We meet in a heavy rainy day, here at Cuamm headquarter. They have just had a walk around to see “your beautiful city”, they said soaking wet. We hang our sopping wet jackets on the radiator to dry. An ordinary and instinctive gesture for us who benefit from the heater, although at a higher cost. In their hometown Chernivtsi, Ukraine, cold is what scares them the most since bombing have not started yet on the Romanian border. Natalia and Katerina are two young women, co-founder the former and director, the latter, of Vrb the local association with which Cuamm collaborates in Ukraine by sending and distributing drugs, food and essential goods to the displaced and the people affected by the emergency.
800 thousands: according to data, this is the number of displaced people who have fled the most damaged areas of the country and have arrived in town, claims Natalia. Green eyes and red hair, the hands of those who work tirelessly, never backing down instead, always on hand to help. She tells us in fluent Italian:
«The war strategy has changed, the Russian airstrikes are targeting specifically infrastructures, power and hydropower plants, because of this our capacity to produce energy has reduced by 40%, we are being condemned to freeze to death. This is a major problem for residential buildings as for schools and hospitals that are equipped with energy generators which were meant to be used in emergencies but only for few hours per day. We are actually using them constantly, but fuel is extremely expensive. If we run out of power, nothing works; there are elderly people living on the top floors of buildings who are now stuck in their homes because they can’t take the elevator».
Everyday volunteers from Vrb works to distribute food, they take drugs to hospitals not only in town but also to other 7 Oblast (a total of 27 health centers), they welcome displaced people and do their best to face the daily challenge of living. The hardest moment?
«It was at the beginning of the war, when we could not understand what was going on. We saw refugees arriving, Ukrainians like us, fleeing from the border areas, women, elderly, children, many of them were sent alone with name, phone number and date of birth written on their backs, so that those who welcomed them knew something about them. It was heartbreaking. I have a 12-year-old son, and every moment of the day, my thoughts go to him, to this situation, to how many opportunities are stolen from him.” And she goes on saying: “The first thing I hope for when I wake up in the morning is that it will be a little less cold than yesterday. The winter is long in Ukraine, there is already snow and it will remain until late March. Our life is suspended, the children go to school on and off, every time the siren sounds, we have to stop what we are doing and seek safety, and when the lights go out, the darkness around you is absolute. We had a normal life that was wiped out just like that, suddenly, overnight».