When the situation in Ukraine escalated in March 2014 and the Maidan riots in Kiev resulted in deaths and thousands injured, the European Samaritan Associations expressed solidarity with their Ukrainian partners by donating 30,000 euros to the Ukrainian Samaritan Association (SSU). Seven other European Samaritan Associations also provided funds to ensure ongoing medical care for injured Maidan activists. "Since signing the Treaty of Accession of the Crimea to the Russian Federation, Ukraine is once again faced with a crucial challenge. The European Samaritan Associations are demonstrating their solidarity with the Ukrainian population in this situation and are setting a sign for peace," stated ASB-Federal Chairman Knut Fleckenstein (MEP).
Financial support from Samaritan partner associations enabled the purchase of medical supplies so that the injured could be cared for. "Many of the activists who suffered bullet wounds, burns or cuts during the riots did not receive proper medical care. Therefore, the Ukrainian Samaritan Association (SSU) extended its service to continue to look after more than 100 seriously injured even weeks after the fighting, administering follow-up medical care," says Svetlana Levkovska, Managing Director of SSU in Kiev.
The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the military conflicts with separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine finally resulted in civil war breaking out in Ukraine in the summer of 2014. Since then, more than a million people have fled, predominately from Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Most of them escaped only with whatever they could fit into a bag. Julia (name changed) was amongst those who fled the ongoing bombardment. With her two children, she ran for 30 kilometres across fields and forests: "The streets were too unsafe, you never knew whether there'd be more shooting or whether you'd be apprehended by a patrol." Most of the internally displaced persons (IDP) were headed for Kharkiv and Kiev regions, where they were initially housed in sanatoriums, holiday homes or empty buildings.
The authorities found themselves overwhelmed by the onslaught of refugees, and the Ukrainian Ministry for Social Affairs asked ASB and the Ukrainian Samaritan Association (SSU) for help. With financial support from the German Federal Foreign Office, ASB started its winter aid programme in November because with the onset of winter, the humanitarian situation worsened. Many of the shelters were not winter-proof, there was a lack of warm clothing and insufficient supply of food. Urgent help was needed, most especially for mothers with children, the disabled, the old and the chronically ill.
Ukrainian Samaritans distributed some 200,000 food parcels amongst the refugees, each parcel containing pasta, rice, wheat, buckwheat groats, canned foods, tea, biscuits, oat flakes, toilet paper, washing powder, toothpaste and soap. Medicines sufficient for 2,500 treatments were purchased. Some 4,000 refugees received winter aid parcels containing warm winter coats, scarves, hats, gloves, socks and bedding. Another 100 people were resettled in winter-proof accommodation, thanks to Samaritan efforts.
SSU volunteers invested hundreds of hours of work in sorting and distributing the relief supplies. Some of the refugees also helped with packing and distributing the goods to other displaced persons. So, too, did Julia from Luhansk, who now shares a room with another family at the Kiev Samaritan's children's emergency shelter. "Here, my children can find some peace, there is water and food and we don't have to be afraid of bombs. I wanted to give something back and so I asked if I could volunteer."
The project will continue during 2015 and will be extended to other regions. For over 20 years, ASB has had a relationship with the Ukrainian Samaritans on many different levels, and this extensive partnership has resulted in numerous projects including setting up community services, youth encounters, fundraising and relief supply transportation as well as First Aid training.