We Can All Help New Mothers in Ukraine Right Now. Meet One Ukrainian Volunteer Leading the Way
When the war in Ukraine first started, Yulia Ridchenko was at home in Kyiv with her husband and their 4-year-old daughter. After the first explosions in the outskirts of the city, they moved to their apartment building’s underground parking lot-turned bomb shelter.
While Ridchenko wanted to stay in Ukraine with her husband, she knew she needed to leave—both to keep their daughter safe and to continue her work helping new mothers and babies in Ukraine.
Ridchenko is the co-founder of the 280 Days Foundation, a non-profit that works with parents-to-be, doctors, hospital administrators, and legislators to ensure healthy pregnancies and births. Before the war, their focus was on how to prevent pregnancy complications—something Ridchenko and her co-founder went through during their own pregnancies. Yet when it quickly became clear that Russian attacks wouldn’t spare places like apartment buildings and hospitals, Ridchenko knew her organization could help the increasing number of women giving birth to babies prematurely and the maternity wards trying to help them.
“We started talking to doctors and nurses in perinatal centers and learned about the very serious lack of medical supplies,” says Ridchenko. For example, women with premature babies in incubators are often separated from their newborns when air raid sirens go off: The moms are transported to basement bomb shelters while the babies stay put because hospitals don’t have mobile incubators, says Ridchenko. “Just thinking about that is terrifying.”
So, Ridchenko started tracking maternity hospital needs and trying to match those needs with humanitarian aid from abroad. “We’re also building a database of volunteers who can help—everyone from people who can bring medical supplies to hospitals and houses to perinatal psychologists who can help support these pregnant women who are in serious stress,” she adds.
In addition to donating money or supplies like diapers and hygiene products, Ridchenko says it’s equally important for the world to remain focused on Russia’s attack on Ukraine. “I know people are tired of seeing it in the media, but the war is not over,” she says. “What you can do is remember that people are still suffering here. Share this info on social media. It helps us feel like we’re not alone in this fight.”
For Ridchenko, a big part of that fight is for the mothers and babies being born in unthinkable conditions.
“I can’t think about what women giving birth right now are going through, because it will break me,” says Ridchenko. “Instead, I focus on what I can do to care for these new moms and babies, because our children are our future.”