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Goodacity – Dare to be Good

Olha Sahal
Written by
Olha Sahal
Written by
Technical Writer at United Thinkers
I am the author of the Goodacity blog, a journalist, and a translator. For 16 years, I have worked in professional journalism, contributing to regional and national publications, both in print and online media. I have written reports, conducted interviews, reviews, articles on cultural, social, and charitable topics, as well as materials in the style of "solution journalism" and communication materials. Read more
Yulia Didyk
Reviewed by
Yulia Didyk
Reviewed by
Culture Manager at United Thinkers
I am a manager of cultural affairs and a project manager with over 14 years of experience at United Thinkers. I have participated in the organization of numerous successful social and charitable projects and have implemented informational campaigns and communication cases. Read more

Volunteering during the war brings new hope

volunteering during the war

The story of Alla Rudych from Chernihiv, Ukraine, is striking. It’s about how volunteering during the war helped her find solid ground beneath her feet and gave her new meaning and new hope.

“I want to share her story,” says the woman, “because I know there are still many people like us – those who lost everything… Those who are afraid that they don’t have the strength to endure it and start life from scratch. I want to show them through my example; how to be reborn like a Phoenix from the ashes of destruction… I am standing in the middle of a shattered house. My house. Here, where the huge gap is, was the kitchen – it took the brunt of the blow.

I remember how we loved to gather there together in the mornings – the kids had breakfast, we drank coffee, discussed plans for the day; here’s what’s left of the recently purchased stove – we bought it a week before the full-scale invasion, I wanted it so badly, it was a dream stove, I was so happy about it, we only turned it on a few times… The hardest thing is seeing the ruined toys and children’s things in the children’s rooms, our shared photos – episodes of a happy life destroyed by Russian missiles…

When you pick up, piece by piece, the fragments of what used to be your home – the home where you once ran around as a child, where your own children grew up – it’s such a heavy feeling… But I don’t want it to be about sorrow. On the contrary, our story is a story of hope and restoration. It’s a story of rebuilding not only walls, but also ourselves – anew after all the trials we’ve been through!”

volunteering during the war

"Our house was hit the next day after we went to the shelter"

Mrs. Alla is a speech therapist. “I am a happy mother of three children,” the woman says about herself. My daughter Maria is already 17, David is 14, and the youngest, Dmitry, is 12 years old. My middle son David is weak, born weighing only 850 grams, he is a child with disabilities, and in order to help him, I decided to study speech therapy – by education, I am a lawyer and I wanted to combine my life with jurisprudence. At a fairly mature age, I retrained as a speech therapist and this work fascinated me! I was able to help my son – now he’s doing well, he’s studying in 8th grade in a regular school. The children were studying, my husband and I were working: a peaceful, ordinary, measured life – what we had and what we didn’t have on the morning of February 24th last year…

We heard the news about the start of the full-scale invasion while we were at home in Bobrovycia, Ukraine. For the first few weeks, until March 12th, we lived in another part of the city because it was very noisy and restless in our area, but eventually we returned home.

It was very cold – there was no electricity, heating, or water. Enemy drones flew over us on the streets – we tried not to go outside unnecessarily, because when they spotted people, they would immediately fly to that location. The worst part was at night. We slept with our children in the cellar – cold and damp, and the noise above us was so loud that nobody could sleep out of fear that we could be buried under the rubble.

volunteering during the war-1

When the explosion near our house shattered the windows, we went to the bomb shelter in another part of the city. We stayed there for several days, and on March 16th, when we went to get some groceries, we ran into our neighbors. They told us, “Alla, your house is gone…” It turned out that the next day after we went to the bomb shelter, a missile hit our house and destroyed it along with neighboring houses. Our neighbor died, and people nearby were injured..

On that same day, we miraculously escaped death – we were driving past a queue for bread that was shelled by Russian forces. We barely escaped the shelling, and there were traces of shrapnel on our car… Soon after that, we decided to go to my sister in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, – there were seven of us in the car, and we drove on the “road of death” past burned and shot-up cars, it was very scary… In the first few days in Vinnytsia, I kept asking my sister: “Can we go outside – is it safe? Are you sure?..”

volunteering during the war

As long as we have a new day, we have hope!

We stayed in Vinnytsia for four months, taking a breather. And when we came back to Chernihiv, Ukraine, we first went to the ruins of our house. We stood there, reminiscing about our life there, learning to accept the fact that it will never be the same again. Never. And the word “never” brought despair… But you know, when we were still in Vinnytsia, David asked me, “Mom, what about the flowers on the windowsill that I grew in our house? Are they gone too?” And it struck me – the way a child cares about living things, about flowers – not about their things or toys, but specifically about living things… This is a very telling thing! We are alive, and as long as we have a new day ahead, we have hope…

On the very first day, I immediately started clearing out the debris. Our children and friends helped us too, and we cleared the debris from the shed and summer kitchen. However, we struggled to approach the debris of the house itself…

volunteering during the war-2

It was difficult – both physically and psychologically – we felt discouraged and hopeless…

But people helped us avoid falling into despair. Incredible people who help because they can! And when nearly fifty strangers come to your property and start clearing debris with you, it’s more than just help: it’s hope! When I saw them all, I couldn’t help but cry. I will never tire of thanking the Volunteer Union “Bo mozhemo” (Because We Can) – for their volunteer work during the war, for their incredible assistance, and for the feeling of a brotherly shoulder, a shared mission, and a shared home. You know, I only now realize that the phrase “my home is my fortress” is not really about the building itself. 

Because here you are, standing among the ruins of these walls, and you think that your life is also destroyed, and you don’t know where to find strength and how to start life anew… But then you understand that home is about the people. The people who come to help during difficult times, people who love and care for you – they are our home. They are our fortress…

On two occasions, the BoMozhivtsi group cleared the rubble at the site of a building – and from then, it was as if we grew wings! Later we went with them to help others clear rubble, and we also brought children with us – the feeling of our own people ready to help was so incredible, so inspiring, that we wanted to give it to others! They help us – and we help others! Volunteering during the war gives strength and renewed hope!

There was no more despair and hopelessness – when faced with the question “Why me?”, she told herself that it must mean that God thinks she can handle it. Similar to when a child with a disability is born to you – it’s not a punishment or a trial, it’s a push towards the idea that you were chosen to help this child. We decided to build our house here – and make it even better than before! We no longer saw this place as the ruins of our old home, but rather as the place where we will build our new one. After work, I came here and dug trenches myself to bring water, while my husband laid every brick and gas block with his own hands. I mixed the mortar for him, and our friends and family helped us. The state allocated some of the materials, and the Dah-Chernihiv Foundation provided assistance.

When we returned from Vinnytsia to Chernihiv in July, we brought a cat with us – we found it on the street: poor, small, and skinny… We laughed through tears – “we already have a cat, now we just need to celebrate our housewarming”…. And in just six months, what we couldn’t even imagine in our wildest dreams became a reality – our new home was here! Yes, there’s still a lot of work ahead, but the hardest part is already behind us!

Recently – on March 15 – we marked the sad anniversary of the hardest days for many Chernihiv residents: a year since we lost our home. What did this year teach me? It gave me faith in people, taught me to be strong no matter what. It gave me a sense of unity – even strangers can come to your aid and inspire you. And often it happens that those who are going through difficult life circumstances themselves are the ones who help. Now I know for sure – with faith, hope, and people, we can rebuild everything!