• About Zagoriy Foundation
  • Special Projects
  • Charity News
  • Great Story
  • Main Page
Main Page / Special Projects / The Country of Kindness. How volunteering changes Ukraine / Until victory: how volonteer centers work in Volyn province

Until victory: how volonteer centers work in Volyn province

Collage: Ziu Pobereznyuk. Photo credit: Roman Nevestenko-Dombrovsky (also courtesy of archives of organizations mentioned in the article)

With the beginning of the great war in Lutsk, volunteer centers began operating at full capacity. For most volunteers this came as no surprise, since they have been working in this field since 2014. They have been helping the military, forcibly displaced persons and medical facilities where soldiers undergo treatment. They say that volunteering is not easy. However, they are determined to keep working until victory. 

Away from war: how a shelter for forcibly displaced persons works in the city of Lutsk

In the afternoon a shelter for forcibly displaced persons, which is located on the premises of a sports and entertainment complex «Adrenalin City», is buzzing. Children are running between wooden pallets (repurposed as beds), jumping over pieces of clothing and suitcases. Scared by children’s raucous laughter, a cat jumps onto one of the beds.

Volunteers of VolWest Hub

An edlerly woman is walking between the rows holding a list in her hands. She needs to find 12 volunteers who would help others pack dried food rations for the military. Despite the noise, some people are soundly asleep in their beds. They have gotten used to living in such a crowded place. 

In a canteen located nearby lunch is being prepared. Cooks are fetching necessary products and ingredients. A few tables have been brought outside where forcibly displaced persons are peeling vegetables. After a while, a boy takes them inside, exchanging furtive glances with a friend of his who is standing behind the bar counter, helping the cooks. Frying pans begin sizzling and the smell of fried onions permeates the room.

With the beginning of the great war this shelter has become a temporary home for 7 thousand people. 

A place for everyone

In total, two shelters for forcibly displaced persons have been set up on the premises of the sports and entertainment center «Andrenalin City», which belongs to the investment company «VolWest Group». A cafe «Stop Kadr» and an art-hostel ‚Andrenalin‘ have completely been repurposed as shelters. 150-200 people live there on a daily basis, 40 of them are children. This is being supported by the volunteer hub «VolWest Hub». It all began after 9 people drove up to the art-hostel in swiss-cheesed cars. They had come from Irpin. «Adrenalin». The administration of the hostel decided to accommodate everyone for free. Eventually, because of war more people began arriving. It was clear that there was a need for a shelter.

The coordinator of the «VolWest Hub», Tetyana Repnytska, says that at first people were put up only in the art-hostel, but it soon ran out of rooms. Then additional beds were put into the restaurant ‚Stop Kadr», which at that time was not functioning. That is how additional 284 beds were set up for people who had lost their homes due to the war. 

The newly minted shelter was not meant for long-term stay. However, some people have been staying here for 4 months, since they lost their homes and there is no place they could return to. 

The coordinator of the «VolWest Hub», Tetyana Repnytska, says that at first people were put up only in the art-hostel, but it soon ran out of rooms. Then additional beds were put into the restaurant ‚Stop Kadr», which at that time was not functioning. That is how additional 284 beds were set up for people who had lost their homes due to the war. 

The newly minted shelter was not meant for long-term stay. However, some people have been staying here for 4 months, since they lost their homes and there is no place they could return to. 

«We accommodate people together with their pets. It is something that only we do. In the first days of the war people were coming to us with their dogs, cats, lizards, rats, parrots and turtles. We find a place for everyone», says Tetyana Repnytska. 

Forcibly displaced persons get free meals three times a day. Cooks and waiters, who worked at the cafe «Stop Kadr» previously, have decided to volunteer and help. They first used food products that they had previously bought for the needs of their businesses. After the war began they started applying for grants and raising funds.

Apart from this, displaced persons get legal and medical assistance. «VolWest Hub» also takes care of their morale. «Adrenalin City» organizes art-therapy sessions and various cultural events. Thanks to philanthropists from Sweden, «PlayStations» have been acquired for kids so that they can play games and relax. Everyone interested is involved in volunteer activities where there is a need for assembling first-aid kits, medical rucksacks or dry rations for the military. 

The geography of war

CEO of «VolWest Group» and manager of its projects, Petro Kulpach, that the geography of cities from where displaced persons are coming, gets ever wider due to war developments. 

«In March these were mostly people from Kyiv province, Chernihiv and Kharkiv. In April we got people from East Ukraine, Luhansk province. In May and June a new wave of people came from Luhansk province, whereas in July and August they were mostly coming from Donetsk. Most of them no longer have a home they could return to, so they are just living here», says Petro Kulpach. 

Stories of people who come here are different. Someone spent 9 days reaching Lutsk, some had to cross a forest at nighttime.

Three sisters

Three sisters from Severodonetsk are living in the shelter. Their houses were completely destroyed by bombs. 

«We call them «the best girls», since they have come to like the library of our museum. They visit all events and are quite pro-active», Tetyana says. 

A 62-year-old man has come from Kharkiv riding a bike with only a rucksack on his back. He failed to find a car that would have evacuated him, so he decided to evacuate with the means that remained available to him. 

Upon his arrival to the hostel, he had dinner and then burst into tears.

 «I am no longer afraid‘

Actually, the shelter is not the only volunteer project run by «VolWest Hub». 

Since February «Adrenalin City» has been doing tactical medicine training, in which 10 thousand people have already participated. For 67 days training sessions were held daily. Eventually, when the influx of people subsided, sessions were held twice a week. Aside from emergency aid, people can do combat training as there is a shooting range on the premises of the complex. There are also instructors who conduct training for the military in different locations.

Organizers have received plentiful feedback from the military. One of the soldiers said: «Thank you. I am no longer afraid, since I know the algorithm of what should be done». 

Having received lots of medications from international benefactors, the «VolWest Hub» team decided to assemble first aid kits for the military. They also sew bags for the kits, sometimes they are faced with the task of buying additional medications. The team also sews and assembles first aid kits for paramedics. As of now, they have sent 13 thousand of such kits and a thousand of tactical bags to the front.

As soon as volunteers came to understand that it was problematic to find high-quality tourniquets, they set about producing them on their own. The public organization «Center of medical innovations» help design their own tourniquets and find necessary materials. Afterwards, these tourniquets were sent to a certification center located in Kharkiv. The certificate of quality was then issued. Thus, 14 thousand tourniquets were dispatched to save the lives of soldiers and paramedics on the front.

Also, thanks to the «Center of medical innovations», the hub is producing frameless stretchers, splints and slings. With the help of the international chain of supermarkets SPAR, the Demydiv Cannery and philanthropists, the hub is producing dry rations for the military.  

Working until victory

In general, in terms of financing of the «VolWest Group», the organization has several sources of income. First, these are funds provided by its shareholders and employees. Volunteers also draw grant applications, while also cooperating with international charitable foundations that provide funds for the hub. Besides, the hub has launched open accounts to which donations can be made.

Petro Kulpach

Currently, «VolWest Hub» has announced a new fundraising campaign aimed at acquiring tactical medical kits and rucksacks, since there is a strong need for them. To raise about 28 thousand USD, the hub’s team has applied for the participation in the project «Spilnokosht» (the Ukrainian for «crowdfunding» – translator’s note). Charitable accounts are to be opened to collect donations.

«We will be working until victory. We do not slacken our pace, we do not stop», says Petro Kulpach.

From theater to war: how the volunteer center «Angar» works in Lutsk

Before February 24 the art space «HaRmYdEr Angar stage» had weekly been visited by modern art aficionados, theater-goers and musicians. «Angar» was a center of the city’s cultural life, where plays were staged, readings and concerts were held.

In the evenings, before each play, the sound of arriving cars was always audible, one could hear the clanking of heels, clinking of lighters and loud conversations of theater connoisseurs. «Angar-stage» was formed as an art space in June 2018. Back then a young Lutsk theater called «Harmyder» (the Ukrainian for «pandemonium» – translator’s note) won 10 thousand USD at the competition «Lutsk Challenge Awards». The money was spent on refitting an old hangar into an art space. Theater and concert life had abounded here well before the great war broke out.

After the first explosions of February 24 «Angar stage» has turned from a cultural place into a volunteer center of Volyn province. The stage and decorations were removed. Boxes with ammunition, bulletproof vests, helmets, medications and food products for the military were brought in instead. Now, early in the morning military vehicles come to the place, and instead of enticing clanking of heels one hears military men plod along. 

Head of the volunteer center «Angar», and ex-actress at «Harmyder», Olha Valyanik, says that on the morning of February 24 she called head of the «Harmyder» theater, Ruslana Porytska, and offered her to volunteer in the art space. She heard words of approval on the other end of the line. 

We respect all members of the military

The first days of «Angar» in its new capacity were pure madness: nobody knew what would come next. Everyone was running on adrenaline, not sleeping a wink and having almost no time to grab a bite. Volunteering became easier after a clear structure of activities was worked out. 

That’s how an international department was founded, as well as a department for road vehicles, medicine, tactical kits and hygiene products. There is also a department for food products, communications and for loading and packing stuff. The theater was quickly repurposed as a volunteer center. 

«Angar» is helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine by receiving requests from military bases in which the latter inform volunteers about their needs. Most requests imply significant expenses, so volunteers check which request they can comply with and for which they have to announce a fundraising campaign. Volunteers help with ammunition, cars, means of communication, hygiene products, food products, uniform and footwear. 

Olha Valyanik

«First of all, we take care of the requests sent by soldiers fighting at the very front. And then we look into how we can help those in the back. However, if, for example, someone from the Lutsk territorial defense should ask us for a sleeping bag, we will provide them with one. We respect all members of the military», —says Olha. 

She also adds that requests have changed since the beginning of the war. In the first stage of the war everyone was looking for bulletproof vests, helmets and military uniforms. Now, there is an increasing need for thermographic cameras, drones and cars. Requests for «Starlink» terminals are also quite common. 

Apart from the military, the center is often contacted by civilians, mainly people living in the territories where hostilities are taking place, or forcibly displaced persons. If volunteers are able to help, they do so. The center cooperates with volunteers delivering humanitarian cargoes.  

The geography of help delivered to people is quite extensive. Hostilities zones are covered as well as territories affected by the war. Sometimes a package is sent to someone who will never receive it, for they have fallen in battle. 

Even children raise funds for «Angar»

«Angar» organizes different fundraising initiatives to buy cars, tourniquets, ammunition and drones.  

Aside from this, volunteers constantly hold charitable events. One of them is Angar Music Stage. This is an improvised stage located in one of the city’s central streets where Ukrainian musicians play and sing songs. People throw money into a charitable box meant for the army. After six months of the war many bands and musicians have performed on the Angar Music Stage, including «Tartak», «Fiolet», «Ot Vista», Serhii Asafatov and many others. Local DJs have also joined the initiative, performing in the park and raising money.

The center also collaborates with international charitable organizations and benefactors. A cultural center from the polish city of Krasnystaw is helping «Angar». A volunteer from New York, Sally Bear, is raising money all by herself on social networks, buying and sending aid to Lutsk. She has also been to Volyn province to learn more about the activities of «Angar». 

Locals often join the center’s fundraising campaigns. One elderly man has donated his entire pension for military needs. Kids bring money they have received on their birthdays. They sell sweet cherries, pyrizhky (baked or fried yeast-leavened boat-shaped buns with a variety of fillings – translator’s note), paintings and beadwork. A 13-year-old boy named Andriy cracked nuts which were then sent to soldiers on the front. 

Also, volunteers mounted a campaign «Send Lesya to the front» (the 200-UAH bill features Lesya Ukrainka, the great Ukrainian poet, on the obverse, hence the name of the campaign – translator’s note), during which they were calling all those who were not indifferent to the needs of the army to donate 200 UAH to the foundation.

«Angar» is also cooperating with volunteers from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mykolayiv, Zhytomyr and other cities. Volunteer movement has become strong, united and well-organized. 

The center works daily and without days off. Although volunteers do get tired, they don’t stop working. Olha Valyanik says that in order to avoid burn-out and fatigue, she tells the volunteers to take a rest whenever they have to, since it is important to find strength to carry on to keep the center afloat. She says her team will keep working until victory, since there is no other option. 

«Health is a top priority»: how volunteers from Lutsk help the wounded all over Ukraine 

The doors of the charitable foundation «Volyn SOS» are wide open. A truck with humanitarian aid should come any minute. Its cargo has to be unloaded and brought inside. A few men are waiting outside who have come to do the job. Head of the foundation, Dmytro Vasylenko, is standing nearby, talking on the phone. 

Dmytro Vasylenko

Inside, Natalya Aryvanyuk is sitting at the table with a heap of papers on it. Natalya is a volunteer, though she is jokingly calling herself «an ambassador». The floor is littered with boxes with medications, since the foundation’s main focus is placed on helping Ukrainian healthcare facilities where wounded Ukrainian soldiers are treated. 

Co-founders of «Volyn SOS» are volunteers from Lutsk who have been working in this sphere since 2015. In recent years the foundation has been acquiring necessary equipment for healthcare facilities, setting up canteens and restrooms, performing repair works in operation rooms and wards.

«It’s easier to be working now because we are not beginning from scratch. We have made a name for ourselves, having also established a network of contacts», says Dmytro Vasylenko.

Natalya Aryvanyuk

Natalya Aryvanyuk is a private notary. She began volunteering in 2014 when she crossed the threshold of one of local military hospitals. First wounded soldiers were admitted there. 

«At that time I didn’t know how to conduct myself and what to talk with them about. But I really wanted to support wounded soldiers. Which is why I ordered some food, chopped cutlets, potatoes and salad. I brought all this to the hospital. Boys were exhilarated. It was not that much about food, they were rather happy about me taking care of them», says Natalya. 

With time her cooperation with healthcare facilities changed. Being a volunteer, Natalya was helping set up canteens, look for funds to buy medical equipment, medications and perform repair works in operation rooms and wards. 

The great war found Natalya at home. After the explosions of February 24 she immediately understood that she had to come back to active volunteering. In the morning she started getting lots of phone calls from people asking for help.

At first, Natalya was volunteering on her own. Eventually, she decided to join «Volyn SOS». She has been friends with Dmytro Vasylenko since their childhood. They grew up together living on the same street. After the war began they met up and decided to work together. 

High-quality medicine is expensive

The management of «Volyn SOS» has established cooperation both with healthcare facilities and military bases. Its volunteers are processing requests coming from hospitals.

If they are not capable of complying with the request on their own, they set about searching for colleagues who can find and buy all necessary things. «Volyn SOS» is working together with ‚Anhar‘, the charitable foundation «The Volyn Fellowship of Saint Volodymyr the Great‘, the international volunteer logistics center «Marlog» and other charitable foundations. «Volyn SOS» has set up open accounts used for collecting donations. It is also cooperating with the American foundation «United Help Ukraine», which is helping a lot.

Normally, money is raised for medical equipment. Two months ago there was a great need for external fixation devices and plates that are placed on the bones of wounded soldiers. To raise the needed sum, the foundation applied for an international grant. 

«Our soldiers are young boys and we would like to provide them with as high-quality equipment as possible, which is quite expensive», says Natalya Aryvanyuk.

Currently, the foundation is looking for ways to provide healthcare facilities, which are treating the military, with VAC devices. These are devices for vacuum-assisted closure of wounds. One such device costs 1,250 USD. A total of 20 such devices are to be acquired. 

The foundation is also planning to buy laparoscopic stands, since healthcare facilities are partly provided with them. These devices help surgeons perform laparoscopic surgeries (on abdominal cavity and pelvis). 

«Previously, the wounded would suffer from the long process of healing wounds. It sometimes came to soldiers developing an infection that would lead to osteomyelitis. VAC devices help distract all the pus leaving the wound dry, which means that it would heal faster. Recovery and rehabilitation take place much quicker», says Natalya.

The foundation also buys thermostat apparel, footwear and uniforms for the military.

«The scope of our work is not that big. We don’t send thousands of packages to the front. However, we do have the opportunity to meet the needs of those who ask us for help», she says. 

Sometimes the foundation provides targeted assistance for people who continue living in the settlements located close to the front line by sending them food products, hygiene products and medications. 

Natalya says that it is much easier to volunteer in 2022 compared to 2014. Outsiders are often the first to call the foundation offering their help. Volunteers are no longer alone. 

Things to do in Lutsk

Coffee shop «Kava Avenue»

Vynnychenko street, 25

A cozy coffee shop in the city center, where you can drink excellent coffee and savor various desserts. Since the beginning of the great war the coffee shop has actively been helping volunteers. Its owner, Andriy Khomenko, weekly donates tens of kilograms of coffee as well as money for the volunteer center «Angar»

UNO Specialty Coffee

Slovatskyi street, 9

This coffee shop is located in the center of Lutsk. Apart from coffee and delectable desserts, this shop can also boast an extensive menu of most different dishes. 

UNO joins volunteers by raising funds for the army. Quite often one can see a box placed in the shop where people leave money for volunteers.

Coffee shop and confectionery, «Stare Misto» (the Ukrainian for «Old City» – translator’s note).

Drahomanov street, 11

This coffee shop is located in the old center of the city. It is famous for the pastry of its own production. This is an inclusive shop which employs people with Down syndrome. Since February 24 it has been hosting a volunteer center where forcibly displaced persons receive help. 

Korsakiv Museum of Ukrainian Modern Art

Karbyshev street, 1

This museum frequently holds exhibitions and different cultural events. During the war this so-called ‚Art Battalion‘ has been formed, since according to the founders of the museum, art is also supposed to heal and cure. The museum invites artists, painters and writers on a daily basis. 

Coffee shop «Sharlotka» (the Ukrainian for «apple pie» – translator’s note)

Bohdan Khmelnytskyi street, 8

This coffee shop, which is located in the old center, has actually been joining volunteer activities. ‚Sharlotka‘ sponsors a volunteer project called «MediaKava», within the framework of which people may compete for the chance to drink coffee with famous media figures during an internet auction. Call proceeds from the auction are donated to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Coffee shop «Legend»

Lesya Ukrainka street, 28

This legendary coffee shop offers tasty pizza and lots of other dishes. The shop has never shunned volunteer activities in the city. It offers free lunches for forcibly displaced persons.

Якщо ви знайшли помилку в тексті, виділіть цей фрагмент і натисніть Ctrl + Enter