Her evacuation to safety happened in the nick of time. Liudmyla holds on tight to her infant grandchild as she boards a bus to safety with her daughter, the baby, and her teenage grandson. She recounts how Angels of Salvation, a charity organization funded by Nova Ukraine, picked them up from the embattled village of Svyatohirs’k exactly one hour before a Russian rocket blew up their home to smithereens.
“We had already evacuated from Bohorodychne,” Elena recalls. “When the war started we left and came to Svyatohirs’k. And then things became so terrible there that after last night we decided to leave.” Shortly after speaking with volunteers, Elena received news that her house had been hit by a direct rocket strike.
If it wasn’t for Angels of Salvation, Liudmyla and her family might not have survived. It’s for the sake of families like hers that the 60 volunteers with Angels of Salvation risk their lives every day, driving to and from areas of active fighting in eastern Ukraine. Since the start of the war, they have evacuated more than 15,000 people and delivered them to safety in cities in central and western Ukraine.
The organization does double duty: on their way east they deliver humanitarian aid to local residents: food as well as medicine, household supplies, and mattresses, among others. Driving back west, the volunteers pick up as many people as they can fit in their cars and evacuate them to safety.
The route to safety is not an easy one. The evacuees are first picked up by car, then transferred onto buses, and eventually they board trains in Pokrovs’k, a city in Dontesk close to the Dnipro region. From there people have the choice of riding the train to the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, where they stay at a center for internally displaced people, or they can continue further to cities in western Ukraine, where they are connected with local volunteer organizations.
Angels of Salvation was founded in 2014 after Russia invaded the Donbas and annexed Crimea. Back then they delivered aid mostly to Volnovakha and adjacent villages. Since the invasion this year, however, their efforts intensified and the group now operates throughout Donets’k and Luhans’k regions, as well as in Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Zaporizhzhia. They own 20 vehicles — cars, buses, ambulances, and armed vehicles — and coordinate operations with resettlement centers in various regions. Their work is especially dangerous but the Angels are not deterred.
“Our brave volunteers are constantly risking their lives to help people escape to safety,” says Dmytro Mishenin, head of Angels of Salvation. “They face constant danger and witness horrors of war first hand. My father, who was in charge of an evacuation in Volnovakha, ran into traps set by the Russian army that damage tires. While fixing the car, bad street fighting erupted. Our volunteers return home with their cars full of holes from bullets and shrapnel. They witnessed horrifying scenes of bodies of civilians killed strewn around the streets.”
Angels of Salvation also organized a center for displaced people in the Khmelnytskyi region in western Ukraine. In collaboration with local authorities the volunteers have resettled 193 people in abandoned houses. They make sure the homes are inhabitable. When necessary, they do minor repairs and install boilers, stoves, and washing machines.
With your help, Angels of Salvation will continue to give families like Elena’s a chance to escape the ravages of war.