REPORTING. “Once safe, they say thank you”: in eastern Ukraine, volunteers help evacuate civilians

Faced with Russian strikes in eastern Ukraine, the government ordered the evacuation of hundreds of children living in villages near the border. These evacuations in Kharkiv Oblast have already started, sometimes managed by volunteers.



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Tanya, a 9-year-old Ukrainian girl who is evacuated from her village located in the Kharkiv Oblast, April 2024. (AGATHE MAHUET / RADIO FRANCE)

The rear bumper is held with tape. We find Dmytro and Maksym at dawn, northeast of Kharkiv with their small car, already repaired three times. These volunteers will come to the aid of a family who wishes to evacuate, while Russian strikes continue in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has ordered the evacuation of hundreds of children and their families will be sheltered in the coming days.

They warn Rosa by phone that they are on their way to pick her and her two children up. They are in one of these villages, within range of Russian bombings, near Velyky Burluk, about thirty kilometers from the border with Russia. Dmytro explains that this woman called the emergency number to seek shelter.

“I hope we come back home”

After two hours of travel, on roads full of holes and dust, the village comes into view. Rosa is ready with her disabled little boy, Nikita, and her little sister, Tanya. “It’s too scary here and I’m alone with the kidsexplains Rosa. Lately, it’s been hitting hard. We hear the ‘boom’ every day. It makes the walls of the house shake.”

A respite that morning, the rumble of bombing is distant. Rosa only takes a few bags. “I don’t really want to leave.she confides. I hope it ends soon, and we come back home.” Tanya, aged 9, holds her big stuffed cat very tightly. She says she doesn’t care if she leaves because she doesn’t have any friends here anymore. Half the village has already left.

Volunteer Dmytro and Tanya, a 9-year-old Ukrainian evacuee, in the Kharkiv oblast, April 2024. (AGATHE MAHUET / RADIO FRANCE)

The family will stay in Kharkiv, temporarily taken by the two volunteers: “What’s most motivating is when you leave these dangerous areas. You see the stress in people’s eyes. And once you’re safe, they say thank you!”explains Dmytro, who has no children. “But if I have one, one dayhe explains, I want to be able to tell him that I helped save lives during the war.”

source site-29