Our  Work with Medical Aid Ukraine Northeast

Our Work with Medical Aid Ukraine Northeast

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the 24th of February dominated news headlines for weeks, as did public anti-war rallies, #standwithUkraine social posts, UK-wide charitable initiatives, and other forms of support for the Eastern European country. However, after more than five months, no resolution has been reached and the fighting continues to rage on. Coverage has gradually dwindled to small updates with other events and stories taking precedence. While we hope it ends soon, for many of us, this war is now playing out in the background.

Toward the end of 2021, Varvar, a Kyiv based brewery, contacted Full Circle about doing a collaboration beer: a Ukrainian Golden Ale, which is a style of beer that the brewery and country were trying to get fully recognised. We were excited because it would be our first in-person collaboration with a non-UK brewery, and our two members with Ukrainian heritage, Graeme and Josh, were looking forward to visiting Ukraine for the first time to attend the return collaboration in June. The Russian invasion, however, flipped the collaboration on its head and was fully focused on raising awareness and lending a hand to the people of Ukraine. We were joined by Varvar’s Martin Dawson, who, as a UK National, was able to escape Ukraine soon after the invasion started. While sitting down for pints he explained the first few nights of the invasion, the unease that gripped the people, and his eventual escape across the border into Poland.

Since the collaborations release, we have successfully sold all the beer and implemented various initiatives, including special mixed packs, tasting events, and quiz night raffles which have helped us raise £4,200 to assist Ukrainians during this extremely difficult time.

On the 8th of June, we learned that one of Varvar’s brewers, Yaroslav Prokopenka, had been killed during a combat mission on the 6th of June.

Varvar posted on Facebook: “Yaroslav will forever remain in our memory a wonderful and sincere friend, dear and capable colleague with the brightest smile. It is difficult to find words to convey the depth of this loss. We mourn and sympathize with the family and loved ones. Rest in peace my friend. We will never forget your contribution in Victory. Glory to Ukraine!”

The number of casualties since the invasion is an estimate, and figures can vary greatly depending on source, but the Ukrainian Government estimates that over 10,000 Ukrainian forces have been killed in action, with at least 30,000 injured. The number of civilian casualties is estimated to be between 12,000 and 30,000.

We knew our donation needed to have an immediate impact and were contacted by an amazing volunteer group, Medical Aid Ukraine Northeast. The organisation began at the start of the war with seven healthcare professionals employed full time by North East England NHS Foundation Trusts and with the fundraising managed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

We recently welcomed two members of the organisation, Nicola Elliot and Tetiana Bonar to the brewery to give us some insight on what they do and what essential items they transport across to Ukraine.

“[We] are a small grass roots not-for-profit organisation, who are working tirelessly to procure the most urgently needed medical equipment for Ukraine's field Hospitals,” explained Nicola. “We have transferred over 100 tonnes of life saving medical aid to the front lines in Ukraine, mostly through physical donations of medical items from NHS Trusts, private companies and individuals, and more recently financial donations.”

“Full Circle’s extremely generous financial donation will allow us to purchase urgently needed trauma Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs) containing equipment designed to save lives on the front line,” Nicola said.

Nicola and Tetiana showed us the IFAKs that they were sending across to  Ukraine and explained how important these can be for those fighting on the front lines. “These are the items we are asked for daily by our contacts in Ukraine, and up until now we have been unable to provide,” Nicola explains that up until recently these IFAKs have been out of stock. One aspect with these IFAKs is Combat Application Tourniquets (CAT).

Nicola explains that this device “is a small and lightweight arterial tourniquet that completely occludes blood flow in an extremity and can be applied by one person.” Nicola stresses that “although further treatment would be required, [the CAT’s] are a temporary measure to preserve life and limb.”

Tetiana grew up in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, and after graduating from university went to work on American cruise ships where she met her husband and immigrated to the UK five years ago. Tetiana shared stories and photos from her family who are still in Ukraine.

Tetiana explained about the initial response of Ukrainians to the Russian invasion. “There were so many guys willing to join the Ukrainian army that they couldn’t take everyone at the same time, and they just didn’t have enough ammunition. There were lots of women going to fight on the frontlines or serve as paramedics.” Her brother was one of those volunteers and has been fighting from the first day of the Russian invasion, helping protect the capital Kyiv. Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom, something so many had no hesitation to do. “For the first two months [my brother’s] unit was fighting as volunteers alongside the Army [and they’ve now been] incorporated into the Special Forces.”

Her brother echoed the importance for IFAKs explaining that “IFAKs is often the only thing that keeps a fighter alive until he’s taken to the hospital where he can get professional help,” and he discusses the difficulty in getting to hospital as “transportation to hospital can take hours in the war zone, thus, IFAKs are literally saving lives.”

Tetiana has also been in touch with a Polish volunteer, Mariusz Biziewski, who has been to Ukraine a few times already, bringing humanitarian aid and working as a bomb disposer. She says, “he has played an important part of Medical Aid North East. Last time, he drove with two of his friends all the way to the east of Ukraine, taking IFAKs to our contacts in Zhytomyr, and our medical supplies to Kharkiv.”

Tetiana also shared that her family has suffered the loss of her cousin, Yaroslav, who was killed in front-line action. Her second cousin, Kateryna, who before the war was a professional singer, turned combat paramedic in Mariupol, has been held prisoner since the Azovstal evacuation. “That’s a very common story for any Ukrainian now,” Tetiana explains, “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by this war.”

"The war in Ukraine is a tragedy for myself, my family, and all Ukrainians," Tetiana says, yet despite these circumstances, in the photos and videos she shows us, Ukrainian soldiers are seen smiling, and full of positivity. Tetiana herself maintains a positive demeanour throughout our conversations. "I am proud of how resistant our people are. I have never seen Ukrainians so united, and everyone is doing their bit - either fighting on the frontlines or volunteering or supporting refugees."  

“[Ukraine] is a prosperous country, that finally managed to shift away from the Soviet era, and was undergoing great transformation in the last years,” Tetiana described. “That’s why Ukrainians are fighting so hard now for their freedom and land. We’ve seen Ukraine under Russian rule and independent Ukraine – and we definitely prefer the second one.”

“I believe Ukrainians have enough determination and willpower to win this war” Tetiana pronounces, “but we do need some help. Medical supplies are vital and getting them into Ukraine in time can save many lives.”

Medical Aid Ukraine North East was founded with the assistance of seven people; however, due to various obligations, only Nicola and Tetiana are left to handle the majority of the organisations tireless work. Nicola says, “We are overwhelmed by the love, kindness, and support we have had from the people of the North East.” To learn more about the organisation, make a donation, or volunteer, contact information is below. 

The war has received less attention in the media, but that does not mean the situation in Ukraine has improved. Tensions and danger are still high, and we encourage everyone to stay aware.

Website: www.medicalaidukraine.co.uk

Instagram: MedicalAidUkraine_NorthEast

Twitter: @MAUkraineNE

Facebook: @MedicalAidUkraine.NorthEast

Donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/medicalaidukraine-northeast


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