Have you met Viktoria and Aleksander yet?
It’s no secret that fuel is expensive – we are feeling it here, and the situation is no better in Ukraine – in fact, with the blockade on the ports of Odesa and a crumbling infrastructure, fuel is skyrocketing in price, and many roads are inaccessible.
So how do we get vital food and medical supplies to those who need it the most?
‘Bicycle angels’, so-named by Fr Vitaliy Novak, Chair of Depaul Ukraine, have come to the rescue.
A few weeks into the Ukraine conflict, Depaul was approached by a group of men and women in their twenties, all working in IT, who were keen cyclists, and offered to deliver food baskets to the elderly and housebound across Kharkiv.
The visibility of this initial effort has led to many others volunteering including those who used to work for delivery companies such as Uber. We are now able to support an additional hundred vulnerable people twice per week through their work.
But what would inspire people to take such a risk? Volunteers Viktoria and Aleksander (not their real names) shared their stories with the Disaster and Emergency Committee (DEC) during their recent trip to Kharkiv. We are receiving funding from the DEC’s very successful Ukraine appeal, thanks to our partnership with Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).
Viktoria stayed in Kharkiv to be with her relatives. She couldn’t help them all to flee Ukraine, and she didn’t want to leave them without care and support. She says:
“Doing this kind of work in a team is a great relief for me. I spent the first two weeks of the war sitting in my bathroom while the city was bombed. Being alone during that time with my two cats was almost unbearable. Over time, I started to gain the courage to leave my home by bicycle to go to the grocery store or pharmacy.”
“One day, I saw an Instagram post with a call for bicycle volunteers and was very happy, because it opened up an opportunity to finally feel useful and needed. This is my city and my country. I just want to be here, that is all.”
When the conflict began Aleksander made the difficult decision to evacuate his wife and two daughters, whilst he stayed in Ukraine. His family now live in the Czech Republic.
“Saying goodbye to them at the train station felt unreal. Afterwards, I returned home and just lay on my bed, emotionless. As bicycle delivery volunteers, we are united by a common goal – to help. We live without making plans for the future. We simply wake up, make our deliveries, spend a couple of hours of free time, and repeat. We are alive, and that is enough to be happy.”
Depaul continues to be astounded by the commitment, love and compassion shown by numerous volunteers and staff members who go to extraordinary lengths to help those who are most vulnerable.
Thanks to everyone who continues to support us. Please keep an eye on our News page to find out more about our work.
Depaul International is the parent charity of the Depaul Group, a group of charities that works across the world with a mission to end homelessness and change the lives of those affected by it.