When we provide humanitarian aid in small towns, we usually need the support of the locals to find people in need. Especially in the liberated areas, we badly needed their help, because we did not have the opportunity to explore these areas ourselves and build relationships before. When the small village of Zarichne was liberated from the Russian occupation, we met Olena. We worked with her a few times.
Many houses were empty. To save time, Olena helped us find sick and old people. She knew everyone in the village, helped the Ukrainian military and volunteers. She welcomed us very warmly, told us about was happened in the village and offered us food. After an intensive exchange with her, we agreed to meet again the next day to distribute relief supplies together with her.
But this never happened.
As we drove towards her house, we already saw the chunks of stone lying on the sidewalk. This war – it has names, it has stories, realities of life. It takes not only lives, but also history. A large part of Olena’s house was in ruins. She had no time, it happened too fast. Soldiers on the ground told us that they had spoken to her as recently as three hours before we arrived. We were the first to find her body.
Her neighbors buried Olena in her garden, where this courageous and kind-hearted woman spent her last minutes. They put up a cross, gave a name to this crime.
Olena did not live alone in her house. She had a faithful companion. Her dog sat on the stairs and waited. She was waiting for Olena to come back, but that did not happen. It will never happen and this hurts. We took care of the dog. Now she lives in Ireland, with a Base UA team member. He named her Olena, like her insanely brave owner.