“Ukraine Will Rise Like a Phoenix From the Ashes” - Oleksandra’s Story

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Monday, August 29, 2022
Oleksandra Shchukina is the head of Smart Media, a USAID-supported civil society organization that helps Ukraine’s citizens understand key reforms.

Oleksandra Shchukina is the head of Smart Media, a USAID-supported civil society organization that helps Ukraine’s citizens understand key reforms. She was raised in a family with civic and patriotic values; values which have given her strength during Russia’s war against Ukraine. “I am inspired by how caring our people are, by their desire to help others. My own patriotism and national identity come from my own family,” Oleksandra says. Her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents devoted their careers to civic life in Kharkiv, working as teachers, professors, and priests. With this background, Oleksandra grew up to be a civic leader, fervently believing in and willing to work for Ukraine’s democratic future.

Oleksandra was forced to leave Kharkiv during the early weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Russia’s shelling of the city grew more constant, and shells started to strike closer and closer to her home. “We started spending more and more time in the shelter, as we could hear Russian fighter jets flying right above our house. Once, my one-year-old son got so scared of those terrible sounds that he fell on the floor and started crying. My immediate thought was to save my child, so I decided to relocate to the Chernivtsi region.” 

While the safest option would have been to leave the country, Oleksandra decided to stay in Ukraine and support Kharkiv and other war-affected communities from Chernivtsi. Despite difficult wartime conditions, she continued to lead her civil society organization, which focuses on providing information to people in frontline communities and areas that are temporarily occupied by Russia’s forces. Oleksandra and her team coordinated the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in Kharkiv. During April and May, Smart Media and its network of volunteers helped provide 5,000 families in Kharkiv with non-perishable food, blankets, sleeping bags, power banks, and flashlights. 

In order to ensure the smooth and effective operation of humanitarian efforts, Oleksandra rented a warehouse and began to personally oversee the procurement and delivery of humanitarian aid. She also launched a social media platform (@smartmediaKH) that helps people find opportunities to volunteer in support of communities in Kharkiv oblast. 

Oleksandra and her team also produce daily information updates for people in Kharkiv and across Ukraine’s eastern and central regions. This information helps people access critical services and other kinds of support. For example, Smart Media helps people learn where to access humanitarian aid and state support. They also provide information about how to safely evacuate from hard-hit parts of the country. 

Looking ahead, Smart Media plans to scale up its activities by expanding their cooperation with the Government of Ukraine and the private sector. Despite being temporarily displaced themselves, Oleksandra and her team are fully committed to helping their community and their country. “Despite opportunities, we did not leave the country, we chose to continue working and building civil society in Ukraine,” says Oleksandra. 

Like all Ukrainians, Oleksandra has faced immeasurable hardship during the war. Still, she is optimistic about Ukraine’s future and in civil society’s ability to shape things for the better. “I believe in Ukraine as a developed European country with a robust civil society and strong democratic institutions. The war will make Ukraine stronger and it will rise like a phoenix from the ashes,” she says.

Last updated: August 29, 2022

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