– Yaroslav, tell us how the full-scale invasion began for you.
– My son was studying in Ivano-Frankivsk. We planned to go to him that day. We got ready early in the morning, left, and didn’t even know anything yet. But very soon we got a call from our friend, whose son also studied in Frankivsk, and she said that the war had started and that there were “hits” in Ivano-Frankivsk. We agreed that whoever got there first would take the children home. The road was difficult because the highway was completely blocked by cars. It seemed like the whole of Bukovel was standing in line for fuel. We drove the 15 km stretch for three hours, picked up our son in Nadvirna and returned home.
– Everything is so intertwined here. First of all, it was our team of the European Party of Ukraine, and secondly, the Rotary Club “Rakhiv – Center of Europe”. A few words about Rotary. Rotary International is one of the five most powerful charitable organizations in the world and has up to 1.5 million members. There are four Rotary clubs in Zakarpattia, and 66 throughout Ukraine. Our Rakhiv Rotary Club has existed since 2010, when we received a certificate of registration in the Rotary network from Zurich. Our club is not very big, but it is active. It includes members of our European team. These are my brother Vasyl Dumyn, president of the Rotary Club and a member of the district council, Halyna Krynytsia, manager of the Yasinya community, Ihor Sovtan, a member of the district council, and others.
– Yes, we have jointly organized a powerful humanitarian hub in Rakhiv. When the war started, our team joined forces to organize help in all the territorial communities of the district. My brother Vasyl and I work in Rakhiv community. Andrii Delyatynchuk, head of the Yasinya community, and Halyna Krynytsia work in their community. Pavlo Basaraba and Yuriy Sas and their team work in Bychkivska community. In addition to cooperation with Rotary, we received assistance from the Union of Ukrainians in Romania, twin cities and other international organizations. During the first weeks of the war, the Romanian border became our daily workplace, where we picked up humanitarian aid sent by our partners. So, every day we would come to the border and load the aid from trucks into small buses of 2-3 tons. And after about a month, we were able to pay for the road expenses for the trucks, and they came to us directly to Rakhiv.
– When the full-scale offensive took place, without waiting for any requests, our partners from Romania started raising funds for humanitarian aid to Ukraine on their own and sent it to us. We have always had very close relations, long before the war. We are very grateful to them.
– At first, we were helped by the fact that there were trains from Rakhiv to Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Odesa. We worked out the following algorithm: these trains brought refugees to Rakhiv, and we loaded them with humanitarian aid on their way back. “Ukrzaliznytsia” was very loyal at the beginning, and we could negotiate at the level of conductors or train managers. We simply drove the truck onto the railway tracks and loaded the humanitarian aid directly into the train to the cities of Ukraine with which we had railroad connections. Later, this opportunity disappeared, and it became more and more difficult to negotiate with the railroad. But you know, as one opportunity disappears, another one appears. Empty trucks from different regions started coming to us, we loaded them, and they delivered the goods all over Ukraine.
– The aid was provided both through our Rotary friends and personally to the IDPs, military units and individual servicemen, orphanages and social homes, medical institutions and military hospitals, and certain territorial communities that suffered from the russian aggression.
– I want to express my gratitude to you, Yaroslav, and your entire team once again, because Dymer, Kyiv region, is my small homeland. I grew up there, and my friends, my friends’ parents, my in-laws, and teachers live there. And I want our readers to know that your food products helped to literally feed the residents of the Dymer community. The situation there was very difficult. All roads to the community were cut off. The only way was the Kyiv Sea. Your help was sent across the Kyiv Sea by boat, despite the threat to the lives of sailors, because the villages were occupied. But thanks to the skill of those boatmen and with God’s help, all your cargo was delivered. And when I looked at the photos of how the food was distributed to the people, I cried. So I sincerely thank you from the entire Dymer community.
Do you still send humanitarian aid to different cities of Ukraine?
– Yes, every week. In general, we send everything from medicine, food, clothing, hygiene products to mattresses, pillows, and children’s toys. For example, the last request was for baby food for premature babies. About three pallets were sent through Rotary clubs across the country. But besides this, we are constantly sending food and hygiene products to the military, outside the schedule. Both to units on the front line and to those who are not in such hot spots.
– We helped with funds to purchase vehicles, binoculars and night vision devices. We are working closely with the Kraken special unit. In the first weeks, we helped the 126th Battalion of the 112th Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces, the 128th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade, the Mainland BTGr military unit, the 95th Separate Air Assault Brigade, and the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade named after the Knights of the Winter Campaign.
– Yes, on March 14, 2022, we opened a Volunteer Center near the railway and bus stations. It functioned until the new year, every day from 10 to 14 hours, except for weekends. After the new year, we had to remove the tent due to the opening of customs. In the first days of the war, this center served 150 to 300 people a day. People came to Rakhiv, and we gave them food, clothes, hygiene products, etc. Every Friday we organized master classes for children. The children drew pictures for our defenders, wrote letters, made origami, and we sent them to the front. We also organized net weaving, and by the way, displaced women took a very active part in that.
– At the peak, there were about 10 thousand in the district. Some people went abroad, but many stayed. Some lived with relatives, some rented housing, some lived in kindergartens provided by the local authorities. In the first months, 150-200 people lived in kindergartens.
– Yes, military hospitals in Kyiv, Odesa, and Kharkiv. We also helped orphanages. In particular, the Kharkiv orphanage, which moved to Vorokhta, and the Kramatorsk orphanage, which moved to Chernivtsi. We also helped our local one in Svalyava. In Yasinia, we have a social home where low-income people live, and now also IDPs. They were not ignored either. We have a long tradition: every year on New Year’s holidays we invite creative teams to this social home and organize leisure activities for them, give them gifts and goodies. Despite the war, we have not deviated from our traditions. In fact, throughout the year we organized concerts and children’s parties for both our own and IDPs. Even the real Santa Claus came to visit us before the New Year. He is a member of the Rotary Club, which has been working as Santa Claus for 50 years.
– Every time I heard the words of gratitude from children and adults who came to us from the east, from the frontline regions, I felt happy. The children’s eyes and emotions are the most valuable thing that happened this year.
– Yes, there are several families. These are our Rotary club members, we have never met them before. One family used to live in Luhansk, and after 2014 they moved to Kharkiv. And the other one is also from Kharkiv. They have been working with us in one friendly team until now.
– How do you see Ukraine’s victory?
– The cessation of hostilities, the return of all occupied territories, including Crimea.
– Where will we celebrate the victory?
– I am sure that we will celebrate the victory in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Crimea and in the Carpathians. So, I invite everyone to come to our Carpathians.
The interview was conducted by Yuliia Pidkurhanna