Daily Acts of Charity in Ukraine

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, Ukrainians have been living the parable of the Good Samaritan daily, finding ordinary and extraordinary ways to help their fellow citizens.

Across Ukraine, people speak often of everyday heroes: utility employees, who work round-the-clock to restore power after missile attacks; ordinary people, who welcome the displaced from the eastern regions at train stations at points further west, and world-class athletes, who raise funds to support soldiers in their basic needs — many of them ordinary people themselves — on the front line.

In Lviv, a woman with Down syndrome, when evacuated from her third-floor apartment during an air raid, organized games for the children in a bomb shelter.

Near the front line in the Kherson Oblast, a man rides his bike past Russian checkpoints each day to deliver 20-30 meals to people with disabilities.

In parishes from Kolomyia to Zaporizhzhia, people prepared food for soldiers on the front line, collected money for the needs of the army and wove camouflage nets.

Even children joined the effort, said Father Oleksiy Zavada of Ascension of Our Lord Parish in the Archeparchy of Lviv, caroling around the feast of the Nativity and fundraising a few thousand hryvnia to support the soldiers.

Children of Ascension of Our Lord Parish in the Archeparchy of Lviv perform in traditional dress for Christmas. (photo: Ascension of Our Lord Parish)

“It was quite a big sum for children,” he said.

Olga Fedchenko, project manager of the Institute of Social Policy of the Region of Kharkiv, said early in the war, people did not know what to do. They had no stamina and were glad to receive even the smallest things.

When pharmacies were empty and people could not get their medication or supplies for their babies and infants, “people were incredibly supportive of each other.”

“People were willing to break one pill in half to share,” she said. “The tragedy united people.”

They shared their stores of food as well, she said. Fedchenko also shared tragic stories of volunteers who would take aid to children in a particular community, only to find out the next day that the child had been killed in the war.

Fedchenko was instrumental in forming “School of Courage.” Between March and May 2022, her group of volunteers provided more than 10,000 Kharkiv residents with medicine, personal care products and baby food.

Later, when the city’s pharmacy network resumed operations, volunteers helped provide suburban communities in the Kharkiv region with tools and appliances for the operation of public utilities, power generators and medical equipment. They received donations from various groups in Europe and the United States.

Caritas Chernihiv distribution of food and hygiene kits, hot lunches, warm clothes and bedding to people in Nizhyn, Chernihiv Oblast. (photo: Kateryna Hunko)

Vadim Kovalenko is CEO of the Aurora Hotel in central Kharkiv, less than 20 miles from the border with Russia. When the Russians invaded, he opened his hotel to staff and their families. Together, they cooked for the Ukrainian military and for employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Kovalenko is also a world-class athlete who had competed in triathlons, including Ironman races that involve a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. He wanted to do more to help. So, last summer, he completed a full Ironman race in the front-line zone on his own and broadcast it virtually. He finished this challenge in 9 hours and 14 minutes and raised nearly $15,000; the average monthly salary in Kharkiv does not exceed $270.

“I passed a lot of … posts with the Ukrainian military; we warned them in advance,” especially since it was a war zone. “And thank God, on that day, it was calm, without missile attacks.” “I had almost no opportunity to train and could not properly prepare for such a difficult distance, and it was also raining the entire bicycle stage with a strong wind,” he said. “But whenever it was cold and hard for me, I remembered why and for whom I did it … and fatigue passed, and thoughts to stop dissipated.”

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