Testimonials from Ukraine

"I could have left, but I stayed"

Ivanna Khrapko, Ukrainian trade unionist, launched a volunteer initiative after the war broke out to help internally displaced Ukrainians. The ILO assisted trade union efforts and provided support to cover 7,750 bednights and daily food packages for people fleeing the war.

Article | 23 February 2023
Ivanna Khrapko, Chairman of the Youth Council of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, Kyiv
"On 24 February, 2022, Ukrainians` lives have changed dramatically. All our plans, our work, our daily routine changed to one thing - survive. My personal shock lasted two days - the first day I spent in the subway and the second day on the road from Kyiv to Chernivtsi, western Ukraine. There was no time to remain in shock, and neither for sleep. It was possible to leave Ukraine, but I opted to stay. Because when you are a trade unionist, when there are people behind you, you have to be with them and do everything possible and sometimes even impossible things.

I clearly remember the first week of the war. People tried to find safe haven either in the western part of the country or somewhere in Europe. Together with the trade union youth, we helped people to find places to stay both in Ukraine and abroad. In particular, at trade unions` health resorts, tourist hotels and educational centers which were quickly reorganized into help centers for internally displaced persons.

On 7 March, we launched our volunteer initiative "Trade union lifeline". Our team delivered hundreds of boxes of humanitarian aid from our European trade union colleagues to Ukrainians, and we also worked on the the evacuation of population from the east of the country. At the Kyiv central railway station, our youth activists organized activities for children waiting for their trains to the western regions and Europe. They performed for them, wrote inspirational messages and drew pictures for our soldiers together.

Of course, we tried our best to ensure that the Ukrainian voice is heard by as many international partners as possible. We had online meetings with the Swedish parliament, British trade unions and politicians, trade union activists from Europe, speeches on national radio, numerous articles on European trade union channels.

When I look back, I know from the bottom of my heart that the decision I made was correct. Trade unions are really incredible organizations. Solidarity and the ability to find solutions for any hardship is the superpower of trade union leaders! We can use it to help Ukrainians, our country, and our defenders. I believe, and I know that the victory will come soon, with a new democratic, free and European future for our country."