Page 4 - Presbyterian Connection
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4 SUMMER 2022
Adapted from an article that appeared on the ACT Alliance website at and written by Hungarian Interchurch Aid, an aid organization that has been helping civilians living in bomb shelters and subway stations in Kharkiv, Ukraine, since the start of the war. The PCC is supporting this work through Presbyterian World Service & Development. As of June 1, 2022, $350,000 has been contributed to this appeal.
Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine and located near the Rus- sian border, received its first aid consignment from Hungarian In- terchurch Aid (HIA), which is part of an overall response by the ACT Alliance to the war in Ukraine.
Half of Kharkiv’s 1.5 million inhabitants have already fled due to the constant attacks on the city since the outbreak of war. Most of those who stayed have no- where to go or are unable to flee to a safer environment because they need to care for their small children, elderly and those need- ing constant medical care. Taking refuge in bomb shelters, cellars, basements and subway stations these people are subjected to re- peated raid warnings and subse- quent attacks, often lasting hours.
Several utility services are out of order, apartments are left with- out running water, gas or heat-
ing. Electricity is also frequently cut. Returning to flats in housing blocks—even if only for a couple of hours and presuming the flats are still intact—is very hard for the most socially disadvantaged civil- ians. Although in the city some grocery stores are still open, they can be hard to reach since public transport isn’t operational either. Travel is already risky due to the constant fighting, frequent missile attacks and air raids especially targeting infrastructure.
Sergei Babin and his wife have stayed in the city nevertheless. Their association “International Bridge” aims to help the citizens of Kharkiv suffering the effects of the war and is affiliated with HIA partners Zlatograd Foundation of Dnipro. Altogether, they have 50 volunteers helping them in their efforts. Despite all war-related difficulties, HIA managed to de- liver an aid consignment to the besieged city on 30 April. The 70 food parcels and almost 100 hy- giene kits were distributed to ci- vilians who had been holed up in the subway stations and bunkers for a good part of the two months since the start of the invasion.
“There is a great need for food and hygiene products, potable water and flashlights. We receive a huge number of requests for aid from the hospitals, maternity wards of the different districts of
the city, and there is also a short- age of medicine. We are grateful for any kind of help, as the peo- ple of Kharkiv have been suffering from this serious humanitarian crisis for many weeks now” said Sergey Babin, expressing his grati- tude for the HIA aid consignment.
In the two months since the outbreak of the war, HIA has been able to continuously ex- pand their assistance to new methods and geographical are- as. The humanitarian operations now stretch from the extreme west of the country to the Dniep- er bend in the east, encompass- ing 10 regions of Ukraine. Until 24 April, the HIA response has reached 70,921 people, provid- ing emergency access to basic food and non-food items, health and hygiene products, protec- tion and links to transpor tation services. In total, HIA has sent 40 trucks filled to the brim with core relief—every week, four or more trucks cross the Hungarian border. In addition to the tangible, in-kind aid, in cooperation with par tner organizations the aid or- ganization is also able to provide psychosocial assistance to the traumatized people fleeing the horrors of war. Furthermore, the organization also supplies over 200 community shelters for IDPs (internally displaced people) with all kinds of aid.
By Presbyterian World Service & Development
When the fighting in Ukraine start- ed, Irina’s family was torn apart. Her husband, a history teacher, joined the territorial defence force in the first days of the conflict. Irina and her two children sought refuge at her parents’ house. However, she knew it was unsafe because the house lacked a base- ment, and bombs were starting to explode nearby.
“During the first days [of the war], we tried to tell the children it was thunder. But when the active bombing started and the missiles fell near the house, the children started screaming [and] didn’t want to leave the shelter [of furni- ture], so they ate there, they went to the toilet there. They were really very, very scared. That is why I realized that there was no time to wait, and it was time to evacuate somewhere,” said Irina.
Sadly, Irina’s parents did not want to leave, but Irina was de- termined to find a safer place for her children. Upon heading to the evacuation point, Russian forces started shelling the settle- ment. Irina was fortunate to see a convoy of cars passing by, and she decided to join them without knowing where they were going because she didn’t have the time to think about it.
The family spent five days in the village the convoy had brought them to, then had to leave there as the war was catching up with them. Eventually, they were able to catch a train to western Lviv—
the train journey lasted 20 hours and then another exhausting five- hour train ride to arrive at Batiovo, Transcarpathia.
Irina and her kids found safety at a refugee centre suppor ted by Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) through the ACT Alliance. In the shelter, Irina lives with 90 other refugees. The community shelter volunteers are doing what they can to allow life to continue as nor- mally as possible. Since the war has forced elementary schools to switch to distance learning, Irina’s daughter takes all her third-grade classes online. Her son will star t school in the fall.
Families like Irina’s are re- ceiving cash assistance and emergency mental health and psychosocial support. Hungar- ian Interchurch Aid, supported by PWS&D, is assisting 14,000 households. In addition, food assistance and other essential non-food aid, including hygiene kits and medical supplies, is be- ing provided to thousands more people.
PWS&D, in partnership with Canadian Foodgrains Bank mem- ber Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), will be implementing a response begin- ning this summer. This response, implemented in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, will provide cash assistance, enabling families to purchase essential items. Priority will be given to the most vulnera- ble households, including female and single-headed households, children at risk, gender-based violence survivors, and others.
 Aid Reaches Kharkiv
Ukraine Crisis: Irina’s Story
Irina and her family now stay in a shelter that is supported by Hungarian Interchurch Aid. PHOTO CREDIT: FEKETE DÁNIEL / ÖKUMENIKUS SEGÉLYSZERVEZET
     Consignment reaches Kharkiv.

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