This story shows how the local initiative in the making unites ordinary people in the blink of an eye: internally displaced women residing in the Lviv shelter, women taxi drivers, taxi passengers, and war vets in the rehabilitation center. It is all about enveloping people you don’t even know with family-like warmth.
It is also a manual showing how to implement a project without funding, all by yourself, and still making it work.
The initiative «We are one family!» is only three months old. The founder of the project Nadya works at the shelter for IDPs established by the NGO “Feminist Workshop”. It was there that she came up with the idea to engage the shelter’s residents in a good cause. She knew the rehabilitation center «Halychyna» as her son was a volunteer there, and she figured a way to make the life of the veterans staying there brighter.
Women decided to begin with the easiest and most affordable idea: to bring homemade food that can’t be cooked in the center and that won’t be supplied by humanitarian organizations. That is, to cook like at home, with a spoonful of love.
Everything starts with the taxi driven by Nadya. Or rather, it all starts with a dialogue.
— Oh wow, a woman driver! Now, that’s uncommon. Not often do you see women driving taxis. And what do you do for a living? Is it your main occupation?
— No, it’s more of a hobby. I work at the shelter for IDPs, and I do taxi driving for fun and to get the money for petrol. I am also a volunteer — we recently began supplying homemade food to the veterans who are in Lviv for rehabilitation.
— Wow, you’ve got my respect! Maybe you need some help with that? Food, money?
That brings Nadya her first donation, 1500 UAH. That is something you can work with. In a short while another benefactor joins the initiative, then — more and more. Nadya takes everyone’s contacts to stay in touch and report on the progress.
Nadya enjoys connecting with people. To quote her, “I am really amiable, I can talk to everyone and people are drawn to me”. Dialogues come easily and effortlessly, so it is easy to establish new contacts. When Nadya comes to the farmers’ market to get groceries for cooking, she finds help there as well:
— Oh, so you are cooking for the veterans? Can I give you a crate of tomatoes? They are a bit soft, but you can make good juice or paste out of them. Can you take it, do you have a car?
— Give me your contact, and tomorrow I will bring you a crate of sunflower oil. I work at the factory, and there is some spare oil left.
That’s how Nadya manages to get tomatoes, oil, several bags of flour, and some other groceries. All of this is brought and stored in the Lviv shelter for internally displaced women who were forced to leave their homes due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Shelter for the IDPs
At the beginning of the full-scale war, this shelter was created by the NGO «Feminist Workshop» to provide housing and comfort for women who were forced to flee their cities due to war. To motivate women and help them integrate into the new community, activists compiled a «List of good deeds» that women can scroll through to find different volunteering activities, be it weaving camouflage nets, walking the dogs, or cooking meals for those in need. Once a week some residents gather to prepare tasty food for the veterans of the rehabilitation center «Halychyna».
Initially, women planned to bake pastries, but when they brought the baked goods for the first time, veterans asked for Shuba and Olivier salads, and later on — for liver cake and fried potato and cabbage pies.
All the food is cooked in the ordinary home kitchen in the shelter. Sometimes the residents stay up late to prepare the proper number of servings. Then the food is put in boxes and containers and the next day women bring it to the rehabilitation center.
Nadya recently had a new idea of how to raise funds and thank the residents who are involved in the venture. Residents can bake the pies and sell them. Collected funds can then be spent to make more food for the rehabilitation center, and to bake more pies. One-third of the profit can be used to compensate the volunteers for their work.
«Halychyna» hosts veterans from all across Ukraine — they are rehabilitating after the amputations, waiting to get prostheses, training, receiving psychological treatment, and doing art therapy. The Center provides food, and volunteer initiatives deliver food and sweets. Within the initiative «We are one family!» internally displaced women wanted to provide warm home care. When volunteers bring food, they can talk to the veterans, learn more about them, and make their days brighter.
What it looks like:
Internally displaced women come to the rehabilitation center, enter the rooms or the corridor, and boys meet them and take food to their wards. Some come back for a second helping, some stay to chat, and some silently return to their rooms: not everyone is in the mood and has enough energy to talk. Our volunteers get to see some veterans only once, while the others stay in the center for months. Veterans who stay there for a long time and are still waiting for the prostheses recognize our volunteers and even order some special food.
Each boy has their own grand life story divided in two by war and injuries. They are starting anew, learning from scratch to navigate in this second part of life.
Mykola has lost both legs, high amputation. Before the full-scale invasion, his child was born, and that helps him. He has developed a passion for drawing and building complex models of hang-gliders which help him to train fine motor skills. He trains in the climbing gym and says that soon his book «Sergeant Loach» will come out.
I will wait for the prostheses. It doesn’t matter that I won’t be able to walk a lot. It is more important for me to take a picture with my son on his first day at school where we would stand next to each other”, says Mykola, sergeant «Loach».
Olexandr has lost an arm and a leg and also waiting to get the prostheses. He is incredibly easy-going — regardless of everything, he finds humor even in the toughest times.
I am Sanya Lavrik or Grandpa Lavren — that is my nickname. In my youth, I was always cheerful and now I try to keep it that way, Oleksandr says.
You want to talk to every soldier, to learn their life story, to support them, to laugh together, or to inspire them to keep fighting for the next day. Food becomes a thread that connects, inspires dialogue, and creates a warm, cozy, and family-like atmosphere.
Nadiya and her team plan to search for other rehabilitation centers that aren’t frequented by the volunteers. They are considering to work with the retirement homes.