«Who saves a life,
saves the World»
We rescue humanity together, support our missions in the Mediterranean.
In spring 2023, Mediterranea Berlin set off on a mission that had been planned for more than a year. At the beginning of the war, in March 2022, we had already been to Ukraine (Odessa) and its neighbouring countries (Romania and Moldova) mainly for research purposes (full report here).
This year we decided to return there with our eighth supply mission within the Med Care project, bringing humanitarian aid to Lviv and our partner organisations in the area. The fund-raising and donation campaign started in Berlin on 24 February. In a month and a half, we collected enough humanitarian aid to fill a van: canned food, hygiene products, clothes. The day of departure was set for 10 April, which meant we would be in Ukraine on Orthodox Easter, a symbolic date.
The journey from Berlin to Lviv was not a short one: we had to break our journey in Poland, in Wroclaw, before reaching the Ukrainian border. After a day and a half of travelling, we finally arrived. Accommodation was kindly provided by the Don Bosco religious community.
The first partner organisation we visited and delivered humanitarian aid to was Insight, a trans-feminist NGO offering support to women and young children. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Kristina, who told us about their daily work and the difficulties they face since the beginning of the war.
We met many women who were participating in a workshop: the traditional egg-painting class (Pysanka) and as guests we were also invited to participate.
Later, Katarina from Bakhmut and Irina from Slowiansk asked to speak to us and even be interviewed in front of the camera. They recounted their experiences as Russian-speaking refugees from the Donbass forced to integrate into a culture to which they were practically strangers. Contrary to our expectations however (and other stories we had heard among Ukrainian refugees in Berlin), the two women had not suffered any discrimination and their will to resist as well as their support for Zelensky's political leadership is stronger than ever.
The next day, we got to know another local reality: the religious communities taking in refugees in Lviv. At the Brukovich monastery, Father Pantelimon thanked us for the support and told us that what the 200 refugees needed most was peace. They could only live together by putting aside political and linguistic differences. He then invited us to attend the Easter Sunday mass and traditional lunch.
On that day, we delivered not only toys for the children living at the Brukovich monastery, but also clothes to the Med Psy Help organisation located at the main train station in Lviv: volunteers have been there since 24 February, in day and night shifts; evacuation trains and buses continue to arrive twice a day.
On the third day, we were expected at the camp in Strisjki Park. In the two buildings of the Polytechnic there were rooms (and former gyms) that housed about 200 people in very difficult conditions: the huge gyms were full of beds, many of the refugees were children or elderly people in need of medical care.
Prof. Micola, the person in charge of coordinating the few volunteers present, told us that they mainly needed hygiene and basic cleaning products, considering that all the inhabitants were taking care of themselves and meals were already provided by international organisations such as World Kitchen. We handed over everything we had and promised to return the next day with more supplies.
On that Friday, we would still see a community struggling to survive. In the church in Solonka, Father Gregory houses about 40 people: not Ukrainian refugees, but Roma people. He asked us if our help was only for refugees or for all those in need. He also asked us for medical assistance not only for all the inhabitants of the residence, but also for the 25 families living in an informal camp 12 km from Solonka. We delivered all the food and sweets we had in the van to the residents of Solonka, which made the children in particular very happy. As for medical care, our health team provided it in the following days.
The last visit that day was to the Sikhiv container camp. Almost 800 people reside in the new, clean containers set up in a quiet district of Lviv. The difference from the accommodation in Strisjki Park is striking. The refugees here also have a chapel where they can pray. Father Andri told us that faith has been the greatest support during these last 14 difficult months. After delivering the last of the humanitarian aid packages collected in Berlin, Father Andri showed us around the facility. We were surprised to discover that the camp had been erected with the help of the Polish government and with funds provided by UKaid.
Once again, we asked about ethnic discrimination and political tensions, considering that Lviv is well known for its nationalistic traits, but Father Andri pointed out that people in this war felt more the need to unite than to divide.
The last visit was to the Community of Sant'Egidio. Here the coordinators received us on both Saturday and Easter Sunday. They explained their activities and the support given to hundreds of IDP families. At the moment, there are about 250,000 IDPs in the Lviv area, a real challenge for the city, the authorities and humanitarian organisations. However, everyone is doing their part and helping in the best possible way.
On Easter Saturday, we also met activists from two other organisations who had come to Lviv to meet us: Martin from the Czech NGO Koridor UA, an old contact of ours, and Maddy from Stay Safe UA, an organisation we had contacted shortly before the mission began (for logistical reasons).
Koridor UA is currently active in the Ternopil area where they support thousands of IDPs as well as in Odessa, where they are providing logistical support.
Easter Sunday was our last day in Lviv: lunch at Brukovich Monastery, in the company of 100 other refugees, will remain a wonderful reminder of the value of community in times of adversity. We do not know what will happen in the coming months of war, whatever happens, these people will be able to face it. Together. Brotherhood becomes Resistance.