On the 24th February 2022, the world watched in horror as Russian troops invaded Ukraine. At the time of writing, more than 2.5 million people have fled the country, in what the United Nations has called the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War Two.
It’s unclear how many of those who’ve left are disabled, but the European Disability Forum has said tens of thousands of people with disabilities "risk being abandoned and forgotten".
The International Disability Alliance says there’s little evacuation support, and even those who do manage to get to refugee centres or shelters face many obstacles.
And as Russia steps up its attacks on civilian centres, staying in Ukraine doesn’t seem like an option, but not everyone is physically able to leave.
Charities and organisations across Europe are coming together and working tirelessly to help as many disabled Ukrainians as they can find safety - or to provide practical help to those who’ve chosen, or have no other choice, but to stay. But there is still so much work to be done.
On Monday, I spoke to Tanya Herasymova, the project coordinator for the Ukrainian disability group Fight For Right.
Their mission is to achieve effective implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and a few weeks ago the focus of their work shifted almost overnight as rumours began to circulate that Russia would invade Ukraine.
Tanya is disabled, and made the difficult decision to leave her home. Thanks to the support of her colleagues, she’s now safely out of the country.
I was able to speak to her about her experiences and the work that needs to be done to support disabled Ukrainians, both inside and outside the country.
To listen, you can just click play at the top of this email, or you can listen on Apple, Spotify, Amazon and Google. If you’d rather read the transcript of the episode, I’ve made that available on my blog.
Fight For Right have been fundraising to support disabled people in Ukraine. You can donate to their vital work via GoFundMe.
As of the 11th March, they were able to “successfully help 80 Ukrainians with disabilities cross the border and provide critical resources for their health and safety.
This has been accomplished entirely due to the support of people with disabilities worldwide. Our team of volunteers has grown from three individuals to a group of over 30 people working tirelessly to do everything possible to fill the gaps and help people with disabilities in Ukraine as they fight to survive.
There are many more individuals who still need evacuations, medications, and legal support. Our fight to evacuate Ukrainians with disabilities is a round the clock effort, and we sincerely appreciate each and every donation that has been made so far.”
Tanya and her team need all the support they can get right now, so please do donate if you can. And please consider sharing this episode on social media so it can reach as many people as possible.
I just wanted to take a moment to say a huge thank you to my premium subscribers here on Substack for making this episode possible. If you’d like to support more work like this, please consider becoming a subscriber: