Yulia Dyrda from Chernivtsi traded the office in Kyiv for the work in a conflict zone in the Luhansk region. However, she has never regretted her choice. For more than two years now, Yulia has been a member of the ICRC’s economic security team in Severodonetsk. No matter how difficult and sometimes dangerous her work might be, she sees it as an extraordinary source of inspiration and motivation.

Yulia, why did you join the ICRC?

I used to work in one of the ministries in Kyiv. In 2015 I felt a kind of inner need to change something in my life. Therefore, I started looking for a humanitarian job in the Donbas. My relatives and friends were shocked by such a decision. However, I just followed my vocation. It was a simple and joyful decision.

Has your work met the expectations you had?

Actually, it has exceeded my expectations. Being an educated economist working in the office, I never expected the economics to be so emotional. Everything is very dynamic; every day is full of events, meetings, decisions and stories of our beneficiaries, and from the morning to the evening of the same day sometimes it feels like an entire lifetime has passed. I adapted quickly and started to enjoy it very much.

Olena Loshakova /ICRC

What exactly are you doing?

Our team is working on the restoration of the economic capacities of the territories affected by the armed conflict in the Donbas. Our response is constantly adapting to the opportunities and needs of the people living along the contact line. In 2015, we distributed food and hygienic parcels, but now we help people earn money and run their households. Particular attention is paid to those isolated villages that are still exposed to the consequences of active military operations. During the winter time we provide population with firewood, stoves and cash for the purchase of solid fuel. In Stanytsia Luhanska the ICRC has been implementing the housing reconstruction project, and we give cash grants to beneficiaries so that they can purchase the furniture and essential household appliances.

This year we have also launched a livestock support project – we provide grants to those who have lost their income due to the conflict and seek to restore it. It includes purchases of chickens, cows, rabbits, quails or nutria. With this money, people could also buy the equipment they need for farming, animal food, pay for the veterinarian services, and compensate their transportation costs. Today we can see the results: people begin to recover their welfare. When you meet the same people again, three years later, who despite all challenges show their smiles, show hope through the work that they have resumed, you understand what the ICRC is doing for them. This is not just economic support. These are lives that have been restored.

Olena Loshakova /ICRC

Has the work in the ICRC changed you?

When I arrived to the Luhansk region, I knew a little about the events here, but I did not know much about the region itself. Every trip, every project was a discovery for me. And today, this land and these people seem like my relatives. I can see their faces change when they hear explosions, the tears of pain they shed over their losses, their sincere appreciation and reviving laugh… Perhaps these people teach me to take things easier, not to give up and to always believe. And this applies to everyone who works in our Severodonetsk team. Every day we learn how to live our lives from those who live under the constant threat of losing their lives.