The Blood Matters Blog ·

'I Immediately Went to Work': Ukrainian Blood Center Director Shares Her Story

Since April, Our Blood Institute and Global Blood Fund, an OBI-founded nonprofit focused on improving transfusion care in many of the world’s poorest countries, have been providing hot lunches to a Ukrainian blood center's 150 employees each week through a program we’re calling “Thanksgiving Wednesday.”


Stories from Zaporizhzhia

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.

How to Help

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Zaporizhzhia, a city of 700,000 located in southeastern Ukraine, has been under constant threat from Russian forces and experiences near-daily shelling. The employees of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center have been working tirelessly since, with shifts often exceeding 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to meet the ever-present need for blood supplies.

If you would like to support the brave men and women at the center, join us in our Thanksgiving Wednesday initiative by making a one-time or recurring contribution to You can also help fund Global Blood Fund's mission by becoming an Open Arms partner simply donate blood at any OBI facility or mobile drive and opt to forgo your gifted T-shirt. The cost of that shirt will then be directed to one of Global Blood Fund's international aid programs.