191 – Special Report Ukraine – With SFN Mentor Father Ruslan Vasyutin
Our guest on this SFN Dad To Dad Podcast ‘Special Report’ is SFN Mentor Father Ruslan Vasyutin of Kiev Ukraine, the father of a nine year old daughter with Cerebral Palsy, who is unable walk or talk.
Today March 9, 2022 marks day 14 since Russia sent its army into Ukraine. This unprovoked and hostile action has upended the lives of all Ukrainians and put Ukraine at the Geopolitcal center of the world.
Ruslan previously did an interview for the SFN Dad To Dad Podcast (episode #148), which aired in May 2021, just 10 months ago. As a native of Ukraine and as the father of a child with special needs as well as the leader of a non-profit that serves families raising children with special needs, we agreed now would be a very interesting time to do an update.
We are very glad to report, Ruslan and his family were able to evacuate, are safe and are currently staying with friends in Slovakia.
It’s a fascinating conversation and testimony to a father’s commitment to his family and service to others.
Special Fathers Network –
SFN is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Many of the 500+ SFN Mentor Fathers, who are raising kids with special needs, have said: “I wish there was something like this when we first received our child’s diagnosis. I felt so isolated. There was no one within my family, at work, at church or within my friend group who understood or could relate to what I was going through.”
SFN Mentor Fathers share their experiences with younger dads closer to the beginning of their journey raising a child with the same or similar special needs. The SFN Mentor Fathers do NOT offer legal or medical advice, that is what lawyers and doctors do. They simply share their experiences and how they have made the most of challenging situations.
David Hirsch: It’s day 14 since Russia sent its army into Ukraine. This unprovoked and hostile action has upended the lives of all Ukrainians and put Ukraine at the geopolitical center of the world. I’m very pleased to be talking today with Special Fathers Network mentor father Ruslan Vasyutin of Kiev, Ukraine, who has a daughter with cerebral palsy.
You and your wife Olga have been married for 10 years, and are the proud parents of Alice, who is nine, who has severe cerebral palsy, unable to walk or talk. You previously did an interview for the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, number 148, which aired in May 2021, just 10 months ago.
As a native of Ukraine and as the father of a child with special needs, as well as the leader of a not-for-profit that serves families raising children with special needs, we agreed that now would be an interesting time to do an update. Ruslan, welcome back to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The good news is you and Olga and Alice are safe and just recently left Ukraine.
Thank you for checking in. I have 101 questions. Let’s just start with, where are you today?
Ruslan Vasyutin: Well, thank you for this opportunity to communicate. Even this chance to communicate brings us back to kind of a normal life, feeling better because we are already safe, and we again can talk not only about war, and we can sleep and walk around.
S0 right now we are in Slovakia, the Slovak Republic, not far from the Ukrainian border, in the village of [?]. Our friends are hosting us and taking care of us, and I’m extremely grateful to them. They’re very open. They offered their house, knowing about the special needs of our daughter.
We are spending time in conversations, but they are extremely positive about us. And the same is true about other Slovak people meeting Ukrainians at the border. It’s amazing what is happening there.
Well, we crossed the border after many, many, many hours of standing in line and spending nights in the car. And after this to meet normal people welcoming you, smiling, and not hearing the explosions—it’s a kind of miracle. All people become very talkative, very excited, and they share their experiences. They enjoy eating, drinking hot drinks, and planning their future.
So, many of the Ukrainian people get the status of temporary refugees that the European Union provides now to everybody coming from Ukraine. Some people don’t take this status. It depends. We are allowed to be present in Europe and even in other countries that are not members of European Union for a kind of unlimited period of time. So first for three months, and then it should be registered as prolonged. It depends of course on the situation in Ukraine, but at least Europe is very welcoming and very open to support.
And people are very kind and very open, and everywhere they are giving discounts in supermarkets. They are giving free food and shelter and so on and so forth. It’s absolutely free for Ukrainians to use public transportation, intercity transportation. Parking in all the cities is free. So the situation is very welcoming, and people here are making every effort to support Ukrainians.
Most of the people coming from Ukraine now are women with children. Men are not allowed to leave Ukraine. And only in case you are a father of children with disabilities, or a father of three children, you can do that. So, I was almost alone in line. Most of the Ukrainian men just delivered their families to the border and left.
And, you know, in some ways I feel not very comfortable with the situation. That’s why I try to help others here. Being my third day in the Slovak Republic, I already coordinate some activities on the border and coordinate people coming to Slovakia, especially those who have children with special needs or with disabilities.
David Hirsch: Thank you so much for mentioning that you were able to get through the checkpoints or the border. But you said something that was very basic to me. You said we were waiting in line for hours, and you were waiting in your car. Were you able to bring your car into Slovakia, or were you only able to come in with whatever you could carry?
Ruslan Vasyutin: It was possible to bring a vehicle, and for us, it’s crucially important because we are not transportable without vehicles. Even public transportation is not very good for us, taking into account that Alice is quite tall goal. And even though both of us can carry her, it’s very hard. And the situation is really difficult for those mothers who are alone with children with disabilities. They are without real physical support. Many of them can’t leave their child to go to the toilet, to get food, to get information, to get assistance. So that’s the point which I am developing right now here. We are trying to provide dedicated assistance, to take into account the specificity of children with disabilities.
People are very kind, and we are very welcomed here, but they just don’t understand the special needs. They say, okay, maybe a wheelchair or….that’s it. So, for example, our girl can’t use wheelchair, unfortunately. So that’s why now we are organizing the direct separate contact line for those ladies who are coming with children with disabilities.
And we try to explain to those who are able to support refugees that they should be ready for some specific needs and special equipment and special caring. That’s why I think we will do it very soon, because everything is developing very fast, and I’m sure in a couple of days people will not wait for special advice from the information, trying to become oriented to special needs.
And talking about the line, yes, fortunately, those people who were coming by buses, from the railway station or directly from Ukraine and cities, they were passing the line of the cars. So there was a special separate line for them. They didn’t wait for hours. But waiting in a car is another challenge because you can’t sleep. You should move every 20 minutes for a few centimeters. And if you miss, then you’ll miss your place in the line. And it’s very hard to come back to the line.
So all the night or two nights you should be alert and able to move the car and be ready to go forward. But it’s still worth it, because your target is to escape, to save your child and to provide your family with safety.
David Hirsch: So let’s go back to the beginning of the year, January 1st. What was it like between January 1st and February 24th, which is the day that Russia invaded Ukraine? Was there anything unusual going on where there’s a heightened level of awareness? Was there a threat? Did it seem imminent, or what was the situation?
Ruslan Vasyutin: You know, it was very interesting, because the information coming from the United States, from the government, from CIS, from the Pentagon, it was a lot of information about danger, about real danger. Most of people in Ukraine didn’t believe that Putin will really start physically the invasion. They didn’t believe.
And that’s why in some ways we were not ready. In principle we were ready, but mentally, immediately, and physically, we were not ready. So it was a kind of real and tragic surprise. So we did have information, but we didn’t believe it. And when people from US embassy were leaving the country, we were thinking, okay, maybe it’s reassurance. They are scared. They usually do so. Yeah, these Americans, they….really, I’m not kidding. People were kidding about this. They said, “Come on. Putin will not go further.”
But he did, and did it immediately with missiles. So we were awakened on the 24th of February by explosions not far from our place. We live close to Kiev, in a city west of Kiev, where the military is located. So the first missiles were aimed to destroy this place.
And it was a strange sound. It was unusual sound. I immediately turned on the TV. It was half past five in the morning. And even the TV guys were not aware about this. In five minutes, they became aware, and they tried to comment on it somehow. And then it started.
So to answer your question and to summarize, we had this information, but we probably didn’t pay enough attention to it, didn’t believe in the serious step of Putin.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for the insight. I’m sort of wondering, how does somebody decide whether to stay or to evacuate? What was going on with you and Olga as you’re learning about the course of events? It’s obviously very risky if there’s military action going on. What is the thought process that a couple like you went through to decide whether you just sort of sort of wait and see? Or what was it that led to the decision, “Hey, we have to get out of here. This is just too uncertain”?
Ruslan Vasyutin: Some people reacted immediately, and they left Kiev immediately after these first explosions. And rationally they were right, because at this moment there were not many days’ lines and block posts and traffic and 24 hours driving. So they left immediately. And we, frankly, decided, “Okay, it’s probably some kind of mistake. Or these missiles are just to scare Ukrainians, and they will not go farther again.”
That was my mistake. I was military man in the past. And I’ve passed through some military conflicts. I should be ready for this. But I probably didn’t expect this step from Russia, and especially when they entered our country with troops, with tanks, with aircraft and so on. So the reaction, of course, was shock.
I’m the kind of person who always makes some survival preparations. So I had enough food, fuel and whatever, water and alternative electricity supply and so on in our house. That’s why my second reaction was, “Just wait. It’ll be solved. It will pass. And then one day, three days, five days, and it’s just developing. It’s becoming more and more dangerous.
So then reaction was to go with other men to get mashing down, to protect. Yes, of course. That’s very natural for us. But frankly speaking, since Alice was born, she became my everything. So it’s an open secret. I am patriotic enough, and I love my country, and I respect my colleagues staying there, but for me, the main goal was to protect my family, my Alice.
That’s why I decided that it was time. It was not an easy decision. Olga and I discussed everything. We tried to find other ways maybe to go to another place, maybe just to change our position a little bit or to stay farther.
But then the radical decision was taken to avoid everything before it was too late. That’s why we got a car. We got cans with gas, and we packed everything and just went. It was very hard to leave the house, because we had created a special environment for Alice. It was her magic world, wonder world, whatever. And it was very difficult to leave the house.
But the risk was higher if we stayed. That’s why we moved. We spent few days passing all these block posts, all these whatever. And then we reached [?], the city at the border, then spent many hours in the line, and finally crossed the border. And then we met our friends. And the next day we started to help others here to be coordinated, to be welcomed.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. It sounds like a heart-wrenching situation. Most people think of their home, with all the emotion that goes into raising your family, all the experiences, all the memories that go along with that.
And I’m wondering, even at a basic level, how do you decide where to go? Because it’s not like there’s one path, and all Ukrainians are going to the same location or destination. There are a number of different directions you could go. How did you and Olga decide where to go?
Ruslan Vasyutin: The first decision was to leave the dangerous place, because we were located in a strategically dangerous place. And fortunately, thank God, our house right now is not ruined, but I saw other houses ruined and I saw for myself these apartment houses ruined and these bridges ruined. And these explosions, this oil base ruined not far from our house. It’s not only impressive, it’s very convincing.
So the first decision was to escape from this place, to leave this place, the dangerous place, and the direction was to go west, because Russian troops were coming from another direction to Kiev. Our direction was quite safe and not so interesting to them, so far, for that day. Now they are there already reaching the same cities we passed on the way. We just called our friends in the western part of Ukraine. Are they ready to host us for a night, so we could make further decisions, what to do and where to go?
So it was kind of an improvisation, because we were driving and listening to the radio and trying to change our direction according to the news. Where are the Russian troops? Where are the missiles? And we were passing by the most dangerous cities and towns and villages, and three times we saw explosions quite close to us on the way.
So that was the decision. And when we reached the town, again, I tried to call my friends in Poland, in Slovakia, the closest countries to the border, and picked the most reliable and safe direction again. That’s why we went to Slovakia.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well thank you for mentioning the insight. Again, I’m stuck on some really basic things, because I’ll just say most Americans, most people in the world, would never have to deal with the situation you’re describing.
How do you decide what to take and what to leave behind? You know, you can only put so much in your vehicle, and you have to have that question in the back of your mind. Well, we may be coming back, but maybe we’re not coming back. Maybe we’re going to be leaving everything, all of our possessions behind.
Ruslan Vasyutin: You know, it’s a very interesting question. It was, if I may use the word funny, but it was funny. When you look around the room, trying to pick the things to take with you, trying to select them, and suddenly you hear another explosion, and you absolutely immediately change your mind. You leave the things, you go to the can with water, you go to the canned food, to the diesel. You immediately change your mind.
Then again, a period of silence for 15 minutes. You say, okay, okay. Now I have food and water. Maybe some pictures, or something very close to my heart. Then another explosion, and again the immediate reaction, “Come on. We’ll leave it. It’s okay. Let’s go, let’s have Alice’s carrier, let’s have her special needs stuff in order to provide the independent living for a few days, and not have to beg for gasoline or to beg for diapers, or whatever. In the worst case, I would do this. But I decided that we should be prepared.
And so the main space of the car was occupied by Alice’ carrier, and diapers and food and water and some clothing, of course. And fuel. Fuel, because there was no fuel at all at the gas stations in the Kiev region—at all.
So people were staying on the roads and begging for at least a couple of liters, or staying in lines in the neighbor regions, for six, seven hours to get 20 liters of gas or diesel. I was lucky to be prepared. I had 60 liters of diesel prepared for the worst case in life before the war. So my approach helped me in this.
And that was our reaction in the situation. You try to take with you the most important things. Immediately after the explosion, it is your people, of course, and then the most necessary things to survive.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. And the point you made, which I think is really profound, is you want to protect your family, you want to get them out of harm’s way. And I’m wondering, along those lines, if you have other relatives that are still in Ukraine, or those that have been able to leave as well?
Ruslan Vasyutin: Yes, I have my mother, and my wife, Olga has her mother and father. My mother lives in [?]. So the city itself is quite safe there. The region is not safe, because it’s strategic for Putin, but still, fortunately it’s relatively safe there right now, because they just passed the city on the way to Kiev, and there are almost no missiles so far.
The parents of my wife live in a very remote village in the region. So again, nothing interesting to soldiers from Russia. They just don’t touch such villages. Again, so far, I hope. They just passed this village and went to bigger cities, to strategic objects and to military objects.
So, of course we worry. Again, fortunately we still have internet. There is a problem with television. There is no regular television in Ukraine. And problems with mobile communication connections. But still they have internet, and we reach them every hour, every two hours, to get information, to share information. So we worry, but they’re okay so far.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. I know that the ability to communicate is vitally important so you know what’s going on, right? So you can A) sort of make decisions if you need to change your course. And then B) to be reassured that your family is safe, not just your immediate family, but the loved ones, your friends and family, who might still be back in Ukraine.
And I know you and I started to communicate about a week ago. We were initially communicating on WhatsApp and then with email. So that’s been very reassuring, to keep those lines of communication open. And I’m hoping that will continue to be the case so you won’t lose contact with your family and friends.
I’m sort of curious to know, beyond what you’ve already described, what have been some of the bigger challenges that you’ve confronted—either anticipated challenges or unanticipated challenges?
Ruslan Vasyutin: I would say that the biggest challenge for me and probably for us is the guaranteed safety and support for Alice. For me, my career future or something else, even my health, is nothing in comparison to this challenge. I will not stop until I provide safety and care for Alice. Along the way, I help other people. I keep myself energized by doing other things, but this is my major goal.
The biggest challenge on the way is to make right decision, where to stop physically. Should we stop there? Should we stay in Slovak Republic? Or should we go further to get support, to be far away from Ukraine and to be completely safe and provided with all that is necessary for Alice?
And, again, along the way I’ve gained a lot of energy by helping others to communicate or coordinate by phone or email. And that’s great, because it’s kind of getting energy from nowhere. It’s regenerating. But the biggest challenge for us right now is to make the decision where to go next, to not make a mistake, not to waste time and resources, and to avoid uncomfortable situations for our girl.
I still try to work distantly, because of course I need money to provide for all this, and I still try to be aware of the other situations. But to answer your question, I try to have enough resources to provide for Alice and for her final complete safety. That is the challenge.
Maybe it’s a little bit exaggerated. I don’t know. But for me, that’s the way of my life. And it’s an open secret. Maybe somebody is not supporting me in this, but frankly speaking, I don’t care. Because I know my Alice, I love her, and I would like this soul and this body and this person to be safe, smiling, alive.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. I’m sort of curious to know, if you can answer this question, what does the average Ukrainian think of Russia or Putin in this situation?
Ruslan Vasyutin: It’s a very hard question, because before that we had a lot of friends in Russia. No problem. As a psychologist, as a manager, as a social manager, as a business manager, I had a lot of colleagues, a lot of contacts, a lot of clients, a lot of partners in Russia.
David Hirsch: You did your PhD in Russia?
Ruslan Vasyutin: Yes, absolutely. I did a PhD in the United States, but the first degree, the Candidate of Science, I did in Russia. It looks like unreal or surreal, but I still have Russians sending me messages and asking, “How are you? Are there are some problems there?” Yes. “But are you okay with them?”
So it’s like from other planet. Sometimes it looks to me like they are absolutely stupid or absolute zombies, or I don’t know. So that’s the attitude of most of Ukrainians to Russians now. We try to explain, we try to let them know, “Open your eyes. Are you crazy? Don’t you see what is happening?”
“Come on, come on,” they say. “It’s a fake. It’s your fault. You should be more disciplined and more peaceful. You shouldn’t create nuclear bombs.” I don’t know why they say this. This propaganda in Russia, it’s a miracle. In a couple of dozens years, they made people absolutely inadequate.
And I have my academic tutor, the doctor, a full doctor of all science and a very famous academician, and he’s a cultural historian. He is a very well known professional expert, international expert—and he absolutely doesn’t grasp the situation. Absolutely
He just says, “Come on. You are exaggerating. We know the situation. We are very peaceful. We are just touching the military objects. Come on. Come on. Putin is our everything. He will do everything needed. Just don’t panic. Just sit and wait. Everything will be okay. And we just need to take over your government, this Nazi…I don’t know why again.”
So they live in a very special world, very isolated, very specific. And they call us their friendly nation or even brother nation. It’s not like, “And now Ukrainians hate—and it’s a very polite word—hate all Russians, soldiers or not soldiers. Soldiers for killing us, not soldiers for supporting silently them.”
So now it’s hostility. It’s absolutely hate, and very bad wishes to all of them. So that’s the attitude of Ukrainians to Russians. If a few days ago we were trying, using communication to our friends to explain, to let them know, “Maybe you don’t know, maybe it’s your TV propaganda.”
No, they don’t want to know. They behave like they don’t need anything else. They are sure. They have trust. They have faith, and they are absolutely convinced, most of them. Maybe thousands or maybe dozens of thousands are still okay mentally, but 145 million are crazy.
And that’s why right now if ask anybody, “In Ukraine, what do you think of Ukrainians?”, you will hear only [?], nothing else. And it’s became even open and already polite when we use these [?] against Russians.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, you’re talking about what Ukrainians feel about Russians, and I’m wondering, if there’s some sympathy to the Russian citizens versus the military and Putin making these decisions, because I don’t know that everybody thinks the same way. Like in America, people are very divided, and we have the freedom and flexibility to speak out, or to let our thoughts be known.
But I understand that people are persecuted for speaking out against the government in Russia. So it’s a way of controlling the message and controlling the way things transpire. And I’m wondering if there’s any differentiation between the people of Russia versus the government, which is like a military government with Putin at the head.
Ruslan Vasyutin: Right now, I’m afraid not. In the first days of war, there was a differentiation. People were calling, telling our friends and the relatives in Russia, “So why are you crazy? Please distribute this information. Probably you don’t know,” or, “Do you really support him? Are you crazy? What are you doing?”
We were amazed later by their reaction. Yes, they support him. “It’s okay. You are stupid. You are second class people, just follow us. Just follow what we say. Just follow what we dictate, and that would be better for you.”
That’s the attitude from everybody from Russia. Unfortunately, including my psychological colleagues. They are very well educated people, speaking English and participating in international conferences. And I am really amazed and even not offended by them directly. I just deleted them from my friends, frankly, speaking, in Facebook, in whatever.
I cannot tolerate their attitude in all this. When they see these pictures of killed children, of dead people laying there, civilians, of ruined symbols of Ukraine, the cities—unbelievably, they do not react. They do not react.
Now that’s why it’s even hard to describe this hatred to them. And during the last days, yes, probably there is no difference. Yes, it’s a bad consequence of the war, but it is like it is.
And right now you can’t find any Ukrainian who is sympathetic or tolerant or neutral to the Russians. Some of them, the very intelligent people, very talented people, they understand it and they feel sorry already for that. They say it’s a real tragedy, and they even don’t ask to forgive them. They understand that it’s impossible in the scale of a country, unfortunately.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for pointing out the insight that maybe there was some differentiation at the beginning, but as the days and now weeks have transpired, you know, there’s no real difference between what the government’s doing and what the Russian people are believing or being passive about. That’s what I think I heard you saying.
Ruslan Vasyutin: They don’t protest. Most of them, they don’t protest. They are okay with this. That’s it. Even if they don’t actively support, they are just okay. “Yeah, that’s the right decision.” And those people who are coming to the squares right now, there are dozens or hundreds of people taken by police immediately. Thank you, guys. But it’s just the million, million, million population.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, there’s a parallel, at least. I don’t mean to be too dramatic about it, but from my perspective, it seems like what was going on in Germany and what Germany was doing to the surrounding countries back in the 1930s. In the late 1930s, people just sat aside. They didn’t want to believe their government was doing bad things, and they were complicit.
That’s what I hear you saying. The Russian people are being complicit with what’s going on, and that’s why the hate and the anger is building up, not just toward Putin and the military, but toward the citizens of Russia. It’s a very, very, challenging situation. I don’t mean to be judgmental by saying that. But I’m hoping that the situation will evolve, and it will be better, not immediately, but over time.
So, just a couple last questions. You founded an organization, DCP, which serves other families raising children like Alice with cerebral palsy and other similar diseases. I’m wondering, what have you been able to do to stay in contact with those families and to assist them, either directly or indirectly, to keep their children safe and to plot their own path?
Ruslan Vasyutin: Well, I’m trying to do my best to use my contacts and established relationships with hundreds of people, more than 1,000 followers already. But you know, the problem is, unfortunately, our children with disabilities didn’t have enough support even before the war. What can we say about now? They’re absolutely lost.
People are trying to help them, but first of all, they’re trying to help themselves. So if they see the person with a child with a disability, they probably immediately do something. They help by carrying their child or the bag. But, what will be the next day? What will be the day after the next day? Nobody knows.
So right now, they suffer, being helpless. There is a very sensitive difference. Children in Ukraine right now are really scared because they understand what is happening—the regular children. Our children are scared because they don’t understand what is happening. They just feel something is really wrong, but they can’t understand due to their mental ability or disability. Not all of them, but most of them. And they just can’t do anything and they just lay and wait.
That’s why I see that my goal and my purpose, and the purpose of DCP, is to help the government, NGOs, sponsor organizations, charity organizations, understand the difference. Of course all of the children need support, but to understand the difference of this support for those children with disabilities, and then to provide dedicated support, using the same resources, the same volunteers, the same activities, but providing the specific activities for these special needs. First understanding them, and then meeting the needs.
For example, if people are invited to something, they say, “We’ll have a bus on the square. Just walk to this bus and you will be safe driving to [?]. Our people can’t do this, so they can’t use this opportunity. We need some special additional assistance. We need some special additional support. A bus to the bus, or some transportation, or somebody to carry their stuff.
That’s why I call it dedicated, specialized, focused support is the core essence of our activities right now, to coordinate these charity and rescue resources to take into account the very deep specific needs, and of course, overall general support, emotional support, and psychological support.
They write me and call me, and they say very strange things. They are panicking. For example, they think that if they cross the border, somebody will take away their documents. That’s a rumor. Or if you cross the border, you will become a slave. I don’t know the reason. Maybe it’s Russian provoking or whatever, I don’t know.
And they ask, “What should I do if I cross the border?” I explain to them that here you will find all necessary information, support, shelter, food, and so on. “No. How is that possible? Where should I go after I cross the border?” So I try to support them, to tell them that somebody is caring. Just find the way. Just find the phone. Just ask me, or I will already direct this information. And you are not alone there in the cities by Kiev, in the shelters.”
So that gives them hope, because our people, I mean parents, they have an extremely high level of resources. They are still ready to act, to move and to deliver results. So, we just need to support these people a bit and to let them get this choice and chance.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for emphasizing the effort that’s being made to help educate people that are involved with DCP, so that you can make sure that they have a accurate understanding of what the circumstances are, and so they’re not making decisions on misinformation. It would be horrible that they didn’t make some decisions to seek a safer environment because they thought that they were going to lose their paperwork.
And it seems like there’s some propaganda going on, I’m not sure where, that’s making the situation even more difficult than it already is. And I’m wondering, what can those outside Ukraine do to help support you or families like you?
Ruslan Vasyutin: They already do. That’s great. Very often it’s not only the matter of money and financial support, that’s the matter of human touch, of being together, taking people, hosting them, talking to them, and helping them come back to normal behavior. After that, they are ready to make their decisions, to act, to move and even to earn money. But to survive during this shock period.
I think those who are here or abroad should understand the level of this shock or the deepness of this shock. And to be tolerant, to be caring, to be attentive, and to support together by all means. For example, just distributing the information or collecting the efforts of everybody around, creating communities to help, to share the information, to distribute people, to give them shelter there, and letting them start to act and behave normally.
So as for really specified activities, again, dedicated support, taking into account the special needs, moral needs, spiritual needs, and physical needs of those people who have children with special needs and disabilities. When I cross the border, I approached the information desk and asked them, “Whom can I address, being the father of a child with disability?” They were astonished. They said, “Well, welcome. We will support you, we are ready. What do you need?”
I said, “Okay, I can explain what I need and so on, but do we have an expert or a special separate line or whatever to go to?” They said, “Unfortunately not. We are doing case by case. So please express your needs. Describe your needs. We’ll try, we don’t guarantee, but we’ll try to find out the right solution.”
That’s great. Thanks very much. They are very helpful. They are ready, but at the same time, we who are already here need some special approach, more professional rescue. This problem management and approach—that is what I’m trying to promote here. Trying to explain people, including the organizations acting here, to bring some specialized support to these people.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you. I know that it’s not one thing that everybody needs, but there are probably layers and layers of resources that are going to need to be brought to bear. And if for no other reason, the psychological impact that this is going to have, not only in the short term, but on a longer term basis. You know, it’s a very traumatic situation, and there will be a ripple effect with all these lives that have been impacted. And my heart reaches out to you.
So I’m wondering, is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Ruslan Vasyutin: First of all, thank you very much for understanding, for letting me communicate to a broad audience, for giving me a chance to open the situation, to share my thoughts and feelings, and making some effort to let others understand the level of the problem, and to react and not to be passive.
To react, by all means. Somebody transfers some money, somebody opens his doors for people, somebody is just distributing the adequate information. But if we all combine our efforts, we will be able to not only support people with disabilities, not only support refugee, we are—and I believe this—we are ready to influence even Putin’s behavior. I’m convinced.
Even though now we have a lack of this influence, the more and more we communicate, combine efforts, scream about it, share these pictures, opinions, cases and destinies, finally we’ll get to the international critical point, global critical point, that will be able to influence him to stop this aggression, and to bring some order at least to these people and the situation in the world.
So again, thank you very much. I’m very thankful and grateful to all people who already supported us and who continue to support us. And now probably they’ll be able to understand more of our needs, our special needs, our behavior and our way of thinking.
David Hirsch: Well, Ruslan, thank you for taking the time to talk today, and my heart reaches out to you and Olga and Alice, to all those within DCP, and to your fellow Ukrainians for all that you’re going through and enduring. And from your lips to God’s ears, I’m hoping that the situation will reach that critical point and that the tide will be turned in favor of humanity, right?
Because this is just a crime against humanity. That’s the way I think about it. Why don’t we plan to touch base—I’m not saying next week or next month—but to check in again to see where you’re at and what’s transpired.
Ruslan Vasyutin: Yeah. I’m open for communication, so I’ll be happy to meet again.
David Hirsch: Okay. Be well.
Ruslan Vasyutin: Thank you.