Russian Red Cross branch responds in coordination with partners to the needs of people from Ukraine

Published: 17 April 2015 16:15 CET

Helena Laatio, Finnish Red Cross


Yelena Khliyan has been working hard since June last year as the chairwoman of Rostov-on-Don Regional Red Cross Branch. That is when the influx of people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine had started.


“There was a catastrophic number of people to our region to be received at the same time,” says the chairwoman about the tens of thousands of people from Ukraine pouring in at one point in Rostov-on-Don, adding up to 60.000.


During those first days, the Red Cross branch managed to distribute 163 tons of food to those fleeing conflict.


Having to  leave their homes under the pressure of heavy shelling they often arrived with nothing but a suitcase packed in a hurry. Upon arrival, the everyday basics for living such as clothes, shoes, bed clothes and hygiene products became their essential needs.


“Travelling here was very difficult with children,” says Natalia, mother of seven young children. “They wanted to go to sleep, they were cranky and suffered from travel sickness. When we got here, all we wanted to do was to get some sleep,” adds the mother.


Trust in Red Cross


“We were well received and were given everything from food to toothbrushes and diapers,” says Irina, another mother who is accommodated in the same spacious house as Natalia. The place they live in is privately owned and was temporarely donated to the Red Cross branch, accommodating now about 130 people, of which 70 are children. The local branch also delivers supplies to the house such as food, diapers and other necessities.


In addition, it set up a fund raising campaign promoted on local media platforms. Generous donations from enterprises, businessmen and private people poured in, trusting that the Red Cross will do a good job at assisting people from Ukraine with their basic needs. “We have focussed our activities on the most vulnerable groups of people: the disabled, families with many children and single-parent families,” says Khliyan.


A lot of support was given by the local community: “We have been surprised by how people have been willing to give their last to help,” she adds referring to the many offers of support she received at her office at the time.


Another crucial relationship for the Red Cross branch is that with the local authorities. The effective coordination of their work is essential in relieving the plight of people seeking safety in Russia.


In one instance during last summer, when  the authorities declared a state of emergency because of extreamely hot weather the Russian Red Cross was on the ground providing people with water and medical aid.


Currently, the number of people from Ukraine who sought safety and shelter in Rostov-on-Don region is 39.000. Most of them have been accommodated in temporary shelters and relatives and friends have also welcomed many to stay in their homes.


Some Ukrainians decided to set up a new home in Russia but many wish to return to their homes. “We want to go home, I have my precious kitchen garden there, children’s toys and everything else,” says Natalia, the mother of seven.

Note: For security reasons only the first names of the refugees have been used.