UNHCR, together with CF Rokada and other partner NGOs, continues to respond to Ukraine’s enormous needs with funding from donors such as the United States.
Abbas Ahmedi (52) was born in Iran but has been living in Ukraine for the last 26 years. Once a refugee, he now works as a social worker in Kyiv for UNHCR’s partner NGO Rokada. He helps displaced people and people affected by the brutal war raging in Ukraine.
“Many homes in Kyiv oblast were damaged or destroyed since the beginning of the war three months ago. People are devastated. Many tell us they invested all their money to build their houses, somewhere they thought they could raise their children and grandchildren and enjoy a happy family life,” Abbas tells UNHCR.
Rokada NGO operates in the Kyiv region. Every week, Abbas visits the outskirts of Kyiv city, where residential buildings and civilian infrastructure sustained extensive damage. Together with his colleagues, he assesses needs and distributes essential items and emergency shelter kits to people whose houses were damaged or destroyed.
“Today, we are distributing emergency shelter kits in the Hostomel community which consists of four villages. All of them were heavily shelled and destroyed. This week, we will distribute kits to 100 households,” says Abbas while meeting people at the humanitarian warehouse with his colleague Natalia.
Abbas started working for Rokada in 2012. As a translator, he helped Persian-speaking refugees explain their situation to NGO workers.
“Hearing people tell their stories, I realized that many of them had problems similar to mine. Just like me, they suffered because of the injustice they saw in their lives.”
These stories reminded Abbas of his childhood and the terrible events he had to endure: how his stepfather was wrongly convicted on political grounds and their family sent into exile in a remote village, how everything they owned was taken away, how all this led to his mother having a nervous breakdown.
Many years later, his destiny brought him to Ukraine, and he became fascinated by the Ukrainian culture. “People here speak openly, they express their emotions, they show their affection freely. I wanted to be a part of this culture. Today I have a wife and four children. Even though they had to flee to Poland because of the war, we constantly speak and say how much we love each other, and we support each other. I miss them very much.”
When the war started on 24 February, Abbas was working abroad. His daughters called him that morning crying “Dad, the war has started, we are so scared!” He didn’t think twice. First a flight to Warsaw, then a train to Lviv. In no time, he was back home in Kyiv. After living in a bomb shelter for a few days, the family decided that Abbas’s wife and his children would flee to Poland.
After taking them to the train station, he came back to Kyiv. “I did not want to join the army, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with arms, so I decided to go to church and help people there.”
With his car, Abbas helped people evacuate from towns near Kyiv and delivered food, blankets and warm clothes.
One day, he received a call from his former colleagues at Rokada: they needed to hire more people to join their team. Abbas accepted immediately.
UNHCR, together with Rokada and other NGO partners continues to respond to the immense needs in Ukraine, thanks to funding from donors like the United States. This includes protection work like psychosocial and legal assistance throughout Ukraine, shelter assistance and repairs, the delivery of essential relief items and cash assistance that gives IDPs the capacity to meet their most urgent needs.
This work is being done be dedicated individuals, like Abbas, who cannot stand aside seeing people suffer.
“I made a conscious choice to stay and live in Ukraine because I really love this country. It is my family, and I don’t want to leave when the situation is difficult here. I just want to stay and do what I can to help,” said Abbas.