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Video: Julia’s Passion for Rebuilding Ukraine

One year after Russia first invaded Ukraine, Project HOPE continues to respond to the conflict, actively delivering medicines, medical supplies, mental health support, and other urgent assistance with help from passionate local community members like Julia.

By Emma Schwartz

“Wake up, the war has started,” were the first words Julia heard on the morning of February 24, 2022—the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

“On that day my life was divided into ‘before’ and ‘total uncertainty,’” she says. “It was unbearable to think that our freedom, which is the most valuable thing we have, might be stolen.”

In the year since, Julia and her community of family and friends have endured constant suffering and loss. Hospitals, schools, and homes have been badly damaged by attacks—others completely leveled. Widespread power outages have become common, leaving millions of people without heat or electricity, and many roads and bridges have become impassable, making it difficult to reach basic necessities.

When fighting broke out close to Julia’s family home last spring, she says their house shook every time a bomb dropped.

“These emotions are incredibly difficult to describe, let alone forget,” she says.

Julia standing in damaged building in Ukraine
Julia, a project coordinator for Project HOPE’s reconstruction projects in Ukraine, says her life changed forever when Russia’s invasion began one year ago. “On that day my life was divided into ‘before’ and ‘total uncertainty,’” she says. “It was unbearable to think that our freedom, which is the most valuable thing we have, might be stolen.” Photos by James Buck for Project HOPE, 2022.

The scale of destruction and loss in Ukraine has been devastating. Over 7,155 civilians have been killed and over 11,262 have been injured since the war began. The conflict has created the fastest and largest displacement crisis in Europe since World War II. It’s estimated that around one-third of the population has been displaced.

Julia and her family made the choice to stay in their home country — no matter what.

After the partial de-occupation of the regions of Kyiv and Chernihiv in early April 2022, Julia decided to go to the town of Borodyanka, with her father and her brother, to help those who were still under occupation.

“It was essential for us to have some sense of involvement in what we could be doing at that moment for our country and our people,” she says.

It was there that Julia became a project coordinator for Project HOPE, bringing her knowledge of the community to help our team rebuild damaged health facilities throughout the region. Over the course of nine months, Julia and the Project HOPE team successfully rehabilitated multiple health and social facilities, restoring health services for communities under duress.

two women walking by a fence
Julia meets with Liana, whose husband was killed helping evacuate people during the conflict. “It’s terrible when war becomes routine,” she says. “We should not get used to it. I sincerely hope that this year, 2023, will be a year of peace for Ukraine, for the Ukrainian people, and for the entire humanity.”

Project HOPE’s response to the crisis is ongoing. As fighting continues, we remain on the ground in Ukraine, as well as in Poland, Romania, and Moldova. Over the past year, Project HOPE has delivered $8.5 million in medicines, medical supplies, and other relief. We’ve supported 317 health facilities in four countries and provided mental health consultations to more than 24,000 people across the region. We’ve also trained 2,712 health workers in trauma care, mental health, and other skills.

We’re currently expanding our response into newly liberated areas in eastern and southern Ukraine to provide primary health care to those impacted by the conflict.

“It has been a year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, and it has been nine years since the war started in 2014,” Julia says. “It’s very terrible when war becomes routine. We should not get used to it. I sincerely hope that this year, 2023, will be a year of peace for Ukraine, for the Ukrainian people, and for the entire humanity.”

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