As the group works to rescue those affected by flooding in Kherson, a charity organizer in Ukraine said it is “hard to control emotions” because he worries some may not have homes to return to.
Depaul International’s head, Father Vitaliy Novak, said the organization is “ready to help” those affected after damage to the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River resulted in devastating floods, but added that it urgently needs funds.
The 46-year-old Christian missionary said he is thankful for the UK’s help “from the first day of the war” and admitted it has been difficult to contain his emotions as people have once again been forced to flee their homes just months after the area was declared free of Russian invaders.
“It is very hard to imagine and control your emotions because for these people they were happy and the territory was free and peaceful, but again people have to leave for a second time and in a very short time, so it is incredibly hard to cope with this,” he told the PA news agency.
“We couldn’t believe even water can become a weapon against us, but it’s happening in front of our eyes.”
Mr. Novak said he has prepared about 200 beds for individuals escaping flooded regions while on his way to Kherson to deliver relief. He was calling from a location close to the Donbas region.
“Odesa is the closest place where we operate so we opened 200 beds in a hostel and now we’re waiting for the first people who will arrive from the evacuation zone,” he added.
People leaving their homes still run the risk of being bombarded, he claimed.
“Kherson wasn’t in a good position even after the occupation… when Kherson was liberated and free because there was permanent shelling from the left side of Dnipro,” he said.
“It’s even worse now because when people wanted to evacuate, there is still shelling.
“This is another wave of a horrible situation for people who are affected by the war, and now it is flooding.”
Although Mr. Novak feels the situation is worse in Russian-occupied territory, he estimated that between 18,000 and 40,000 people in places not under Russian occupation have been affected.
“These people are trapped because they are not able to move,” he said.
“There are Russian checkpoints. They don’t allow them to move and run, so it is horrible, even worse situation than here.”
The charity’s organizer anticipates that the agriculture industry may be particularly impacted by the destruction of the hydroelectric station reserve nearby.
“We are not able to measure how bad (the flooding) is because the water is still going up, but we know that for agriculture it is a horrible situation,” he said.
Mr Novak is calling for financial support and donations to help those most affected by the floods, especially as it is not known whether people can return to their homes.
“We don’t know when they can return back home, if we can find homes after the flooding,” he said.
“(The flooding) will be long term and people will need long-term support.
“We were not prepared with the resources we have, so again we are asking people for help and donations.
“We are ready to help, and we know how to organise this, but it is resources (we need).”
Mr. Novak has pleaded with people to donate food, toiletries, sleeping bags, and sheets.
The website of Depaul International, which receives funds from the DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, is a place where people may donate money to help provide more hostel beds, food, sanitary supplies, and aid.
More than a year after the war’s start in February 2022, Mr. Novak is appreciative of the UK’s assistance.
“I want to thank people in the UK because you are with us and we feel your solidarity from the first day of the war,” he said.
“After one year we’re not getting better, but you are still with us and you still want to help us.
“You are all in my daily prayers.”