Supporting our Sisters in Ukraine

“For these seven days of war, for me – it’s like seven years.”
Tetiana Machabeli, Soroptimist International of Uzhhorod, Ukraine.

Article was written by:
Chari Grant, Governor-Elect
Western Canada Region, Soroptimist

On March 3, 2022 I attended a Zoom meeting hosted by Soroptimist International of Sweden that addressed what Soroptimists around the world could do to help women and girls in Ukraine.

Two Ukrainian Soroptimists spoke: Hanna Biel, who is currently living in Germany and works to assist refugees from many different countries who are resettling in Germany; and Tetiana Machabeli, who lives in Uzhhorod in Western Ukraine near the Hungarian and Polish borders. The two women spoke of the immense need, both in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries where more than one million Ukrainians are currently seeking refuge.

Tetiana told us that she is currently in a shelter facility with a large group of women and children. She just spoke to a woman who is travelling on foot with a group of eighty children who live in a state-run orphanage in a neighbouring city that is under attack from Russian forces. The woman from the orphanage told Tetiana that although there are eighty children right now, she has no idea how many will actually make it to the shelter due to the ongoing bombing attacks.

Tetiana told us that although they are not currently under attack in Uzhhorod, the shelter they are in is only about one kilometre away from the local airport, and they have been warned that the airport is a likely target. She also told us that she has been contacted by parents with children who have epilepsy and diabetes who are running out of anti-seizure medication and insulin. These parents are desperate to find a source of medication for their children and don’t know where to turn. While she was speaking she said she got an alert on her phone telling her there was active bombing in Kyiv and Chernihiv. She said the alerts were increasing in frequency.

Tetiana and Hanna spoke about the atrocities that have already been committed – the hospitals and schools – including a school for the blind – that have been bombed. Hanna mentioned that an entire family – parents and two children – were shot while fleeing in their vehicle.

Soroptimists from around the world who were on the Zoom call asked what we could do to help. Both women said money and critical medical supplies were the things that were needed most. Soroptimist International of Europe has set up a donation page that will accept PayPal and bank transfers. They are urging Soroptimists around the world to send funds to SI Europe and SI Europe will arrange to get the funds and supplies to the Ukrainian Soroptimist clubs.

If you have the means, I urge you to consider making a donation to the Soroptimist International of Europe Disaster Relief Fund. You can specify that you would like your donation to go towards the war in Ukraine.

The meeting hosts urged us to lobby our governments to try to bring an end to this conflict as soon as possible and to not forget that the suffering will not end when the war is over. They also reminded us that it is not the people of Russia who want this war, only one power-hungry madman. There are Soroptimist clubs in Russia and we need to have compassion for them as their members are suffering too. That is a message we should all take to heart: in this time of immense suffering for so many – choose kindness – we need it now more than ever.