Bonn · Regine Reim spent four weeks working on the Ukrainian border. Communication between helpers and refugees was not always easy. But the volunteer helper had a Bonn speciality in her suitcase, one that speaks every language.
The Red Cross was founded by the Swiss Henry Dunant in the last century. He was involved in the Battle of Solferino and saw the suffering the wounded were going through, a suffering that no one seemed to care about. For Regine Reim, the organisation's primary task is remains providing aid in armed conflicts, regardless of the person needing help. Neutrality, impartiality and humanity take priority. And so it was clear to Reim that she had to go there to help. She spent four weeks "on holiday" in the war-torn region.
It took 13 hours to transport an injured person from the Odessa region. "The gratitude of the people is huge," says the volunteer helper, who speaks Russian, understands Ukrainian and Romanian, amongst other languages. There is a colourful confusion of languages among the helpers as well as among the refugees, and the many different passports show where the people come from. The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) is not interested in whether people seeking help are Ukrainian, Russian or Chechen. All injured people are helped. Communication worked very well, she says, "and in case of need, as a citizen of Bonn I had three kilograms of Haribo with me. They speak every language."
Sirens and fear are part of everyday life
Regine Reim's impressions have left her humbled and grateful. The people in the war zones have lost a lot: material and immaterial things, family members and friends. She describes how the mother of a four-year-old child told her that she has three weeks' leave and wants to use it to give her son a carefree time without the wailing of sirens and bunkers. The father of the family is fighting at the front, she has to go back to work after her leave. She doesn't know whether she should leave her child back in safety, whether she herself should stay with her son in safety. Like the others, she has only packed what fits in the car. Even though there is a great willingness to help, people are left alone with their difficult decisions.
"It's not as if life and the economy in Ukraine have completely collapsed," says Reim, "people sit there in cafés and go to work every day." Despite sirens and the fear that is part of life here.
Counterbalance to work
It can all be very traumatising for the helpers, too. To unwind, Regine Reim sometimes treated herself to an evening stroll through the alleys of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, or a swim in one of the beautiful lakes there.
Regine Reim was born in Beuel in 1968 and lived in Bonn until her Abitur. After studying law in Passau and working abroad (focusing on Siberia, the People’s Republic of China, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and South-Eastern Europe), she returned to Bonn for professional reasons. Here she works in international cooperation for a large company. She has been a member of the DRK Bonn since 2002, active between international humanitarian law and medical and support missions.
Original text: Sabine Robels
Translation: Jean Lennox