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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

A story of 2 volunteers in Ukraine

10 months into the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the lives of millions of people in Ukraine have been turned upside down.

Many remain stranded in areas where the fighting continues, while around 6.5 million people are displaced within the country.

2 young brothers, Hennati and Ivan, are among them. EU humanitarian funding helped them when everything was uncertain. Now, they are back on their feet and lend a helping hand to others.

Group photo
Hennati and Ivan, who have gone through many challenges, received support thanks to EU funding. They now help others in need, hand in hand with our partners on the ground.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Begum Iman)

We met 27-year-old Hennati and his 26-year-old brother Ivan at a train station in Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine. Here, trains evacuating civilians from the most war-affected parts of the country arrive daily.

Hennati and Ivan grew up in an orphanage with 2 more brothers. They are from Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk oblast of Ukraine, which Russia currently occupies.

Their youngest brother was adopted in 2014 and currently lives in the United States. Their oldest brother died in 2018 during his military service in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict with Russian-backed separatists started in 2014.

Uprooted by the war yet eager to help

Hennati and Ivan came to Lviv in May 2022, together with other civilians evacuated from the region due to heavy fighting. When they first arrived, they did not have the necessary documents to register as internally displaced persons.

Like Hennati and Ivan, many people affected by the war ended up far from their homes and loved ones. In addition, they face challenges due to the lack of resources and information.

With EU humanitarian funding, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has established mobile legal teams to support people who had to leave everything behind.

Group of people standing in a train station with a helper providing legal assitance.
EU-funded teams of lawyers visit train stations or collective centres hosting displaced Ukrainians to help them with legal issues.
© Danish Refugee Council, 2022

These mobile teams of lawyers regularly go to the train stations where evacuees first arrive or to the collective centres where many displaced people live. The lawyers helped Hennati and Ivan get their documents in order and supported them at every step during the application process.

Welcoming people who left everything behind

The brothers started to come to train stations every day to help other evacuees. With a team of volunteers, they help people who have special needs and bring newly arrived displaced persons to the counter where they can apply for financial support for evacuees.

Photo of a man's head, with in the foreground the back of the head of a legal helper.
Hennati supports displaced people arriving in western Ukraine with basic yet critical information.
© Danish Refugee Council, 2022

“One of the most pressing issues is reinstating the documents,” explains Hennati. “Another burning issue is the accommodation. Most of them don’t know where they should go next or where they can stay. They are as confused as we were when we first arrived.”

The volunteers explain what assistance and information different organisations and authorities offer or what kind of transportation is available if they would like to travel further.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the efforts of volunteers like the 2 brothers have been at the centre of the humanitarian response in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

“As long as the war continues, we will continue coming here to help others,” says Hennati.

2 volunteers seen from the back in front of a poster with information
The volunteer-driven local response efforts are a symbol of solidarity and compassion. The European Union supports the work on the ground through humanitarian funding to NGOs, UN agencies and international organisations.
© Danish Refugee Council, 2022

Story by Begum Iman, Information and Communications Assistant for the European Neighbourhood, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Publication date: 05/12/2022