A Young Woman’s Ukraine War Task: Encouraging Evacuations

The first person that Yana Muravinets tried to convince to leave her home near the Ukrainian front line was a young woman who was 5 months pregnant.

She didn’t want to abandon her cows, calves, or dogs. She told Mrs. Muravinets that she had put all her energy and money into building her house near the city of Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, and that she was afraid of losing it.

“I said, ‘It’s not necessary for you to lie dead here,'” Ms. Muravinets said.

Since the early days of the war, Ms. Muravinets, a 27-year-old photographer and videographer from the area, has been doing a new volunteer work with the Red Cross: encouraging people to evacuate. In phone calls, door-to-door conversations, public speeches in village squares, even sometimes under fire, she tried to convince Ukrainians that leaving everything was the way to go. only sure to survive.

Convincing people to give up all that they have built up in life is one of the many bad jobs war has created, and another. challenge the government Had to face. While the city of Mykolaiv managed to repel Russian attacks early in the war, the attacks left it and its region vulnerable, bringing death and widespread destruction. Many residents have left, but hundreds of thousands are still there, and the mayor’s office has urge people to leave.

Ms. Muravinets, who has spent thousands of hours in recent months trying to evacuate, said she was unprepared for the task. She started having panic attacks, she said, but she felt she had to move on.

“The war isn’t over and people keep putting themselves in jeopardy,” she said in a Zoom call from Mykolaiv that had to be paused due to shelling. “If I can convince one person to leave, that’s fine.”

Boris Shchabelkyi, the disability evacuation coordinator who worked with Ms Muravinets, described her as a tireless worker, gentle with people in need of evacuation and “always in a good mood” with colleagues. mine.

With the Red Cross, she helped evacuate more than 2,500 people, she said, but many stayed or returned a few days after they left. Ms. Muravinets said it took a month and a half to convince the young pregnant woman to run away, and she only left after her window was smashed twice.

“Especially when it’s safe, people think it’s okay and live in some kind of illusion,” she said. “They decided to leave only when the rocket reached their home.”

During the two years before the war, Ms. Muravinets worked for Lactalis, a French dairy company with factories in the area, and she toured agricultural villages to check the quality of milk.

Now that many country roads have become rough, she has reached remote villages, avoiding fires using shortcuts she learned in her previous job. But now, she must convince dairy farmers to give up their livelihood.

“It’s been a whole life for them,” she said. “They said, ‘How can I give up my cows? How can I leave my cows? ‘”

Before the war, she said a cow could cost as much as $1,000. Now people take them to slaughterhouses for meat with only a small portion of it.

Ms. Muravinets said some of the farmers who agreed to the evacuation had left the barns empty so their animals wouldn’t starve to death, and that cows, gaurs and ducks now roam the village roads looking for food and water.

“People with money, opportunities, cars have left,” Ms. Muravinets said. But others, who lived in the bunker for months, told her they were willing to die there because they refused to leave.

She said she stayed for the same reason.

“The rest are those who are willing to sacrifice their lives.”

Valeriya Safronova Reporting contributions from New York.

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