The ripples of war: One year since the war began
One year has passed since the conflict in Ukraine first began, and the situation remains as complex and volatile as ever, with no end in sight to the fighting or the suffering. It is also increasingly clear that there will be no winners in this war and that Ukraine’s future is ever more fragile.
How does the war looks now in figures? Terrible. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of 30 January 2023, 18817 civilian casualties were recorded, including 7155 deaths, more than 7.5 million people have fled Ukraine and nearly 7 million Ukrainians are internally displaced.
(source The UN and the war in Ukraine: key information (unric.org)
While these figures indicate a devastated country, numerous world organizations have intensified their humanitarian operations in and around Ukraine aiming to assist the most vulnerable communities and people and to provide them with urgently needed food, water, shelter and other basic support.
Foundation "Damen Helps" is no exception to these and, since its establishment, has continuously focused on raising money to support our Ukraine MDEM colleagues and their families. In Galati, where the yard undertook the mission to create an optimal environment as well as proper conditions for these people, an association was set up to design a better self-sustaining Ukrainian community, helping its members to integrate in the larger Romanian community.
“Help Ukrainians” was officially opened in the beginning of October 2022 and since then, several significant improvements have been registered with respect to the life and well-being of the Ukrainian colleagues. It has been a joint effort, a human approach and an emotional involvement of many, many people who dedicated many hours of work to make this establishment function. From Mrs Annelies Damen, the initiator and „soul” of “Damen Helps” and Michel de Reus, the coordinator of evacuation committee, to Damen Galati warm-hearted Dana Cristea, Eduard Radu, Dumitru Lazar, Traian Iftenie or Anca Artene and their Ukrainian partners Nick Latushkin, Olena Zhukova or Iuliia Belianevych de Gouw.
On February 8th 2023, Mrs Annelies Damen returned to Galati in her continue efforts to attract more and more support for the Ukrainian community. A visit was paid to MDEM offices at Damen Galati headquarters where Mrs Damen together with Dana Cristea and Nick Latushkin discussed with our Ukrainian colleagues. Many of them expressed their gratitude to the Foundation as being the major support in their adaptation to a new life. While some ladies showed themselves particularly happy for how their children are taken care of, via different cultural or sporting clubs, others were hiding their tears when being asked about their husbands left home to fight the invaders.
At the Community Center, life followed its now regular busy course. At the ground floor, several kids were joyfully playing under the careful supervision of one of the local assistants, the wife of an MDEM colleague. We found out that the daily child-care center usually accommodates seven to ten children. At the first floor, we were welcomed by the „technical staff” of the association. In a warm and pleasant office, Veronica who is doing all the papers, Tania, the financial „brain”, Tatiana, the psychologist and Masha, the translator explained how the association is organized and which are the challenges they face with in their work.
Last but not least, we entered the „artistic” room, the workshop where some ladies with golden hands were crafting different products. Here we found Olha, Olena, Iryna and Svetlana.
Was holding in her arms a six-month-old baby girl, Eva, the second Ukrainian child born in Galati since the beginning of the war. She also has an older daughter, aged two. Her family (herself, her husband and their first child) came to Galati in March 2022 while Olha was on 26 weeks of pregnancy, after having their apartment destroyed in Ukraine. Olha is an MDEM employee, now in maternity leave, while her husband, IT specialist, works online from home. In Romania, they first stayed in Damen dormitory in Mangalia, then later, the association helped them to find an apartment and assisted the family with relocating. They all moved to Galati, where Olha could deliver her baby at the local maternity hospital.
Is the wife of an MDEM employee and a mother of three children. Olena first arrived with her family to Mangalia, where she was accommodated in Damen dormitory. By the end of August, Elena approached the Association with the request to help her finding an apartment in Galati, which was quite a challenge, considering that all of the family members, except for the smallest five-year-old child, are in need for a separate room, including Olena. From her first day in Romania, Olena kept giving online lessons as a schoolteacher and her two teenage kids, a 15 y.o. girl and a 17 y.o. boy are also studying online. The task was not easy and apparently it was just a matter of time and a little luck. Two months later, the family could move to Galati where an apartment was arranged for them. Since the beginning of November, Elena took the lead of the workshop which painted the Christmas decorations at the Community Center.
Is also an MDEM employee. By the time of evacuation, she was on maternity leave. Iryna was located in Damen dormitory together with her daughter and her mother-in-law. Iryna, who by nature is a very active and responsible person, has successfully undertaken the responsibility to manage, monitor and supervise the team of Ukrainians sheltered at the dormitory. Iryna approached the Association and asked for transport assistance so that she could move with her family from Mangalia to Galati. She is now part of the engineers team at DWR.
Is the daughter of an MDEM employee and was evacuated from Mykolaiv to Romania in spring 2022 with her four-year-old son. At the beginning, Svetlana was transferred to Mangalia, as Galati was overcrowded with Ukrainian refugees, where she stayed at Damen dormitory till winter 2022 with many others Ukrainian families who found over there a temporary shelter. At the end of August, Svetlana was one of the many people who approached the Association to help her finding an accommodation in Galati. She was the last who moved out of the dormitory and in December she was finally relocated to Galati.
Looking ahead, it is difficult to predict what the future holds for Ukraine. The conflict has deep roots in the historical, cultural, and political differences between Ukraine and Russia, and resolving it will require a long-term effort by all parties involved. In the meantime, however, it is clear that the situation in Ukraine will continue to pose a serious challenge to both the country itself and the international community, and will require sustained attention and engagement in order to find a peaceful resolution.
Meanwhile, there is practical need for housing, language lessons, mental help and physical care, like dentist and checkups. ‘Stichting Damen Helpt’ wants to fulfill these needs. Help is necessary, all donations are welcome.