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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Diana Urikh

    “We work 24/7 and are always looking for new ways”. A story of a disabled girl who helps people to leave the occupation

    Ukrainians abroad

    АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Mariia Orletska

    7 September 2022

    Diana Urikh works as a coordinator in the organisation Helping to Leave and helps people to evacuate from occupied territories of Ukraine. She has been living in Barcelona for 6 years and 4 of them are fighting with a serious disease. However, she makes a valuable contribution in helping Ukrainians who remain in occupation. Diana has shared her story of living abroad, disease and specifics of the work with the project “Monologues of the War”.

    I was born in Saint Petersburg and lived 1 year in Cairo. I used to be a hyperactive girl who was engaged in surfing and fond of travelling around the world. My family comes from Volga Germans. My mother is an English teacher, father is a business analyst and my two brothers are programmers who also live abroad, particularly in London and UAE. Eventually, I moved abroad in 2016 and started doing scientific work in a laboratory. That was my choice as I felt I was cut out for it.

    After two years I was diagnosed with a serious disease that left me suffering constant neuropathic pain. Out of the blue for my family and me, I was diagnosed with a serious disease after two years of living abroad in 2018. Though, a disease never comes when you expect it. An artery in my brain compressed the vestibular apparatus and my condition became very bad. I could not walk, sit and lost my balance.

    Approximately after a year, I was given brain surgery. Not long after that I ran up against some complications and I needed several more surgeries. Due to them I still suffer from neuropathic pain. I can walk, but it is impossible for me to normally read or write because of problems with my eyes.

    Postoperative period

    After the surgery

    I have a disability and I no longer have an opportunity to do science, but I could be useful to Ukraine and its people which need help. Being a coordinator fits me well as everything you have to do you can with the help of a phone.

    On the day of beginning of the war, there was no effect from the procedures: the pain did not stop

    On the 24th of February, I was in a hospital on a planned pain-relieving procedure that’s when I found out about the beginning of the war. I regularly undergo such procedures as I suffer constant chronic neuropathic pain. Usually the effect lasts three weeks, but on the 24th I felt no difference. I could not stop crying.

    Ukrainian flag in Barcelona

    Demonstration in Barcelona

    Then I tried to help refugees in Barcelona by hosting them at my place and giving donations. At the beginning of April, I learned about the Helping to Leave project from a post on Facebook  and joined the ranks of volunteers. First I worked as a chat-bot operator, then I became the curator of the Kharkiv special group, and now I coordinate evacuation from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

    Every week, our team evacuates about a thousand people from the occupation

    People who remain in occupation or their relatives with whom they lost contact use our telegram bot and receive help from a team of volunteers who take charge in every case. We plan a relatively safe route through occupied territories, find reliable carriers ( we have a special department which see if those people can be trusted and have valid documents), tell passengers where they should sit in cars, find places for them to stay during long night evacuation trips, help to draw up documents, also with the payments for leaving. Last but not least, we help with finding proper housing on territories controlled by Ukraine and further moving abroad into the EU.

    We never let people be evacuated to the EU through russia as it is extremely dangerous and has a lot of risks. We weekly evacuate around 1 thousand people only from  Kharkiv and Luhansk regions and also from occupied territories of Donetsk, Mariupol, Kherson and the Zaporizhzhia region. All these people have difficulty evacuating on their own as Russian occupiers prevent them from doing it, so you can’t seek carriers openly or group together. Our team consists of members from all around the world and daily work to find new routes, carriers and partnerships.

    A team that help people to evacuate

    Our team

    Evacuation of 1 person from the Kherson region approximately costs 2 thousand UAH, its cost also depends on location of the settlement, from Kherson – 5,000 hryvnias, from Mariupol – 4,000 hryvnias. The most challenging are cases when you have to assist the elderly, the bedridden and those who can’t move normally so every such evacuation is a wonder. Every time our team wrings their hands anxiously.

    A dream after the victory

    I have an indelible memory of one story. It is about an old man who had 9 strokes and was paralysed together with his wife who decided to evacuate through Pechenizka dam. For a long time we were looking for ways to hand them stretchers. Eventually, everything came out in the wash and they went to Poland on a special medical double decker bus. We were sent a picture of him enjoying himself.

    Read also: “I hope they liberate Donbas because if it’s not Ukraine, I’m not coming back”

    After our victory I am willing to see with my own eyes Pechenizka dam that was a way to the freedom of more than 15 thousand people. I am eagerly looking forward to this day.

    Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
    Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.

    Why is it important to share this story?
    If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.

    АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Mariia Orletska

    Ukrainians abroad

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