How Generali people are helping Ukrainian refugees
13 April 2022
Julija Klančišar was born in Latvia. She is Russian by birth. Half of her relatives live in the North Caucasus in Russia, half in Ukraine. Julija has been living in Slovenia in Trbovlje for 26 years and now she is giving back supporting families fleeing the war.
You said you can't hide your origin and you can’t apologise.
Of course not. I have been hearing a lot lately about having to apologise for the fact that I attacked Ukraine because I am Russian. No, I didn't attack. I am proud to say that, yes, I am Russian, nature gave me this, as well as a woman's body, hair and skin colour. I will not apologise for things I did not choose. I can do something good or bad, but that's my choice. I do not intend to apologise for such things. Why should I, should I apologise today because I am Russian, tomorrow because I am a woman, the next day because I have white skin…
You have chosen to help the people of Ukraine. How?
First, I called the Red Cross to see if I could help. As I work at Generali, I'm taking part in the assistance programme that launched our first-aid kit collection campaign. Most people have cars, all our clients have cars. They will replace the first-aid kit one year earlier. In fact, there is a shortage of bandages in Ukraine, especially elastic ones to stop bleeding. From Ukraine, they are also asking for baby food. Powdered milk and canned food to feed the children. Women and their children still sit all day and night in the subways that have become their home. They are trying to arrange a kind of home for their children there, as quiet and pleasant as possible. The problem is that babies are also being born there. There is no milk and mothers find it difficult to breastfeed due to stress. It’s hard to say anything cultural about this subject. I do not want people to bring juices or nice dresses. Yesterday, for example, we received a sparkly T-shirt and silk knickers. They need sleeping bags, warm socks, thermal clothes, winter jackets. If possible, like the ones we wear when we go skiing or hiking in the mountains. Smaller and waterproof, impenetrable, not the heavy ones. Also because of transport. After all, Ukraine is more than a thousand kilometres away.
Where do you help?
On the FB side, we have our group of people who moved to Slovenia from the former Soviet Union. Some kind of former Soviet alliance. Without any nationality, Russian is common to all of us. We are connected. Together we find coordinators who have so far coordinated assistance through the Ukrainian embassy. Some associate with the Red Cross and certain companies. Someone knows someone somewhere, and that’s how we connect. Perutnina Ptuj, for example, ceded its warehouse in Ljubljana. We help in various places. That’s how we work. We write, we call, sometimes we shout that this should be stopped because it’s actually hard. I personally am not so affected because my family are safe. My colleague, who is a coordinator, for example, has parents in Kiev.
Do you have any contacts with family or friends in Ukraine?
Of course. I had contact with a client, who called me last Thursday at 6 in the morning. At first, I was upset because she woke me up, then because I could not hear her. Something was on the line. When I found out what, I was horrified. I heard gunfire on the phone, very loud bangs. She left Slovenia for Ukraine with her two children because she had to bring certain paperwork to Slovenia to arrange permanent residency. She came there, to her town, to get certain paperwork from the administrative units. At five in the morning, she was caught up in the war.
What is the situation in Ukraine when you talk to them?
They are fleeing. People are fleeing. Women with children flee, the elderly. Men remain in Ukraine. They will fight. At least the majority of them.
How can you help those who are fleeing?
We’re trying to help Slovenia, we also try to find accommodation. Many people have bought flats and rented them. They are currently renting to these families. Every day a woman comes with children and we look for options where to place them. We share the current capacities, the capacities that we have with each other and help women firstly. You know, men don't come to us. I often hear that it is exactly like it was during the Syrian war. No, the refugees there were mostly men. We have very rarely seen women. This is a very different picture. Women are fleeing Ukraine. And children. Syria is far away, Ukraine is very close.
But what do people in Ukraine expect, want?
At the moment, they most want no alarm at eight or nine in the evening. Those who do not believe can go to YouTube. We have live cameras in Ukraine. People wish there wasn’t that sound, so they could fall asleep in their beds rather than on the concrete floor of the basement. Those who can’t get to the subway station sleep in bathtubs, because it’s the safest place. They want peace and silence, they want to sleep. They want to shower the baby with warm water.