Displaced by two wars, Nataliia is on a humanitarian mission to help fellow Ukrainians

Friday, March 24, 2023

Having experienced the war and being displaced twice, Nataliia’s life mission has turned to helping others. “I fully understand and feel the same pains and hardships and I know how a smile, a simple act of kindness like listening, giving a hand can make people feel and realize they are not alone, that someone see them and is willing to help them,” the 26-year-old lady shared.

When her family arrived in Romania, they went to Romexpo in Bucharest and received assistance from World Vision. “I and my family are very grateful, we realized there are people who cared for us.” Nataliia never thought that after two months, she will be part of the organization reaching out to refugees like her.

She started working in June 2022 as Field Assistant for the Cash Assistance Program of World Vision Ukraine Crisis Response in Romania. In the first days at work, she immediately felt the warm welcome of all the staff and witnessed their commitment. “Everyone is part of one big family. It was my first time to see how humanitarians work hard to help people in need.”

Blessed to be a blessing

“I feel blessed to be part of World Vision and to be working with dedicated and hardworking colleagues. The best part of my job is I can help my fellow Ukrainians, and this motivates and inspires me to do excellent work,” the 26-year-old shared.

Miriam Egau, Cash and Food/NFI Assistance Advisor and Nataliia are examining a mobile app designed for sending notifications to refugees for distribution schedules.


Nataliia’s tasks include creating distribution plans, providing information, selection, registration, and other related support for the people who avail of the assistance made possible by the funding from the Netherlands’ Emergency Appeal Alliance GIRO555, Global Affairs Canada (GAC)Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), and the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

“Cash assistance is extremely important for my fellow Ukrainians, as they left their home with just the luggage they can carry. They lost their livelihoods, homes, businesses because of this war. Most of them are trying to find a job, but it is a big challenge not knowing the language. It is hard to start from a scratch in a foreign country,” Nataliia shared.

“The cash assistance that World Vision gives to refugees helps them to have more confidence in the future, to have something to eat and to give to their children, to buy medicine. It supports their lives and makes them feel they are in a safe place,” she explained.

Her dedication and commitment in work did not go unnoticed. Nataliia was promoted as the Cash and Voucher Programming Coordinator leading the field assistants and assisting project managers in effectively implementing the Cash and Voucher Program in Romania.

Nataliia's work took her to a journey with fellow refugees like Olena in Romania.


“This work allowed me to learn new skills and expand my knowledge, so I am more equipped to help vulnerable families affected by war.” She recalled three most memorable experiences where she has been given opportunities to show compassion to people who needed it at those moments.

“I listened to a mother who talked about her and son near death experience as they fled Ukraine.  The woman was so worried because her daughter decided to stay in Kyiv and her military brother who is in the hospital. We hugged and comforted each other.”

“I also met a sad elderly woman whose husband was killed when a bomb fell on their home in Mykolaiv. She was alone and after we talked, I saw her making new acquaintances.”

Nataliia’s work before the war was as the Head of Information Department at the Odesa International Airport that enabled her to reach out to passengers who were anxious because of tragic news they received from home. “I helped them to calm down and provided them with everything they needed to make their journey comfortable.”

Always have a dream and to live for that dream. Our dreams will bring us life. My dream now is to help my compatriots, in this way to bring peace to their hearts and to my country.

For Nataliia, how to help others is the most important lessons she learned having experienced two wars, being internally displaced and now a refugee. “Helping people make our lives more meaningful. Let us help one another and be more understanding. Each of us has the power to bring something good in someone’s life.  I will keep on sharing love and showing kindness to everyone,” she declared.

The scars of war

The entire world was shocked by the war in Ukraine in February 24. “At first, the war seemed not a reality, no one expected the war to happen,” she added. The war brought memories from 2014 when Nataliia was 17 years old.  After the first attack of the pro-Russian forces in Donetsk, her father, a senior instructor of air traffic controllers, decided they should leave immediately after her exam.

“The fighting stopped for a day students can take the exam for us to study in the university. I cried on the way to school. I was very scared of the war, the sounds of explosions. Our house was near the airport, military port, and the forest. Every night, we could hear gun fires in the forest. On the first day of the war, I saw someone set up a weapon on the roof of the building and aimed to shoot down a plane that was taking off. Thank God, he didn’t succeed.” Natallia narrated.

In war, you never know what can happen next. During the daytime, there was was dead silence. It impressed me that even dogs didn’t run and walk down the streets. They were crawling because they were scared. So was I. My parents didn’t allow me to go out of our apartment. The first time I had to go out was on the day of the exam. I was scared. I cried on the way to school.”

As a refugee, Nataliia realized it is important to make the refugees and the displaced feel they are not alone, and someone is able to listen to them, and address their needs.


She recalled a teacher sat beside her. “She must have seen my eyes. She hugged me. We both cried and everyone in the class cried.” Her teacher’s action taught Nataliia how one simple act can encourage someone who is going through much pain.

Amid the fear and emotional distress, she passed the examination. She studied Spanish Philology at the Kyiv National Linguistic University and had a scholarship in Spain. Her family settled in Odesa.

Hope prevails

“It’s hard to put into words the feelings of being forced to leave your home for the second time because of war. I think it’s never easy for anyone to leave your home, your country,” Nataliia’s words came a bit shaky, her eyes looked sad. 

On March 8, 2022, Nataliia, her parents and ten-year-old nephew fled from Ukraine and went to their relatives in Moldova. In April, they came to Romania.

“Romanians welcomed us warmly. My nephew feels safe here. We are forever grateful to them and to the generous people around the word who sent their help,” Nataliia said, a smile appeared, and her eyes filled with hope.

Having experienced two wars made Nataliia stronger, finding ways how she can help her fellow Ukrainians in Romania.


Asked what keep her going, Nataliia shared, “Always have a dream and to live for that dream. Our dreams will bring us life. My dream now is to help my compatriots, in this way to bring peace to their hearts and to my country.”

“Our dream as a people is to go back to our homes, to our cities. Having a dream will enable us to endure the difficulties, knowing that our current situation as refugees is just temporary. We will soon return to Ukraine. We will rebuild and we will rise as a stronger nation.”

Watch: Nataliia talks to actor Simon Pegg who visited World Vision's project in Bucharest.

Story by Leoniza Morales, Communications Specialist / Photos by Eugene Combo and Chris Lete