When blood donors walk through the doors of Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center, Maryna Kyrychkova is almost always the first face they see. Kyrychkova, a medical reception officer at the center, greets donors and assists them with their questionnaire and any medical questions prior to the donation process.
Her position at the center had always kept her busy, but never more so than in the initial days and weeks of Russia’s invasion.
“With the beginning of the war, numerous air alarms, the sounds of explosions, the destruction of buildings, constant worry for loved ones, separation from relatives, losses and pain entered our lives,” Kyrychkova recalls. “February 24, 2022 was the longest and most difficult working day of my life.”
Now more than 18 months into the conflict, Ukrainians are still making their way into the blood center, undeterred by the building’s boarded up windows or the battered street outside it. Donors continue to give – and Kyrychkova continues to welcome them.
“Sometimes it is not easy and takes a lot of time, but we are very grateful to all the donors who respond to the call, find time and sometimes even come with the whole family to share blood,” Kyrychkova says.
Kyrychkova and her coworkers each work incredibly long shifts to meet the military and civilian need for blood products. Their lives have become so focused on serving at the center, in fact, that many of them practically live there. Employees sleep on benches and mattresses in the building's basement when time allows.
Such an exhausting schedule leaves little time for meal preparation, which is why Our Blood Institute, in partnership with the Ukrainian NGO DonorUA and our sister organization Global Blood Fund, have been providing weekly lunches to Kyrychkova and her colleagues since April. The initiative, called “Thanksgiving Wednesday,” is our way of acknowledging these unsung heroes of the blood services community.
Kyrychkova says the lunches have brought her and her coworkers closer together and have allowed for some brief, much-needed moments of relaxation.