Leading a blood service center is a difficult job no matter the context, but few people in the lifesaving business of blood donation have been asked to weather what Yulia Bezruchko has for more than a year and a half.
Bezruchko is the deputy director of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center in Ukraine, and her life, like so many in her country, changed in unimaginable ways when Russia’s military invaded in February of last year.
“At five in the morning, my mother called me and said the war had started,” Bezruchko recalls. “I immediately went to work.”
She wasn’t alone. Ukrainian citizens quickly poured into the blood center, risking their lives to give blood in an uncertain time. By day’s end, Bezruchko and her team had welcomed triple the amount of donors they saw on an average day.
The blood service center quickly shifted to a 24-7 operation to accommodate its sudden influx of donors, and even now, Bezruchko says the staff’s workload has increased by 200 percent.
Daily shelling in Zaporizhzhia has made commuting to the center particularly dangerous, so Bezruchko and many of its 150 employees converted its basement into makeshift living quarters in the early days of the war. Still, the center is no safe haven; last October, a missile strike destroyed a nearby house and blew out the blood center’s windows.
Despite these threats, Bezruchko continues to guide her team and support her community through her leadership role at the blood center.
“It was my duty to do all that I could from the very first day,” Bezruchko says.
Since April, Our Blood Institute, in partnership with the Ukrainian NGO DonorUA and our sister organization Global Blood Fund, have been providing weekly meals to Bezruchko and the rest of the courageous workers at the Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center. The initiative, called “Thanksgiving Wednesday,” is our way of acknowledging these unsung heroes of the blood services community. We wish them safety and peace throughout this time.