Fatigue and hope define outlook for Ukrainian charity

People with disabilities, including many of Fight for Right's staff, are active participants in improvement, not passive recipients of help, says director Tanya Herasymova. Photo: Provided by Fight for Right
Published March 1, 2024

As the war between Russia and Ukraine approaches the end of its second year, Fight for Right, a charity supported by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), has changed its focus from evacuating people in urgent need to advocacy for a more accessible Ukraine, says Tanya Herasymova, the charity’s director.  

Herasymova is from Dnipro, a city in Eastern Ukraine, but she is working from abroad, she says, because while the city is not being shelled at the moment, it could be at any time. And because she uses a wheelchair herself, Herasymova is not guaranteed to be able to evacuate in time. 

Once the majority of people who wanted to get out of the country had the chance to do so she says, Fight for Right, which specializes in supporting people with disabilities, transitioned to taking care of those who remained. First, that meant providing water and supplies to get through a harsh winter with an unreliable power grid. More recently, it has also included advocating for accessible shelters to ensure those with disabilities have a somewhere safe to go when the fighting gets close and pushing for rebuilding efforts to include accessibility upgrades.  

“Ukraine is not the most accessible country in the world,” she says. “It’s very hard to stay safe because we don’t have accessible bomb shelters.” 

That’s one of the things Fight for Right is now working on changing, she says, along with fighting for a voice for disabled people in the efforts to rebuilt infrastructure that has been destroyed in Russian bombings. Many Ukrainians hope the country will be admitted into the European Union, she says, but Fight for Right’s goal is to see an improvement in accessibility policy before that happens. And it’s important to note that many of Fight for Right’s staff have disabilities themselves, she adds—she wants to make it known that people with disabilities are more than just passive receivers of help, but also active participants in delivering it. 

“We’re all working for victory. But what we’ll have when we win—we need to think about that now,” she tells the Journal. Fight for Right doesn’t want to let things go back to the way they were for Ukrainians with disabilities. 

This work is accompanied by a sense of hope for the country’s future, even as fatigue from nearly two years of constant war takes its toll on the minds of Ukrainians, says Herasymova. 

As the conflict drags on, world attention has become split between Ukraine’s war with Russia and the one between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. One research paper published by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a research organization based in Germany, found that newly committed government-to-government aid to Ukraine had dropped by 90 per cent between August and October 2023 compared with the same period in 2022. But as aid diminishes, there are some ways in which the needs of Ukrainians are even greater. According to the European Disability Forum, there were 2.7 million people with disabilities in Ukraine before Russia escalated the war into a full-scale invasion. That number has only grown as soldiers returned wounded in combat and artillery bombardments struck civilian areas, says Herasymova. 

“It’s really hard now to make plans for more than two months [ahead],” she says. “We feel [our work] is needed and we will continue as long as it is, but we can’t see the horizon where our resources will end or when it’s not needed anymore.” 


  • Sean Frankling

    Sean Frankling’s experience includes newspaper reporting as well as writing for video and podcast media. He’s been chasing stories since his first co-op for Toronto’s Gleaner Community Press at age 19. He studied journalism at Carleton University and has written for the Toronto Star, WatchMojo and other outlets.

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