Story #128: Volunteering in Grave Danger - How Does It Feel?

December 10, 2023
Lilia returned to Donetsk Oblast to assist both civilians and the military during the most crucial times of the war.

"Each time, I adjust to the thought that I might not come back because the artillery and air force fire is so intensive..."

From the first days of the war, Lilia decided to bloom where she was planted and assist people in her hometown Siversk, Donetsk Oblast. Being located in the pre-front zone, it was expectedly very dangerous and filled with people in need.

Lilia returned from the Czech Republic, where she previously worked, in May 2022. Torn apart by the desire to increase her assistance and not lose her source of income, she chose the first.

"I assisted people in Ukraine even when I was 2,000 kilometers away. From the onset of the war, I prepared lists of individuals for evacuation and more. However, I realized that being in the Donetsk oblast would allow me to help many more locals who, due to their life circumstances, could not flee to safer places."

Lilia joined the widespread wave of mutual aid and self-mobilisation that has swept across all Ukrainians since the war began. Her contribution was less or more judicious at first. But it changed when her brother Denys, who had gone missing at the start of the war, was discovered dead.

"He was shot during the occupation of Bucha. He moved to Bucha after finishing high school in 2005, lived and worked there. He bought a house in the nearby village of Myrotske a year before the war. Since his death, I understood that I will do everything in my power for our country and its victory."

Lilia began donating almost all of her money to volunteers and purchasing hygiene products and treats for Siversk residents, personally delivering the packages.

Children in Siversk whom Lilia assisted among many others. As of now, they are evacuated.

Later, she made contact with the military forces defending the region and extended her assistance to them as well.

"On one of these trips, I met my beloved boyfriend Dmytro, who was seriously injured in July. I am currently with him during his treatment.

Nevertheless, I continue helping in any way I can. I facilitate aid for the locals in the city and to the military through the people I know. I am actively fundraising. After completing a money collection for the Kupyansk direction, I launch one for the Kherson oblast, and subsequently, the focus will shift to the Donetsk oblast, and the cycle continues."

Lilia's current worldview revolves around total dedication and consolidation, which she sees as the only path to victory in this war. Sticking to it, she's going to the untrodden ground as the zone where she used to assist has become challenging to access.

"I used to ask transporters or other volunteers to give me a ride to the city. Now, access is restricted to those with address registration or a volunteer's certificate, which not everyone has. So, I purchased a car myself to get there. Of course, I also cover all repairs and fuel expenses."

Thus, she lives in this rapid response schedule, rarely allowing herself to rest, even after experiencing a shell shock. Her logic is simple: "If those fighting the enemy do not tire, why should I?"

Airstrikes and my concussion are the memories that prevent me from giving up. While I return to my warm bed, our defenders are under attack every second of their lives.

Among all these happenings, the pain of loss is deeply felt by Lilia and, naturally, by her mother, who not only lost her son but also sees her daughter regularly risking her life.

Lilia's brother Denys who was killed in Bucha.

But it's the only way Lilia now knows how to live.

"I have no right to leave the guys without help or simply without a single joyful hour of warm conversation and words of gratitude as they are the ones protecting us," Lilia says.  

Especially since the number of people willing to help is steadily decreasing.

"Donations have diminished. While some continue to donate, for others it seems as if there is no war, and they've got it all so good. At times, it feels uncomfortable to ask for additional contributions, knowing that it is the same people who will, over and over againg, offer their support."

That is why Lilia pushes herself so hard. She wants to demonstrate through her example that help can be provided in a variety of ways, and that a contribution can be meaningful even when you're acting alone. 

She does, however, believe that true transformation comes through unity. And so, advocates for unity, hoping it will shape a better future for us all.

Lilia's PayPal, where she collects money for her good deeds:

Lisa Dzhulai
Journalist at UkraineWorld