Thursday, December 7

«Russian planes pass through here; every night we hear the alarms»

From the window of the modest hotel where Jesús Cruz Franco (Cáceres, 1972) is installed, you can see all the white roofs. “Today the sun has risen, but it is very cold and it usually snows,” says this man from Cáceres, who is experiencing first-hand these days the harsh reality of the war in Ukraine. Until that country he has left as emergency coordinator of Doctors of the World.

It is in Chernovtsi, a Ukrainian city of about 250,000 inhabitants located on the border with Romania. It is the point chosen by the organization for which he works as a cooperator to set up its headquarters with the aim of delivering the necessary medical supplies to hospitals. It is not an easy mission, especially in the centers that are under siege.

Cruz, a graduate in Law and Economics, has experience in war scenarios. He spent two and a half years in the former Yugoslavia. He has also passed through Africa and India. He has been in the Ukraine for ten days. “We have a team of 90 people who are distributed throughout the country. I am a support for all these people for an emergency operation », he details.

The team is mainly made up of Ukrainian citizens. This circumstance means that some have had to move from combat zones to the border city where Jesús is, whose population has tripled due to the arrival of civilians from other parts of the country.

His day, explains the man from Cáceres, begins with a shared breakfast with the rest of his colleagues. «When they travel they do it with their family, with their wives, with grandparents, with small children… The first meeting point I have with the team is at breakfast. There I see a little how they are and from there we begin to plan all the activities that we are going to do during the day », he relates.

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These emergency response activities include, for example, planning a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of medicines, reaching out to learn about local needs, and working with logistics and purchasing departments to supply hospitals around the world. country, who currently do not have access to medicines and cannot continue their treatment if they do not arrive.

“The country is divided into two zones. One is the area where the conflict is open, which mainly affects cities. Many are besieged and the population has been locked up. At the moment, the humanitarian corridors so that assistance can reach them are not opening. The situation there is dramatic », he says. “People – he continues – who can leave conflict areas or areas that are expected to enter into conflict move towards the borders of the European Union, such as Romania and Poland, and towards Moldova to try to cross. The country has a lot of internally displaced people who are moving to be safe, “explains the aid worker.

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On the border with Romania

Chernovtsi is a city that Jesus is reminded of Cáceres for its historical heritage. Here, in Cáceres, the worker from Extremadura has his parents, one of his brothers and his nieces, with whom he often contacts. “Being a border city, you find many displaced families. As the men have had to stay in the army, they are usually made up of mothers with their children », he recounts.

The crudeness of leaving everything behind to escape the war, Cruz points out, is seen in the looks. “You see it on his face. I work with Ukrainians. You have his mother in a city that is being bombed and you see his concern. It is a country at war and the war is also transmitted in the feelings, in the concerns and in the way of being of the people».

That is why Jesus assures that Chernovtsy lives “a false normality”. You can go, for example, to the supermarket to do your shopping, but its inhabitants live with the anxiety of knowing what will happen tomorrow.

“Russian planes pass through here. Every night we hear the emergency alarms. We have had a couple of nights in which we have had to go to the shelter, which are the basements, and wait for them to be deactivated », he comments mid-morning, during the lunch break. “What happens is that there is no military objective here,” he reassures.

One of the little everyday things that has surprised Jesús is the fact of seeing displaced families who travel without leaving their pets behind. “It’s very endearing because you see the little kids with their little dogs at the shelter.” It has also been curious to see a man who took a piano to a pedestrian street and began to play.

Jesús Cruz will be, in principle, in Ukraine for the next three months. The best way to help from a distance, he says, is to offer welcome and shelter to all the people fleeing the conflict. “They come out with nothing. They have had to leave their homes with everything they had inside them », he explains. The other option is to contact the organizations that are on the ground and make donations. Doctors of the World has had a branch in Extremadura for several years, located in the capital of Mérida.

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