workers almost did not go home, and most of the time provided medical assistance in basements. Then they began to go to the first floor. The “local government” appeared, so to speak, which formed its rules. People worked for food and used leftover medicines that were saved in the basement.

Most of the equipment was destroyed by the occupying forces, they vandalized the laboratory, littered it, and then we were forced to clean it all and use already broken equipment. Several employees of our hospital died during the shelling: an obstetrician-gynecologist, a nurse with her family, and several more of our employees were taken to the basement and tortured there for a week. Thank God, there were no life-threatening injuries. This is what we know, there are still people that we cannot locate.

On the night of March 6-7, a projectile hit the fourth floor of the hospital. There was a freight elevator, which fell from the fourth floor into the basement, and everyone in the basement was very scared. The fall of the elevator was extremely loud. We even thought that the building was collapsing.

On other days, there was constant shelling and the ground shook… First, a part of the operating rooms was destroyed, and then the whole. Minimal repair works are currently underway: heating, electricity, water supply and drainage, insulation of premises. Some work is planned to clear mined areas and, in the future, the possibility of reconstruction of destroyed premises.

The offensive operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was very fast. In September the Armed Forces entered the city. The Russians left their equipment, and we received a lot of lend-lease from them (thank them very much for that).

After the de-occupation, there was an expectation that we would now see the whole truth, and we knew that it was terrible… 500 corpses are only those who were buried. I remember very well how people came to the hospital and asked to take the body to the morgue, but we couldn’t, because the morgue was overcrowded… Then it was still frosty, and people left bodies outside or buried them near houses. There was fierce shelling in the city, and it was very dangerous to go to the cemetery. Therefore, I think that many more people are buried in various such “cemeteries”.


Maria Vronska

Director of the Gostomel animal shelter

Gostomel, Kyiv region, 213 Sviato-Pokrovska street

Photo: Gostomel animal shelter

On February 24, my family and I woke up because of explosions. The first rockets flew literally across the field next to our house. After the second strike at 4 in the morning, we realized that the war had begun and we needed to start preparing a shelter for difficult times as soon as possible.

We split up: some of us went to look for gas for the cars, and the others went to get cash. We were afraid that the banks would not be open and we would need money to be able to buy something for the animals. Then, with this cash, we just went to different supermarkets and bought absolutely all dry animal food. We really wanted to order meat, but we couldn’t because no one was working, and even if we had ordered it, it wouldn’t have been possible to deliver it, we realized that later.

We spent the whole day of February 24 in panic. We understood that we had a supply of food, but not for a long period. We did not know what was waiting for us, or how our workers would react, there was a lot of fear and misunderstanding…

In general, this day should have been an ordinary day at the shelter. On the eve of February 23, we built doghouses, rescued a husky and found him a family, and the very next morning we woke up because of the war…

Around February 25-26, a tank division was stationed around the perimeter of the shelter, there was a lot of military equipment. Russian soldiers entered the shelter, but did not cause any damage and said that they were not interested in the shelter, they were going to Kyiv, so we had nothing to fear and left. But they remained behind the walls of the shelter and thereby made us a target. A day later, the shelter came under shelling, and as a result, some animals were injured, it was terrible…

The first week we fed the animals with porridge. We used the rain and snow water to cook because there was no electricity in Gostomel anymore, which meant no water. That is because we have a pump that pumps water from a well. We couldn’t get out, everything was mined, and there were Russian soldiers everywhere, so at first, we fed animals like this, and later we used dry animal food. Then there was neither rain nor snow, and it was impossible to feed the animals with dry food, so we had a huge challenge to purchase a generator. At that time, they were already in short supply. Miraculously, we found a single generator somewhere in the Kyiv region and bought it.

The main questions for that period were: how to stock up on food and water, where to find a generator and gasoline, because there were no bridges anymore, and no one wanted to drive here… I was waiting every morning for a message about the green corridor, and finally, on March 14, we were able to deliver food and a generator on our own. No one helped us, everyone was afraid, and only thanks to our efforts and our responsibility, we were able to deliver what we needed to the shelter.

The animals experienced a lot of stress. And even today, when they hear an explosion or anti-aircraft fire they hide, they are afraid, they are scared, you can see it in their eyes.

Since the beginning of the occupation, many old dogs died from heart attacks/ There were animals that died from shelling wounds. We had a whole sector with enclosures, and it was completely destroyed. We repaired everything, replaced everything, and bought new doghouses. But unfortunately, many animals died. We lost almost 100 dogs, despite the fact that the workers fed the animals every day. None of the workers left the shelter. Everyone, even if they had such an opportunity during the green corridors, stayed. As the owner of the shelter, I am very, very grateful to all our workers who were there, that they did not leave the shelter and took care of the animals until the last.

All our phones were taken away by the Russian military. But we had only one phone left, and I was informed that the Russian occupiers were leaving Gostomel somewhere on March 29. And indeed, on the 30th, we found out that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had entered the city. It was a great joy when we saw in the news that Gostomel was released. Gostomel is Ukraine, a hero city!

On April 3, I went to the shelter with a huge humanitarian convoy and we immediately evacuated animals that were in critical condition. We also received many requests to save animals that people left during the evacuation. We rescued animals on the street and returned them to people.

The war made another big disaster with homeless animals. For many years, we as animal rights activists fought to reduce their number on the streets, but today it has increased tenfold. This happened because people did not sterilize their animals, and when evacuating, they simply left them outside, and the animals were breeding. Shelters in Kyiv currently rescue animals not only from the region and the city but also from hot spots. Actually, animals are coming to us from Kherson, this will be the second wave of evacuation.

After the occupation, our financial losses amounted to more than 3 million hryvnias. The shelter was badly damaged: we had no windows at all and the roof was destroyed. The building itself survived, but an entire sector with enclosures was destroyed. So needed to find these 3 million hryvnias. It was an unaffordable amount for us, but thanks to foreign grants, we were able to repair the shelter and continue our work.

I want to emphasize that even during the occupation we did not stop our work. Even at the time, while Russian troops were here in Gostomel, and they were creating their own order, Ukraine remained in the Gostomel shelter. Ukrainian orders, Ukrainian language, such a small Ukraine in our shelter. It is all thanks to the responsibility and big heart of our team. During the occupation, there were four people in the shelter, and thanks to them it survived.

Today there is a huge need for volunteers. Assistance in online pet guardianship (financial support for a specific animal or help in spreading information about adoption) is also needed. We definitely need animal food, lots and lots of dry pet food. We really need petrol, good quality petrol that won’t break the generator, because like everyone else, we don’t have a stable electricity supply. So have to turn the generator on to keep warm the rooms where puppies, kittens, and or sick animals live.

The most important thing is to help people find tailed friends. It is also important that volunteers or those who found an animal on the street do not immediately take it to a shelter, but try to find a family for it on their own, take a photo and post it on the Internet in adoption groups, on the websites of foundations, animal protection organizations, but not transfer the responsibility to volunteers or shelters, because it is already very difficult for them. It is necessary for people to learn responsibility. Then we will all be like one single team, and all this will be for the sake of saving innocent animals’ lives. That’s why we want more people to help animals, and we will advise and guide them in the right direction.


Lilia Rachkovska

Director of the “Misto Dobra” Charitable Foundation (Chernivtsi)

Chernivtsi, 10 Richna Street

Photo: Misto Dobra

Before the war, our center housed mothers with children who suffered from domestic violence, those who found themselves in difficult life circumstances, or former residents of orphanages. But on February 24, we realized that everything had changed. We understood that it was necessary to gather all our strength because now even more people need our help.

During the first week we almost lived at work. Every day, a couple of cars were sent with the vital necessary help to the zones of active military operations. And we also opened our doors to everyone who needed it. The decision to shelter displaced persons was made automatically, and we began to accommodate all mothers with children who needed it, as well as elderly people who suffered because of the war. During the war, about 700-800 people found shelter in our center.

At the moment, we have three buildings and the fourth is under construction. There is an administrator in each building, so everything is coordinated. The most important thing is that everyone helps each other.

Children from the Odesa Psychoneurological Children’s Home were evacuated to us. The staff of the Home, which fully meets the needs of the children, also came with them. In addition, we have everything arranged for their convenience: a ramp, special bathrooms and corridors.

We believe in the future of Ukraine, we know that our work is needed and saves many lives. We want to see smiling children, to see them happy.


Anna Kulichenko

Chief curator of the “Mother and Baby” shelter

Uzhhorod, 56 Station street

Photo: “Mother and Baby”

The morning of February 24 started for us, probably, like for all Ukrainians, with a shock… On the first day, each of us tried to understand what was happening and accept it. We had hope that tomorrow would come and everything would be as it was yesterday. Tomorrow has come, but the war has not ended. Then we realized that it was time to make a decision.

Since we are in the most remote region of Ukraine with a large number of borders with the European Union, people arrive here in a panic.

First, we went to the border with tea and sandwiches. There were a lot of people, they stood in the cold with their children in queues for 10-12 hours. Our help was needed. But honestly, a lot of Uzhhorod residents came to the border to help, so we went to see where our help would be most needed. So we got to the railway station. And there was chaos.

Thousands of confused people from the evacuation trains came out onto the platform and did not know what to do next… We stayed there. We started with one pot of borscht, and in a few days grew into a huge organization with several hundred volunteers, a large kitchen, an information center, volunteer drivers, lists of Uzhgorod residents who were ready to host people for the night.

We worked around the clock as one mechanism.

The main task for us, which had to be solved urgently, was the placement of mothers with small children, often infants. This is how “Mother and Baby” shelter was created. In the first month, we took in about 400 mothers (there were twice as many children) in the shelter. We fed them, gave them the opportunity to warm up, have a shower and sleep. We found more permanent places to live for all of them, both in Transcarpathian region and abroad.

Soon we increased the number of places in the shelter and equipped another floor. Currently, 9 families with children live here on a long-term basis.

Each family that was at “Mother and Baby” has its own story. And every story is impressive… For example, once volunteers from the station brought here a family from Mariupol: a mother, a little girl and a grandmother. Usually, people fleeing the war came to us with one bag containing the most necessary things. This family brought with them so many things in packages, knots, and bags that they took up the entire corridor in the shelter. We were very surprised and the grandmother explained that they had brought their house with them… A shell hit their house and they collected everything they could, even a burnt frying pan, and left Mariupol like that.

This war changed our country, changed people, values… We will never be the same again as we were before February 24. But we will definitely be stronger.


Victoria Fiognistova

Head of the shelter “Vse bude dobre” (Lviv)

Lviv, 5 Drohobych street

Photo: “Vse bude dobre”

This day (February 24) started at 5:30 in the morning when my sister woke me up and said the most terrible words: “Vika, the war has started.” I got up, we immediately turned on the news, and already there was information about a mass attack. We sat and did not understand what to do. I had planned a manicure, a visit to the orthodontist, work matters for that day. I was even going to go to Kyiv, but I decided to wait for a couple of days. I hoped that it was some kind of intimidation and that everything would end soon. Then I was in Bucha (Kyiv region). Literally in a few days we were completely occupied – Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel, Borodyanka, Makariv. We were just inside, there was no way for us to leave.

Before the full-scale invasion, I worked in television. In April, I planned to start working on the production of TV series. But everything has changed. On March 7, we left the occupation because we were running out of food, there was no electricity, no Internet, no communication. There was already reliable information that the Kadyriv people were very close to us, so we had about 20 minutes to gather and quickly leave. Better to be shot on the road than tortured, raped and killed. That is why my sister, her child and I left Bucha for Western Ukraine.

Shelter “Vse bure dobre” was opened on March 16 by Tvoya Opora Charitable Foundation and their partners, and I joined them on May 2. I can’t say that it was a difficult decision. It was a necessity. How else? We saw a large number of people arriving in Lviv who needed help. Who will help us but each other? It was a timely and right decision. During this time, almost 2,900 people passed through the shelter’s doors.

It’s said that we can’t say the phrase “everything will be fine”, but this is our faith, hope, and this is our future because it simply cannot be any other way. We will definitely win, and we will all be fine. And we are very much looking forward to the time when our shelter will no longer be needed. That we close its doors with relief, that there are no evacuation trains, that people are not forced to leave their homes.

Each person has their own special story, but the one that I remember most is the story of a woman who left Mariupol with her 2 sons in the summer. They lived with us for a month. She is a woman with strong will and courage. I am proud to know her. They spent the first months of the war in the basement, their house was destroyed. They drank rainwater from puddles, cooked on the street, lighting a fire in the intervals between shelling. Once, when they went to get humanitarian aid and were coming back, she turned around and her husband was gone. He was carrying heavy packages and lagged behind a little, and when they found him, he was already dead. But she did not give up and left Mariupol through Russian infiltration camps, through a bunch of roadblocks, they even tried to separate her from her children. Now they are safe in Germany. They are slowly settling down, getting used to their new life, her sons attend school, they are learning the language, but they really want to come back home. I recently talked to her and we agreed to drink coffee together in Ukrainian Mariupol.

We do not plan to stop, we will work, and continue to provide assistance. Charitable foundation “Tvoya Opora” has existed for 9 years and helps children with congenital heart defects, hospitals, orphanages, shelters for women with children. We support people in de-occupied territories with food and hygiene products.

Ukraine changed back in 2014. And after a full-scale invasion, it got stronger. Our people, volunteers, men and women who defend our country demonstrate that we cannot be defeated so easily.


Olga Eshchenko

Head of the financial department of the Kherson directorate of Ukrposhta

Kherson, 126 University street

Photo: Suspilne Media and Social Projects Center of Future

On the morning of February 24, our management decided not to go to work. I spent the whole day making calls and talking with colleagues. We tried to organize the work of the Directorate. The next day, we had a big meeting, where the leaders of other regions began to report that some areas of the city and village had already been captured. We knew the geography well and understood that we would be occupied very soon, but we made a decision that we would continue to work, deliver pensions to the elderly throughout the region, because we are the only institution that pays pensions, and we still had a reserve of cash. We just did our job and hoped for the best.

We tried to work until the last moment. Some drivers of mail cars were arrested at checkpoints by the Russians, but later released. We also had food in our warehouses, so once we realized that all the food was gone from the stores, we started delivering food. Thanks to the Foundation “Social Projects Center of Future” for helping us with this project.

I was impressed that even in the occupation, people paid for utilities and apartments. Everyone hoped for a quick release. We were really looking forward to it. We were under occupation for 9 long months, 4 of which we worked full-time as we could. But then a moment came when we could do nothing. The building of the post office was taken from us, as well as equipment and all postal cars. The money that was still left for pensions was stolen. For almost 4 months, together with pensions, we delivered medicines and goods necessary for the elderly throughout the region. The occupiers turned off all means of communication. We could no longer use mobile phones or the Internet. Communication with the outside world was practically lost.

When we realized that we no longer have the opportunity to work, we gathered a team to announce it. Representatives of the occupation administration, as well as people with assault rifles, came to this meeting and began to assure us to start working for the Russians. That is, to cooperate with the occupation administration. But we refused. It was scary, but we couldn’t make a deal with our conscience. We parted ways. It was a very emotional moment, a moment of unity, unity around the hope that we will be released and we can go back to work in our country.

Our building is not destroyed, but the windows are broken. The Russians took literally everything: office equipment, cars, household appliances… But after the liberation of our city, new equipment was quickly supplied to us from the central office, and we started working 4 days after the de-occupation.

We are doing everything we can. Artillery and rocket attacks are constantly taking place in the city, but we are working. There are many pensioners who need our attention.

We believe that our country will change a lot after the end of the war, and the people themselves will change, we will not allow the government to be corrupt. People will start valuing and paying more attention to patriotism, language and their native country.



(we deliberately do not indicate the last name)

Artilleryman, since April 2022 is in the war zone

At the time of the interview he was near Bakhmut

Photo: TSN

Before the war, I lived a peaceful life. At 4 a.m. on 02/24/22, everything changed. I heard explosions and went outside. I saw a neighbor and asked him: “What happened?”. He replied: “The war has begun.”

Later, while we were packing, fighter jets and helicopters flew overhead, and Russian tanks stopped 15 km from our house. I took my family to Western Ukraine and returned to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Now I serve in self-propelled artillery. Once we had a combat deployment. We were in the forest lane and waited for the order and coordinates of the target. We saw a beautiful panorama of the village. And then we notice that some kind of battle is starting in that village. Just hell. Explosions one after another, fire. We received an order with coordinates, and we were forced to leave the forest and stand in another place in order to fire at the specified coordinates (just in the direction of this village). After we fired, we were also fired upon, but we managed to leave with only minor injuries. Then we were going for a change. We had a point where we always stopped to rest. It is about 25 km from the front line. As we could see – two soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, very young guys come to us and ask: “Did you shoot in the direction of the village?” We answer: “Yes.” And they told us: “Thank you, guys. We were ambushed there. We were on the tank, and if it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be standing here. You saved our lives…” As we drove back to the base, I had tears on my face for the first time in years. I am very sorry that our young men are dying: 22-25 years old. They must live.

Speaking about the future, I understand that a tough path of reforms awaits us. After the war we will receive large investments and a chance to develop. We will put an end to the Soviet past forever. But I believe that there are also challenges. I am very concerned about how men and women who have served in the Armed Forces will be socialized and return to civilian life. This will be a serious challenge for all of us.


Volodymyr Topchyi

Director of the Mykolaiv Zoo

Mykolaiv, 1 Mykola Leontovych square

Photos: Mykolaiv Zoo

On February 25, the second day of the war, the zoo was closed to the public. And, accordingly, the funds we received from the entrance fee disappeared from the zoo. An extremely difficult situation has developed in the city with the financing of communal institutions. And then I appealed to the public, not only to the residents of the city and Ukraine, but also to good people around the world: “Help save the zoo and animals! Buy tickets online on our website to visit the zoo!”

Funds began to arrive in early March. In addition, the Mykolaiv Zoo opened charitable accounts in various currencies, people from all over the world bought tickets and transferred funds to these accounts.

I had a lot of television and radio broadcasts, French, Dutch, German, Czech, Polish newspapers wrote about the situation in the Mykolaiv Zoo… Thanks to this broad information campaign, we still have funds to buy fodder, pay utility bills and taxes.

The zoo has about 4,000 animals, we haven’t lost a single one due to military action, and since the beginning of spring, our animals have started breeding. On March 8, a male Far Eastern leopard was born, this is one of the 2 babies born in zoos in Europe this year. Many other animals were also born.

Since February, our zoo has started accepting pets from people who had to leave the city. We have housed more than 450 different pets: ponies, large and small parrots, rabbits and guinea pigs, aquarium fish, lizards and agams, raccoons, ferrets and boas.

The zoo is located practically in the center of the city, and therefore the rockets do not fly past us. During the aggression, 8 rockets fell on the territory of the zoo. These are hailstones, hurricanes, tornadoes, cluster missiles, prohibited by international conventions. Now we have a whole collection of them, and miraculously, neither the animals nor the employees were harmed.

Starting from the autumn of 2021, I understood that the enemy horde standing on the border with Ukraine could launch an attack. Since October, we started stocking up on feed: cereals, grains, dried fruits, dry milk mixes, frozen meat, fish… How it helped us in February!

Many suppliers who provided food for animals ended up in the occupied territory, and then the issue of shortage of animal feed became acute. I decided to appeal to citizens, volunteers, all those who are interested in helping the zoo. My appeal had a huge response. People brought various products: vegetables, fruits, eggs, chicken, honey, cereals, bread, meat, fish… Someone brought 10 apples, someone brought a whole car. Most often, people refused to name themselves, saying: “the main thing is to save the zoo and animals.”

The zoo fed the animals with such “auxiliary” feed almost until the end of May, until we managed to re-establish contact with suppliers and hold new tenders. Not a single day did the zoo animals lack food. Here it is necessary to say about the help organized by the Polish zoos of Lodz and Warsaw in collecting and sending sublimated fodder to the animals of the zoos of Ukraine.

We also faced the issue of animal evacuation. A question for which we were completely unprepared. By mid-March, the city was in a semicircle surrounded by the enemy. There was only one road left – towards Odessa. The route was overloaded with traffic. Frosts persisted until the end of March. We did not have enough transport cages, and we needed more than 400 of them. The transport itself was also needed. Transporting animals requires escort, animals need to be fed and cleaned. Also, the issue of where to take the animals, where to place them so that they do not die, was not resolved. This difficult logistical task seemed insoluble to us. To take out elephants, giraffes, hippos, a collection of primates, tropical birds, polar bears, tigers, lions, leopards… We decided to refuse evacuation, as a similar situation happened during the Second World War. We stayed with our animals, and they stayed with us.

The first month of the war was the most difficult. People were scared. It was necessary to organize the work of the zoo. Traffic stopped in the city and a curfew was announced. In order to start work early in the morning, many employees moved to live in the zoo. The main task was to preserve the staff, people who have experience in keeping animals, their feeding and breeding. This experience is not taught in any university, it can be obtained only by working in a zoo.

Since the beginning of the war, 7 employees of the zoo have joined the armed forces. Also, several employees left the city, but in general, this did not affect the work of the zoo and the care of animals.

From April 12 to May 13, the city was without water due to the destruction of the city’s water intake on the Dnipro river in the Kherson region. Drinking water in barrels was brought to the zoo from underground storages. It was especially difficult with animals that had pools (hippo, polar bears, etc.). Water was brought to us even from Odessa and Kropyvnytskyi. Then it was decided to create and build 2 underground wells in order to provide the zoo with water from the ground. But, as it turned out, this water is also not quite suitable for drinking and feeding animals with it. Mykolaiv Zoo, with the help of the city administration, installed two reverse osmosis water purification units.

But due to the fact that the electricity situation is difficult throughout the country, we need a powerful generator for the operation of the water purification system. This is currently a pressing issue.

Despite the war, life in the zoo did not stop. All autumn we were preparing for winter. The heating line has been prepared and handed over. An audit of the gas industry was carried out. After a month of downtime of the zoo’s water mains, when water was given, more than 15 underground surges were discovered, which were also removed. Hay in the amount of 150 tons for the winter and fodder brooms in the amount of 46 thousand pieces were harvested. Cereals, grain, and fodders from zoos in Europe were collected. Renovation works are ongoing in the zoo, the old fence in the enclosures for llamas, camels, and zebras has been completely replaced. And the most amazing thing is that we managed to complete the overhaul of the large elephant pool with the production of modern waterproofing. This pool has not been filled for more than 20 years. All performed works were carried out without the involvement of budget funds but at the expense of funds received from economic activity.

On June 11, the city allowed us to work on Saturdays and Sundays. How grateful our visitors were! The zoo remained the only place in the military, front-line city, where you could relax and forget about the war. But there are few visitors. Less than half of the residents remained in the city. However, the zoo works for them, this is one of our main purposes.


Maryna Pavlovska

Mother, a widow

Photo: Family Archive

On February 24, I woke up like all of Ukraine, due to explosions. The explosions were very close to our house, we heard them very clearly and loudly. I immediately understood that everything had started. I jumped out of bed and went to pack documents and an alarming suitcase. I did not believe that the invasion would begin, so my suitcase was not packed. To my husband’s question, “What are you doing there?” I answered – “I’m packing my suitcase”. In response I heard: “Maryna, go to bed”, and when I entered the room, we heard the next explosion.

Then I ran into my son’s room and started waking up Artem. I dressed him, and he asked “Mom, can I lie down dressed?”. Then we clearly understood that the war has begun.

My husband went to the gas station. On the eve of February 23, my dad came to visit us. He was operated and sent home, they told him to come to the hospital the next day. My husband returned with the car not refueled, said that we had to go, half a tank would be enough for the first time, and maybe the queues would not be so long. I asked my husband what do I need to pack for him, and in response I heard – “I’m not going anywhere, I’ll protect our home. Take the child and the father.” And the three of us went to central Ukraine.

Now we are at home. Artem and I live in our house. I came back in the middle of April, and I took the child at the beginning of May. When my husband joined the Armed Forces according to his desire and his studies were already coming to an end, I clearly understood that he needed to see his child at least once a week. Artem arrived at the beginning of May, and at the beginning of June, my husband went to the front line, where he died.

We lost dad… I can’t even say what it is… In general, we still don’t believe that he has gone. Artem always talks about him as if he was alive.

Recently, our dad had a birthday and Artem asked me, “Is that dad’s 38?”, – I say: “No, Artem, our dad is forever 37 .” He held back a tear, clenched his teeth, then looked at me and said: “You don’t understand. Dad has a birthday, and he is 38. He celebrated it there with God.”

Artem became older in an instant… One day he is just a child and the next day you hear from him the phrase of a completely adult person. When you sit, can’t find a way out and cry, he comes to you and says: “My dear, come to me”, – he sits down, leans your head on his shoulder, and feels sorry for you, as if he were a grown man.

Talking to him about what he wants Saint Nicholas to ask for, Artem listed some of his childhood wishes, and then he says: “I want to be no war. Mom, what should I ask for you?”. I just sat silently, did not cry, I was in the usual state of a person who was thinking, and Artem, without waiting for an answer, said: “Mom, I’m sorry, but we’ve already lost dad, and I don’t think that Saint Nicholas will be able to help us with his return”.


Tatiana Pylypchuk

Head of the PR department at dobro.ua

Kyiv, 2 Mechnikova street


What happened on February 24 was unexpected for me personally, as well as for most Ukrainians. I was one of those people who did not fully believe that in the 21st century such a war, destruction, missiles, and murders were possible.

On February 23, I came back from vacation with my husband. We managed to return to Ukraine. Why? Because I was very worried that if a full-scale war did start, I would be abroad, not on my native land. In the morning, our plane landed in Boryspil. My happiness knew no bounds. We also had a team strategy session that day. Meeting in the office, discussing plans for the future. The second day of the session was to be held on February 24. But at 5 o’clock in the morning, we received a message from our director Iryna Hutsal that the second day of the session will most likely be canceled until we understand what is happening.

Next, we had to decide what to do. Since my husband is a tourist and often goes on hikes, he packed an emergency suitcase with all the necessary survival tools in advance. We took these things, our cat, and went to his parents in the Kyiv region. Among the team, of course, there was the same panic as among all Ukrainians. But our director is an extraordinary person who knows how to control herself and emotions. She helped us all in those first difficult days.

And on the same day, February 24, at 3:00 p.m., when the whole country was waiting for Zelensky’s speech every 5 minutes, waiting for information about what is happening and what to do next, a new project – “Ukraine Above All” – appeared on dobro.ua. This is a project that was supposed to help close urgent requests for help to people who have suffered. We did not know what kind of people these would be. We did not know which Operators of Help would work, but we knew that if people who are either abroad or in Ukraine in safer places have the ability and desire to help – they should know that it can be done on dobro.ua. I remember the moment when my husband’s whole family and I were watching TV, and at that moment I received a message from Irina: “Girls, please edit the text of the project, see if everything is OK”. I took the laptop and thought that this is the time when we are not supposed to work, but the next thought was “What to do then? We have to work, we have to help.”

My February 24 was full of emotions, I remember every minute of it. And most importantly, the whole team came to the conclusion that the platform should do what we do best, which is to collect money and enable our Operators of Help to spend it on urgent requests.

Regarding the adaptation of work to new realities. The coronavirus helped us a lot here. No matter how strange it sounds. We managed to adapt to online work in 2020. And we are grateful for this quarantine. All our processes are now adapted so that almost every person can be replaced at any stage of the process, their work can be taken over by someone else. People who were in more or less safe places worked more than those who were in Kyiv or on the road. We picked up each other’s work.

For the first two or three weeks, we did the work entirely for Operators of Help. We wrote the texts of the projects, did the translations, put the projects on the site. For the first two weeks, we worked from 7 am to 11 pm at best because the requests kept coming in. I personally became a kind of humanitarian headquarters. There were many requests from people I know and strangers from abroad. There were questions about how to transfer aid, how to evacuate people, etc. Due to the fact that I have been in the social sphere for 9 years, I knew those people to whom you could turn. I was constantly looking for useful information. I had a bunch of screenshots and saved links, so when a request appeared – I just sent information. How to help with medicines, help to hospitals, as well as just individuals. I also helped organize the transfer of humanitarian aid, helped the volunteer staff with the purchase and transfer of tactical medicine.

About a month later, everything became more or less clear and stable: part of the team was in Khmelnytskyi region, part went abroad, part remained in Kyiv and, by the way, our director never left anywhere and remained in Kyiv from the first days. She was just that person who saw from the window how high-rise buildings were burning and how tanks were driving in people’s yards on Obolon… I don’t know how at that moment she was always in touch, always working, it became a strong example for us. In Telegram, she created a chat, where every morning there was a roll call, and everyone wrote how were the things, whether they were alive and well, what they heard. There was such mutual help and support, and it’s all thanks to our Ira.

On dobro.ua, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, more than 300 projects have already been implemented. And this, of course, is thanks to our foundations, because there are projects that we took on, but still the majority are projects that are implemented by our partners. Regarding the projects that I liked very much personally, these are those related to the purchase of medical equipment. I am very happy that the war changed the concept of systemic assistance. Previously, the preference was always towards targeted aid, to specific children or teenagers, and these were such empathetic projects for our benefactors. Now, on the contrary, it is systemic aid projects, it is humanitarian aid, it is the purchase of medical equipment, repair of houses. This is what we always dreamed of and tried to encourage benefactors. The second project that I always keep in my heart is the work of the Ukrainian Charitable Alliance Foundation in Kharkiv. This team did not leave anywhere from the first days and under constant bombardment, shelling was engaged in humanitarian aid – delivering food to abandoned elderly and people with disabilities. They cooked, bought food supplies, and then delivered them. In general, the war brought us and the partner foundations very close. We have already become such a big family. We first ask each other “How are you?”, then work issues are resolved, if you can call them that.

And one more project – “Prostheses for the unbreakable”. This is assistance to injured military personnel and civilians who have lost limbs. Before that, I went to the hospital, got to know the team, I saw the victims, I saw the desire of our doctors to save Ukrainians in Ukraine, I saw the inspiration to learn, not to be ashamed to say that we don’t know how to do it, but we want to… For me this is a revelation. I always knew that our doctors, like all Ukrainians, are the best people in the world, but this inspired me so much, and I think that not only me but also all Ukrainians, because as of now, in three months, we have collected 27 million UAH for the purchase of bionic prostheses.

The biggest challenges currently facing the charity sector in Ukraine are Ukrainians, that is, donors who are in Ukraine. Now is the time (I don’t know if I can say that at all) when we need to focus mostly on foreign donors. Why? Because it is difficult in Ukraine. Although we see how Ukrainians help, they will also contribute to the Armed Forces. This is simply an extraordinary feature of our people. But it seems to me that this may eventually become more difficult, because the economic state of the country dictates its own rules, and usually, as it happens, it is the charitable sector that suffers from any economic troubles in the country. Therefore, it is now necessary to learn how to fill out English-language grant applications, look for opportunities to communicate with foreigners, contact foreign donors, companies, organizations, and build new communities. At the same time, do not lose the attention of Ukrainian benefactors.

I think that the charitable sector will never be the same as it was because now helping is a habit of almost every Ukrainian. The war helped the charity sector build relationships with people and explained why only together we can do more, why only together we can make a difference, achieve a great goal. I hope that after the victory, people will remain at the same level of empathy for what is happening around them, that they will be still indifferent, that they will look for their opinion leaders, that they will celebrate their birthdays in a meaningful way, and that they will produce these values in their children, talk more about good deeds within the country, and also set an example abroad. Therefore, charity after the war, in my opinion, will be heard for a long time, because we will need to rebuild. I believe in the Marshall Plan, that foreign countries will help, but I don’t believe that they will be able to close all the issues. Therefore, the charitable sector should take on a great mission to help international grant organizations that want to help effectively, because we have proven that we can do it – rebuild hospitals, and museums, purchase, transfer, create and implement effective socially significant projects. So when we win it will be such a new stage of growth for the charity.



The article was prepared for publication by “Social Projects Center of Future” team.

Special thanks to Vladyslava Andrushchenko and Valeria Granovska.

Author and editor of the article: Valeria Granovska.


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