“Bringing Love to Ukraine”: A German Volunteer's Experience in Lviv
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Volunteers’ Experiences

June 19, 2023

“Bringing Love to Ukraine”: A German Volunteer's Experience in Lviv

Eva-Maria Dempf describes her ten days volunteering in Lyiv as one of the most significant experiences of her life. In her blog, which you can read here, she shares her memories of the beautiful city of Lyiv, the fulfillment of creating meals for soldiers, and her determination to return. 

Volunteering in Ukraine 

I volunteered in Lviv in Ukraine for ten days – these days are among the most important experiences I have ever made in my life. It wasn’t a typical vacation, in a way exhausting but also very fulfilling.

Interview Eva-Maria Dempf - 10 days volunteer in Lviv
Rynok Square, Lviv.

To have seen Lviv, this most beautiful city, was one thing I did not know I was missing. It is by far the most impressive city I have ever visited. Such a closed city scape with houses of different epochs (Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism, Historicism, Art Nouveau and Art déco), not to mention the huge size of it, is simply overwhelming. Yes, quite a lot of the houses need renovation but this „shabby chic“ is part of the charm of Lviv. A visit at the opera should not be missed while in Lviv and I was very happy that the very popular Ukrainian opera „Cossacks in exile“ by the Ukrainian composer Semen Hulak-Artemovskyi was on the schedule. Though we didn’t understand much of the text, we had a great time because the music, the singers and the staging were awesome.

Unfortunately the war is present everywhere in Lviv, the vitality of the city can’t really blur the presence of it. First of all you are reminded that you are in a country at war by the regular air raid alerts, mostly deep at night. Soldiers are everywhere in the city, many buildings are protected with sand bags. The precious windows at churches are covered with metal, statues are protected, too. Most exhibits in museums are not on display, or only copies of them, as they are stored at save places.

Interview Eva-Maria Dempf - 10 days volunteer in Lviv
Interview Eva-Maria Dempf - 10 days volunteer in Lviv

Almost every day there is at least one funeral service in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul. I attended one and it broke my heart to see the mourning family and the crying comrades of the fallen soldier. So many young people have to give their lives for this senseless war. So much sorrow, so much pain! Exactly at the moment of consecration of the coffin the air raid alarm went off – not even in their most painful hours the Ukrainian people aren’t spared of the Russian terror. Next to the big Lytchakivski cemetery a new cemetery had to be built for the fallen soldiers of this war. There are already hundreds of them. I visited the cemetery, to honour the soldiers and to pray for them, but I haven’t been there for long. I felt like an intruder seeing all the women, children and parents at the graves and didn’t want to disturb their mourning.

Especially theses experiences give me the motivation to engage continually for Ukraine and even more. The Ukrainians needs and deserves our full support. The detonation of the dam in Nova Kakhovka, the massive shelling of the rescuers and volunteers and the fact, that the people in the occupied areas not only get no help from the Russians but their boats were destroyed prior to the detonation, leaves me with deepest contempt for the Russian terrorists. A feeling I never had before.

I would have loved to stay for longer and continued helping. Despite the sorrow, that is present every minute, I met wonderful people at Front Line Kitchen, from Ukraine and from all over the world. They all support Ukraine in her fight in many different ways. Front Line Kitchen (FLK) was founded in 2014 by two Ukrainian women and since then supplies the soldiers with complete dried and healthy meals. Since the start of full scale war it even became a hub for several transports of (medical and humanitarian) aid.

The main task for volunteers at FLK is peeling and cutting vegetables and fruits. I never have cut so many beetroot in my life! But beetroot is the most important vegetable as it is needed for Borsht, the traditional and much liked soup of Ukraine. Luckily there is a shredder to cut the beetroots and carrots, everything else has to be cut by hand. But with a bunch of nice people at the table this a fun work to do, we chatted and laughed a lot. Here are some videos to show you the process:

The vegetables are being cleaned and cut: https://youtu.be/5j7O4xUBDVg

The shredder that makes cutting so much easier: https://youtube.com/shorts/axfzHDz-_Js?feature=share

The cut vegetables are then dried and after that the ingredients for each dish are weighed thoroughly and put in a bag (video: https://youtu.be/CJg9Ofixrlc). There are different soups available, Kasha (porridge with fruit), tea and spices (video: https://youtu.be/HLakYAtTXp0). The soldiers only have add hot water and cook the mixture for 10 to 20 minutes and quickly have a healthy meal for 10 to 15 people.

Interview Eva-Maria Dempf - 10 days volunteer in Lviv

I even made a camouflage net – something I never thought I would make. But as it is crucially important for the soldiers at the frontlines for their suvival, you simply do make camouflage as a volunteer. A net of a stable thread is nailed to a frame and on that net you weave an irregular pattern with green remnants. Each of us has their own technique, I went with my gut. Seemed to be going well as Nataliya, the „boss“, was quite pleased with my work. I liked doing the camouflage, it is meditative and somehow art. While peeling vegetables and putting together the meals aren’t connected to the war that obviously, this was different with the camouflage – I happily would have skipped this experience. Despite all the chatting and laughing that comes with the work and some language obstacles with our English-Ukrainian mixture, we all knew why we are here. The war lies like a shadow over everything we do.

The connection between the soldiers at the frontlines and the many volunteers in the background is tight, even though hundreds of kilometers lie between us. Every now and then the soldiers send thank-you-videos to FLK and this time soldiers from Lithuania, who deliver food to the frontlines, brought us shellings from Bakhmut as a thank you from the soldiers at the frontlines. What a present! I will cherish it a lot – if it arrives, as I had to send it by mail. It might have caused a lot of trouble at the border, I didn’t want to risk that.

It was an unusual way to spend my vacation, but I didn’t want to and couldn’t spend my vacation the typical way. Every thought on that did not feel right, something inside myself was very reluctant to „only have some relaxing days for myself. There is so much to do in Ukraine, also work that everybody can do. It is very fulfilling to create something with your hands, the big piles of vegetables we peeled and cut, the filled bags with meals, the finished net. „разом – together“ is the name of an initiative of the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, it is the word that describes the work of the volunteers. Together with the Ukrainians we do our part that Ukraine will win this war and that the Ukrainian people will be able to live in peace again. Together we give the Ukrainians the power and the courage to keep on fighting, on the frontlines and in the background. The tiredness and exhaustion are written in their faces. Together we bring some humanity and love to Ukraine who has to experience so much suffering and death.

No work is too little when you work for this common goal. Ukraine needs and deserves our support in every way possible as the Russian terrorists want to annihilate them, and we can’t just stand back and watch! The Ukrainians can count on my support, I certainly will come back and do whatever is needed, and I also will continue going to demonstrations at home, holding our prayer for peace and much more.”

Interview Eva-Maria Dempf - 10 days volunteer in Lviv

This sign is in the hall of the main station. The green connections are the ones that don’t run at the moment unfortunately. The white ones are open again. The destination on top is no city – „Peremoha“ means victory. That will be reached in 2023.

Volunteers like Eva-Maria plays an important role in sustaining the morale and determination of the Ukranian people on the path to victory. Whatever your skills, there’s a warm welcome and life-changing experience awaiting you. You can check out volunteering opportunities here and read further blogs on Ukraine by Eva-Maria at https://aequitas.blog/

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