HI Program Officer Anna Bekh (middle) stands with Natali (left) and Konstantin (right) at the center they run to house people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine, supported by HI. | © HI
28-year old Anna Bekh went home to visit her family in Ukraine and plan her wedding. When conflict arose two days later, she joined HI’s emergency response in her hometown.
Dnipro-born Anna Bekh had been living abroad with her fiancé for two years when she decided to travel home to Ukraine to visit her family and plan her upcoming wedding. Two days after she landed, a violent conflict erupted, turning entire cities to ash and millions of people into refugees overnight.
“When I arrived, I didn’t believe any conflict would start,” Anna says. “But I remember the night before; I couldn’t sleep and had a sudden panic attack. There was an inexplicable feeling of fear that we were in danger.”
Inspired by the tragic events that have unfolded and the rising need for people to depend on others in a time of crisis, the 28-year-old decided to stay and join HI’s emergency response to the conflict. Today, she is an HI Program Officer in her home of Dnipro. Her role involves identifying institutions, organizations, hospitals and volunteer centers where people displaced by the conflict are in need of humanitarian aid, and determining how HI can best support their needs.
“We assess their needs and formulate a list of donations that HI can provide. If there are a large number of requests, we prepare long-term financial support for them. Then, we monitor the process and oversee the activities.”
“I will never forget visiting Zaporizhia and Kharkiv during the days when those regions were under attack. In Kharkiv, we saw the metro stations full of people, living there with all their belongings, cats, dogs, and children,” Anna explains. “It can be hard to listen to all of the stories that happened to people as they escaped and evacuated from dangerous areas. It is heartbreaking.”
Despite the difficult context, Anna has managed to find positivity in working on the emergency response.
“I like getting to know the vulnerable groups of people and then helping to assist them,” she says. “I was also shocked to see that many people responding to the crisis were working with no salary, and often using their own money to support people in need. Their devotion is impressive. Before this, I didn’t know those kinds of people existed.”
According to Anna, the greatest needs in Ukraine today remain in helping people to safely evacuate dangerous areas, supporting workplaces, and providing financial and social support to people affected by the conflict.
She concludes, “I just hope that no more innocent people will be killed or injured.”