Mobile teams deliver world of hope to Ukraine’s displaced

One man is using his own experience of war to help thousands of families in Ukraine.

UNICEF
08 September 2022

Bohdan Rudenko knows only too well how devastating war can be, which is why he is helping to run teams that restore the lives of thousands in Ukraine. 

“We help people to apply for IDP status and to get social, medical or psychological support,” says Rudenko, a former psychologist who was forced to flee his home in Kherson when war broke out in February. “Forcibly displaced people often suffer from issues with sleep, anxiety, panic and fear. They are grieving over the lost lives of relatives and friends, as well as for destroyed homes. Even a simple talk can be the first step to healing.”

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UNICEF

The teams that Bohdan helps to coordinate have been launched by the international charitable organization ‘Ukrainian Public Health Foundation’ with the support of UNICEF, and aim to help the millions of internally displaced people (IDP) all over the country who have been left without homes, jobs or social protection as a result of the fighting. 

In total, 50 mobile teams are in operation, with each consisting of a psychologist, a social worker, a lawyer and a doctor. Four of the teams are already helping families in the Vinnytska region, from which Bohdan fled and later returned to.

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UNICEF

"I used to work as a psychologist and work with the foundation before,” he says. “For me, it's a chance to feel that people need me and for me to recover. People need not only financial support. Sometimes they want to feel that they're not alone.”

Today, Bohdan is meeting several dozen people at the library in Zhmeryn. They fled their homes in the Mykolaiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, Odesa and Luhanska regions. 

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UNICEF

One of them, 40-year-old Tetiana, fled home with her husband, three children and their pets in March. She has since lost her father and her mother still lives in Mykolaiv.

"Our children didn't understand that the war had started,” says Tetiana. “I didn't expect it and didn't believe it either. First, we arrived in Snigurivka. We were hiding in the cold basement. People were sleeping dressed and with shoes on. There was no light and no food."

After fleeing, the family found a temporary home in the Vinnytska region, where the mobile team has been helping Tetiana with medical assistance for one of her daughters who has a disability. At last, her children can live again, but their fears are never far away. 

"When we're on a walk and girls hear sirens, they ask if we're going to run again. They still don't realize that this is war and how serious everything has got."

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Natalia Kameneva, a 42-year-old mother of two daughters who fled Kharkiv, has also turned to the team for psychological advice on how to help her children find peace. 

"The girls made friends here,” says Natalia. “They are communicating easily and enjoy their life. They recover from the stress much faster. "

Natalia says that for a long time her daughters would become ‘hysterical’ when they heard the sounds of planes or missiles. Those terrifying memories still haunt them.

"I want the world to see the conditions we have to live in and help us”.   

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UNICEF

With the support of UNICEF and the Government of Japan, 50 'Spilno' multidisciplinary mobile teams are currently working in Ukraine. Each team consists of a psychologist, a social worker, a lawyer and a doctor so that, in one single application, a person can attend to several urgent issues. Help includes psychological first aid and support, legal counseling, social support, and social services, medical aid, humanitarian kits and informational materials.

Bohdan hopes he can use his own experiences of living through the war to help others.

"It's really difficult to tell internally displaced people that you understand them when you haven't experienced the things they went through,” he says.