”We accepted the new challenges and switched to emergency mode exactly as we did when we were mobilized to the army,” Denys Antipov, a veteran of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, wrote on his Facebook following the outbreak of COVID-19. Upon his demobilization, Denys opened a workshop producing toys and souvenirs from eco-friendly materials in Kyiv. Later he participated in IOM veterans’ reintegration project*, received a 3D printer and other equipment and expanded his business. The pandemic has forced many to rethink their plans. Denys postponed gifts production till better days and started looking for more relevant activities. His workshop switched to the production of face shields for people who have to contact with others during the quarantine. The shields reduce the risk of being infected with airborne diseases. Denys’s workshop offers discounts to doctors, veterans and their families.
“Almost a year and a half ago, with funding from the European Union, we launched the project to support veterans’ reintegration in three regions: Kyiv, Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk,” says Therese Rosenfeld, Transition and Recovery Programme Officer at IOM Ukraine. “The keynote of our veterans’ training is how important it is to rethink military experience and use it as a personal strength in reintegration into civil life. COVID-19 pandemic response stories prove this idea. Veterans know how valuable human life is and how important mutual support and solidarity are in emergency situations. People with military experience can quickly respond to the most unexpected circumstances. We do not cease to admire our beneficiaries and look forward to extending the veterans’ reintegration project.”
Participants of IOM veterans’ reintegration project from Dnipro — photographer Taras Bereza and founder of a souvenir workshop Arthur Kinosyan – also started crafting face shields to contribute to the pandemic response. They also use their 3D printer to produce the Y-shaped adapters for lung ventilation systems. Volunteers help deliver the shields and adapters to hospitals across Ukraine.
The former combatants remember the support of volunteers who supplied everything, starting from mere food, to the front. Today, many veterans volunteer themselves, bringing food to the medical workers who are now at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. With the outbreak of the pandemic, IOM grantee Andrii Sarvira, the owner of the “First Wave” restaurant in Dnipro, added “suspend pizza for medical workers” button to his website. Now he regularly delivers “suspended” items to the hospitals.
Ivan Pavlish, a veteran and a farmer from Lviv Region, is one of participants and co-founders of “Tarilka,” a charity food bank that collects needless food from supermarkets and restaurants and daily supplies it to unemployed, pensioners and other people who cannot provide for themselves. The quarantine became busy time for “Tarilka”. More than a dozen Lviv restaurants have joined the initiative. Every day volunteers deliver food both to medical workers at hospitals and to elderly people staying at their homes.
* The EU-funded project “Reintegration Support for Veterans of the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine and Their Families” is implemented by IOM in three pilot regions: Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv