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News > Rugbeian Society News > ORs stand with Ukraine

ORs stand with Ukraine

It’s Christmas Day, the oven won’t switch on, the power has been cut off. You go outside for a Christmas walk, cut short by an air raid. You must FaceTime your family, they are not with you. You layer up inside, there is no heating and it is -5 degrees outside. You are one of the lucky ones, your home has not been destroyed by Russian missiles.

This is the reality the Ukrainian people will have to endure for yet another winter. Yet through it all, the brave people of Ukraine remain unbroken. Impromptu street performances, handmade presents from the locals and lively bars and restaurants each stand as acts of defiance to Russia’s attempt to dampen the Ukrainian spirit.

I came to Ukraine with a great deal of apprehension. I had just quit my job to spend from October to Christmas in an active warzone. My feelings were not put at ease on my 20 hour bus ride in from Warsaw either. As we drove through the night further into Ukraine, edging towards the Belarusian border, I began dozing off. It was at this point I noticed, at the corner of my eye, some strange flashes piercing through the darkness in the distance, first appearing from the ground and then lighting up an area of cloud above. I thought to myself, it couldn't be a plane (or at least I hoped) and it was too precise to be lightning. I turned to the man next to me, he spoke no English but I imagine my face portrayed a sort of worried confusion. He then communicated to me, through hand gestures, that what I was seeing was the Ukrainian air defence in action…maybe he thought this would be comforting, I’m not sure. Needless to say, I remained wide awake for the remainder of my journey.

At last, I arrived at Kyiv central bus station…well, what was left of it. Feelings of apprehension growing. I arrived at my hostel, and no sooner had I put my bags down, my first air raid. The wailing sound harking back to a different era, it is a sound I have only ever heard in movies set in WWII London. To hear it in real life, knowing what it meant, was both surreal and further unsettling.

The next day, it was time to get to work with Dobrobat. I met up with fellow volunteers to hop on buses to Irpin and Bucha to start rebuilding efforts on some of the houses that have been destroyed by Russia in these areas. Each day, volunteers would gather to visit one of the sites Dobrobat would be working on (they often juggle several projects at once to maximise their impact), past the bridges that were destroyed to prevent the Russian advance and several military checkpoints. On arrival, we met with the owners, planned our day, and began work. At lunchtime, we were then spoilt with a hearty lunch prepared by the owners consisting of traditional Ukrainian meals (Borscht, Holobutsi and Syrnky). The kindness of the Ukrainian people, many of whom have lost everything, never ceases to amaze me.

Within just a few days of being in Kyiv, I was made aware of a rebuilding organisation in Chernihiv in need of volunteers, Phoenix UA. I had always gone to Ukraine with the idea that I would go wherever my help was most needed, and so later that day I reached out to Valera (the coordinator), and booked my train to Chernihiv. 

Chernihiv bore the brunt of the brutality of Russia’s Belarusian assault and the siege of Chernihiv left it referred to as ’the city of death’, and yet, this is a place that feels the world has turned its back on in recent times. Foreign volunteers have left, and it is down to small teams of locals to help where they can, and I saw first hand that they spend every waking hour doing this. Phoenix UA, like Dobrobat, carries out essential work for Chernihiv. However, their progress is often limited by lack of resources such as building materials and tools.

Both Dobrobat and Phoenix UA are undertaking critical work in the regions they operate and are heroic in their endeavours, yet seemingly in a state of neglect from foreign volunteers and aid. Whilst I have been out here and after  conversations with the organisation leaders, Volodymyr and Valera, it has struck me how palpable it is becoming that much of the world is losing interest in coming to help a country which is currently fighting a war on Europe's behalf. These organisations are testaments to the human capacity for good, but require materials and tools to operate. I also cannot stress enough how much impact what we might consider a ‘small contribution’ makes here. I have found that often, the contribution itself is one thing, and hugely appreciated, but what it represents (Ukraine not being alone), counts for just as much, if not more.

I will return home to spend Christmas with family, however, until then I will stay in Ukraine for as long as possible. Before I leave, I wanted to see if there is some way we in Britain can continue to support the Ukrainian people through the winter…and what better way to do this than reaching out to the brilliant OR community! 

How to Help:
It can sometimes feel difficult to know how exactly one can help to support Ukraine. A donation seems right, but to who? How will the donation be used? Will my donation really make a difference? 

To answer these questions for you, I asked the organisation leaders how the OR community can help.

“Volodymyr, in what ways do you believe the Old Rugbeian community can actively collaborate and support Ukraine, specifically in assisting Dobrobat?”

The Old Rugbeian community can assist Dobrobat by financial support for the purchase of construction materials. 

In addition, Dobrobat volunteers need building materials, instruments/equipment, transportation and fuel, power generators. Furthermore,anyone can join our volunteer team and directly participate in the reconstruction of any building or social infrastructure facility in Ukraine. 

For more information on supporting these projects please email Hamish Maddocks on 

Hamish Maddocks (Sh 13-18)

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