Natalia Yatsyshyn has been working for the ICRC for almost three years. Having previously worked as a teacher and a bank employee, she now supports families who are looking for their missing relatives.
Nataliia, when and how did you start working for the ICRC?
I joined the ICRC in 2015, literally answering the call of the heart. I have two diplomas of higher education – one in philology and another one in economics. At first, I was an English teacher at the university. Then I worked in banks for ten years. The events began in Ukraine in late 2013 and I was not doing anything about it, which bothered me. When I was translating texts from Ukrainian into English and Russian, I sometimes encountered texts that addressed socially important issues. Then I realized that I needed to change something in my life. Accidentally I saw a job vacancy at the ICRC and I submitted my CV. I carefully prepared for the interview, having read almost everything that could be found about the ICRC. I think I came here really by vocation and found myself in this work, so I am happy.
What do you do?
I work with the people whose relatives have disappeared in relation to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Our work covers three main areas. First, we try to help people to find their relatives who have disappeared. People have the right to know about the fate of their missing relatives. Second, we support these families as, after the disappearance of their relatives, they experience different problems and needs. Third, we are trying to make the problem of the missing widely known: we want to ensure that these families are heard by the authorities and that this problem is acknowledged by the general public. When people and their relatives are doing well, it is very difficult for them to understand what the families of the missing are facing. This must be spoken about. Therefore, we organized several events at the occasion of the International the Day of the Missing people (August 31) but we also organize many other events, through which we try to bring this problem to the society and authorities.
What motivates you at work?
There are many motivating factors. The key one is the result – we have the opportunity to support people who believe that no one will help or that everyone has forgotten about them. It is inspiring when people thank you for your work. And despite the fact that we work with complicated cases, our work is not full with negative things only. Yes, people who are looking for their missing relatives suffer and sometimes need to let this pain pass through themselves. But there are also positive moments when someone is found or families receive some news. Or when we manage to gather representatives of the government and the family at the negotiating table so that they can establish a dialogue. Even such complicated things have positive moments. And we have a very good team. We support each other because we understand the specifics of our work.
How do you manage to understand people who have encountered the problem of missing relatives?
Before we start regular communication with the relatives of missing persons, we gather in writing all relevant information about the sought person with the family members. We call it a “tracing request”. This document compiles details of the disappearance of a relative, the history of searches, as well as other important issues such as the difficulties faced by the family. Therefore, when we start communicating with a particular person, we are ready for this conversation. We already know the story. We start talking, and when a person understands that we really want to help, he/she becomes open to us. This is the most important thing.
What are your strongest impressions from your work – from people, meetings, events?
It is impossible to mention just one event or a person. Impressions from work are different every day because the situation of conflict is constantly changing. The approach of the authorities to search for missing persons and the psychological state of families also changes. Therefore, every time it is different.
Tell us about your life out of work.
I try to do sports five times a week – to do some muscle-strengthening exercises. When I force my body to work, it helps to switch from work. I also do Latin dances. I regularly meet my relatives and friends, spend active weekends with them, walk in the nature. Every week I discover some new place in Kyiv or nearby. I avoid horror movies or movies about war – I want to make my life as positive as possible. My loved ones, friends and two fluffy cats at home give me relief. Besides, I take care of homeless animals. I think there is a balance in my life – if I start to worry too much about the problems at work, then I compensate this at home with a dose of positive things.