Story #129. "I can't bear to see people cry": Ukrainian Actor Turned Volunteer

December 15, 2023
Dmytro Vivchariuk, a Ukrainian stage and film actor, directed his energy toward helping the people.

After taking his two sons and wife from Kyiv to the West of Ukraine, Dmytro jumped into volunteering with both feet, without having time to prepare for it or decide if it was something for him.

I just know one thing: I can't bear to see people cry, I can't bear to see people suffer. I simply do what I can, and that's all.

Except for his closest, many people he knew wanted to flee during the first days of the war. So, there he was, whisking all he knew, to safety.

"My father and I were assisting friends and acquaintances of our acquaintances, relocating people to safer oblasts of Ukraine while Kyiv was being invaded. On the way back, we started carrying all kinds of items of aid and that's how the whole volunteering thing began."

Dmytro does it all: delivers food, donates, fundraises, scours the internet for the hard-to-get-your-hands-on items, organizes the logistics of events and deliveries, connects people, and so much more. He's also looking for investors for larger projects.

"Right now, I'm planning a winter children's camp in Yaremche. I was looking for people who'd be willing to invest in this for a year. This may be referred to as a "psychology-rehabilitating centre," but in reality, it will simply be a place where 30-40 children with PTSD can experience life again. Aside from working with professionals, children will swim in a pool, go camping, and so on."

Dmytro was hit hard himself by the combination of being separated from his family, witnessing ravages, seeing people fleeing desperately, and attempting to help. Nonetheless, he kept multitasking until his body could no longer bear the weight of his spirit's desires.

"I came home once during the second month of the war, collapsed fully clothed, lost consciousness, and awoke 17 hours later. All of my ulcers, which had been bothering me before, and gastric erosions reappeared. I know it's impossible to help everyone, but if I can help or know someone who can, I will make use of every possibility."

He had to leave the theatre for a while at first as he was so busy assisting all who contacted him for help. However, it was Dmytro's recognition in particular that helped validate his persona and increase his contribution to positive change.

"If such a challenging period starts, we must all act in unison. I've always been this way. My father served from 2014 to 2016, so it affected me, as well as taking part in the Maidan revolution. When the war is over, I won't stop either. Volunteering gives me a rush, so I'm in it for the long haul."

But, these days, euphoria and dysphoria coexist in Dmytro's mind, as his positively charged way of thinking was abruptly thrust into the cruel context of war.

"Of course, I was aware of Africa's hunger, the hundreds of children who disappear yearly in India as a result of human trafficking, and so on. The world is filled with darkness. I just tried to surround myself with some light and fair things... But I just tried to surround myself with things that were light and fair... I was overwhelmed after witnessing some of the events that happened where I live. I refuse to even ponder why people behave so inhumanely. Rape, murder, mutilation, shooting, torture, starvation, and everything else persist in the 21st century."

Dmytro says, his worldview did not change radically due to this war. But what human's nature is capable of, once again, has become an eye-opening realisation.

Still, Dmytro maintains a positive outlook on life. He focuses not on grief but on improving people's current life situations, not on poverty but on sharing food and other essentials with those who lack them, not on the inability to buy servicemen everything they need but on purchasing at least something.

There were socially deprived families even before the war; I myself come from a large family, so I know what it's like, and so we help them. However, there would be no civilians at all if there were no one to protect them. Therefore, people should understand that warriors need to be clothed, fed, and equipped with weapons.

Dmytro counted that, during the war, he assisted around 18,000 families. Although he has no charitable foundation behind him, he doesn't attribute this to himself. Many things were done in cooperation with his friends and family or thanks to someone else. 

However, he's glad not to be among people who just wait for the victory to fall into their laps.

"Many people, whom I do not understand, want good healthcare, top-notch education, and a prosperous country, yet they wait for it to be accomplished at the expense of others. I believe everyone can do at least something. Donating 100 UAH to some abstract foundation is good, but buying a pair of socks for a specific soldier is even better because now his feet are warm. It's a good place to begin."

While his children and wife are temporarily living abroad, Dmytro uses their apartment as a volunteer center, serving as a gathering place for another branch of his family that is involved in volunteering. There they assemble and store packages before transportation. 

Despite his frustration with not being able to see his children grow up, he cannot imagine himself anywhere else.

Dmytro with his two sons.

"Honestly, I would never forgive myself if, God forbid, I found myself somewhere other than where sunflowers grow, where the sun rises, and where the smell of grandmother's pies fills the air," he says.

Now Dmytro combines volunteering with his work as an actor. What's noteworthy is that both of his interests revolve around emotions--- to experience, to express, and to share. In this way,  he continues to live, on the land where he belongs, creating the story beyond the scope of retelling.

Lisa Dzhulai
Journalist at UkraineWorld