We practically burst out in excitement at the fantastic news that three Ukrainian firefighters are coming to the USA! 🇺🇸🇺🇦
True heroes from Ukraine
The role of firefighters in times of war cannot be underestimated. These brave men and women put their lives on the line to save the lives of others, and during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, their work has been more important than ever.
Serhii Bilous, Chief of Guard No. 8 in Kharkiv’s fire and rescue division
Ukrainian firefighters have continued to work tirelessly to protect their communities despite the dangers they face. They have had to deal with the usual threats of firefighting and the added risks posed by the conflict, such as unexploded ordinance and snipers.
– “With the outbreak of war, more massive and large fires were caused by shelling. There was also a lot of destruction under which there were casualties and deaths. And all the work of rescue and extinguishing was carried out under fire from enemy guns. The most difficult situation was when all the fire departments of Kharkiv and the region were sent to the North Saltovka area. There was burning in EVERY house! The shelling came from airplanes, mortars, tanks, and multiple rocket launchers. It was tough. There were not enough people, cars, or water for extinguishing. And it was only morning… We were sent to put out the fire in another part of the city in the evening. The situation there was the same. But we managed!”, says Serhii Bilous, Chief of Guard No. 8 in Kharkiv’s fire and rescue division.
Their dedication to their work has not gone unnoticed; colleagues worldwide have rallied to support them. One such example is the Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need group, which has been working to provide Ukrainian firefighters with the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
– “During the war, you encounter a lot of casualties. People lose their loved ones, friends, and relatives. But the worst is when children, little Ukrainians, are killed, injured, and burned. How their parents cry, refusing to believe what happened. Sometimes we used to pull entire families out from under the rubble. It breaks my heart to see it all – I’m a father, and it is so hard, I can’t describe it with words. And all this – the constant bombardments, the air raids. But despite all the difficulties, we save, help, and stick together. And we continue to do it 24/7,” says Roman Kachanov, Kharkiv’s chief’s eleventh fire and rescue department.
Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need
Recently, Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need and the Polsky Foundation team have been working to bring a group of Ukrainian firefighters to the United States. After over two months of preparation and negotiations with the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and other high-ranking Ukrainian firefighters in Kharkiv and Kyiv, the dream has become a reality.
As a result, three Ukrainian firefighters have received visas. They are currently in Poland, preparing to travel to the United States. This trip will allow them to share their experiences with their American counterparts and learn from their expertise.
– “Helping firefighters from Kharkiv was the organization’s priority when it formed a year ago. Since the first day of the war, the situation in this region has been tragic, with many hot zones and frequent attacks and fires. Ukrainian firefighters must contact their colleagues worldwide to bring new technologies to Ukraine, exchange knowledge, improve practical skills, get acquainted with foreign market equipment and quality standards, and make a statement about Ukraine and military conflict on every possible platform. Ukrainian rescuers need resources and information support now more than ever”, says Yana Feyganova, Help Ukrainian Firefighters in Need co-founder.
Polsky Foundation and Help Ukrainian Firefighters In Need want to provide Kharkiv firefighters the opportunity to visit the United States, the FDIC conference, and fire departments in America to talk about the challenges they face working under military regulation, ask their professional questions, and discuss opportunities for cooperation.
Roman Kachanov, Oleksii Chernomorchenko, and Serhiy Bilous have been on the line since the beginning of the war there and have helped their brother firefighters save people. They assisted in putting out flames in Kharkiv and fires brought on by rocket assaults and damage following shelling. Due to their fluency in English, they are always willing to speak with foreign experts and journalists to inform the public about the awful events in Ukraine. Together with their international coworkers, they search for rescuers’ equipment as part of their charitable endeavors. Firefighters from other countries, including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have also assisted in the form of equipment and training.
– “In the first weeks of the war, there was a lack of equipment – helmets, fire hoses, and body armor. There were 10 of them for 17 men. During one of the firefighting operations, our friend, the colleague, was wounded in the chest by shrapnel when they decided to re-fire us. Unfortunately, he was without a bulletproof vest and died right in the fire truck. Many of the guys were burned, healed, and are now in the ranks. We also need to work with our emotions – now a psychologist comes to our fire station regularly”, says Roman.
Ukrainian firefighters continue to work selflessly to protect their Motherland despite their challenges. The support of their colleagues worldwide is a testament to the importance of their work and the bravery of those who carry it out.
– “Thanks to volunteers, we survived the first few months. They helped us in every way they could, with resources and provisions. Thanks to caring people and patrons from all over Ukraine and the world, we now have the equipment we had only read about or seen on video. The ability to work with it seemed to us like something out of the realm of fantasy. We had some climbing equipment, some of which volunteers provided us. We made Instagram posts with a list of the resources we needed: battery-powered lanterns, Chain Saws, Circular Saws, Cutting Machines, and consumables for them. And what was our surprise when people literally in half an hour have responded and started calling and writing us that they are ready to give us this or that equipment and tools”, remembers Oleksii Chernomorchenko, the deputy head of the department in charge of telecommunication systems, technical information protection, and technical radio control at the Kharkiv region’s Center for Operational Communication, Telecommunication Systems, and Information Technology.
Standing with Ukraine
Each of these men is a true patriot of his country, a defender, a rescuer. They remain and continue to work and sacrifice for the good of their country. The primary experience that working in a full-scale invasion has given them is more than just new skills and reaction speed. What struck them most was how much they learned about people.
– “The most valuable thing I gained during the war was even more experience in rescuing and fighting large and complex fires, making the work even more effective, better, and faster in peacetime. Also, the war showed the true faces of each person in his environment: whom he considered reliable – turned out to be a panic and coward, and whom he would not rely on in normal times – became a reliable support and helper. The war rallied the people. Everyone stood up to defend Kharkiv! Someone with a gun in his hand, someone with a rescue tool, someone with medical equipment, and someone at the kitchen utensils because it was necessary to provide food for many people! Everyone in their place!”, tells Serhii Bilous.
Ukrainian firefighters are sure it is necessary to unite, continue to work, donate, and help each other to stand and protect the Ukrainian people and their neighbors.
– “The war is the most senseless and terrible thing that can happen because sooner or later, it will have to end with the same negotiations and a concrete solution, and people will not return. Russia is a terrorist state with no moral principles. A Russian soldier is a murderer, a rapist, and a marauder. They have raped women, beaten our colleagues, and fired on civilians. There is no justification for this”, resumes Oleksii Chernomorchenko.
To sum up
Some interesting facts about Ukrainian defenders:
- Roman’s family lived in Poland and is now reunited after being separated for nearly a year.
- Oleksiy’s family lives in Germany. He’s so excited to be able to visit them on the return trip from the US.
- Serhii’s family is currently in Ukraine. They’re glad he can take this journey to share his experience and knowledge and excitedly await his return!