Interview with Iryna Roik

Meet Iryna Roik, PR and Marketing Manager in Ukraine

Tell us a little about your background. What were you doing before the war?

I was working at an advertising agency. Life was good. I hung out with friends, read books, went to the movies, and dreamed of travels, new experiences, and what was ahead. But after February 24, life as I knew it was gone, and nothing has been the same since.

How does the war affect your daily life?

It’s important to understand that I live in a relatively quiet city. And although it’s nothing like Kharkiv or Kherson, war changes life everywhere. In the beginning, I feared losing my home and my family. Now I’m afraid for the loved ones outside of my family. A few days ago, I learned about the death of an incredible friend. This is the pain of war that will never go away. We are losing extraordinary people. 

Right now, it’s as if I’ve become united with strangers. For example, a friend of a friend is raising money for her father’s pickup truck. I don’t know her, but I’m sending money. Because now there is no such thing as a stranger’s father or a stranger’s loved one, you experience every need as your own. Everything now is personal.

Why did you decide to work at Nova Ukraine?

I hadn’t done volunteer work since my days at the university. But when the war broke out, I was looking for a way to be useful to my country. I am so grateful I found Nova Ukraine. Actually, I think we found each other. Now, I can help not just with my hands, sorting products and weaving nets, but also with my managerial skills, my people skills, and my knowledge of marketing and writing. My ability to get things done.

What’s your typical day at the office like? Please describe your daily activities and tasks.

As a marketing and communications manager, I am able to help in many ways. Even remotely, which is how I work, I can help “package” projects for fundraising in America, help with reporting projects, write press releases and social posts, work with photographers, journalists, and branded product manufacturers, advise teams on how to communicate with the media and write scripts for shoots. Actually, it seems like I’ve been preparing for this job my whole life, as it combines all the knowledge and skills I have. And what I don’t know, I can learn quickly.

Can you share with us a particular story that struck you?

In June 2022, a few months after the war began, I was asked to organize a small holiday party for displaced children in my hometown. This was one of my first projects for Nova Ukraine. I didn’t know anything yet about the organization, but my managerial experience helped me. We got together with the Shelter+ Community Center, which had been integrating displaced people for months into an active little community in Kryvyi Rih. 

Shelter+ not only raised funds for humanitarian aid, they freely distributed them. They  enlisted displaced people in volunteering efforts and gave them a place to share their experiences and transform their suffering into strength to help others in need. Mostly, these were families with children who found new friends in the cultural center where they could once again play soccer, or try theater in the studio, resume kindergarten, and talk about what they had been through. There were about 100 children of different ages for whom we organized an actual book holiday. At the end of this holiday, the children could choose books we had purchased and exchange them with newly made friends. 

Around this same time, an actual library was opened at the cultural and community center. Now the children had a new social foundation where they could be further integrated into a larger community through the sharing and exchanging of books. One hundred children may seem like nothing given the scale of this war, but for me, as a coordinator and a person who loves books, this was a very gratifying project. Integrating displaced people into new communities means you have helped them find a place they will eventually call home. 

What do you think Ukrainians need the most right now? (Besides victory.)

It’s a difficult question because the war has affected us differently. Someone might need a place to sleep peacefully without hearing explosions in the middle of the night. Someone else might need windows in their apartment. And someone else might just want a shelter where they will be safe. 

The one thing we all need is to know we are not alone in this war. There is support for our country.

What is the most challenging part of your work at Nova Ukraine?

I work with many different partners, coordinators and materials. The topics vary, from evacuation to humanitarian or medical aid, etc. And sometimes, I become overwhelmed with emotion. This is the most challenging part of the work: Trying to just stay on course, and document all that has happened so our children and grandchildren will remember what happened to Ukraine. Who was a friend, and who was the enemy.

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