“I don’t want anyone to be hungry – ever.” Ljudmila said.
Recently, Red Crosser Susan Malandrino traveled to Hungary and met with people who are trying to find a sense of normalcy after they fled the conflict in Ukraine. Ljudmila, is one of the people Susan was able to sit down with and hear how she is persevering and finding ways to give back, despite leaving everything behind. Keep reading to hear Susan’s first perspective of her experience meeting Ljudmila:
Dolling out bowls of her homemade borscht for volunteers and Ukrainians alike, she worked with the command and efficiency of a drill sergeant. She beckoned everyone to sit and eat the warm soup as freezing rain fell outside.
I met Ljudmila two months ago while visiting a Red Cross shelter for refugees in Hungary. She’s a Ukrainian grandma with a heart of gold who was forced to flee the Donbas region of Ukraine last March.
While she spooned a large dollop of sour cream into my soup, Ljudmila said, “My mama taught me how to cook this recipe, and cooking this reminds me of home.”
She told me about how she found community after fleeing her home and a sense of purpose at the shelter she cooks for, which is operated by the Hungarian Red Cross. Her two daughters and four grandchildren were also among the shelter’s 80 residents.
“In the kitchen, we talk about motherhood, we talk about the war, we talk about children. We talk about it all – everything. It’s good for us.”
Ljudmila’s daughters and grandchildren joined us as we ate and I asked them what their favorite treat was from their grandma. Not missing a beat, Ljudmila jumped in and said with a big smile, “It’s borscht. It’s always borscht. Nothing can compare. You can call me Babusia Borscht.”
As a communicator for the American Red Cross, I am tasked with the responsibility of sharing stories like Ljudmila’s to shed light on the crisis in Ukraine and the people that have had to leave everything behind.
Currently, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) is working with local Red Cross officials to implement a cash assistance program. Many people like Ljudmila have already received aid from this program, which affords them the ability to buy basic necessities like a winter coat, water and food.
Cash assistance provides dignity to people who otherwise would go through a less efficient process to receive aid. Because of the conflict, many people were able to register for cash wherever they were located by using their smartphones.
Since the conflict began, Red Cross teams have provided cash assistance to nearly one million people — supporting their basic needs, rental assistance, health and shelter needs. Thus far, more than $138 million in assistance has been distributed to needy families.
To read more stories about how the Red Cross is helping in Ukraine, visit redcross.org/ukraine.