Interviews from Ukraine

Interview with Olena Chyzhova
Olena Chyzhova was born and raised in Chernihiv, and graduated from the university there. She has not lived in Ukraine for 20 years, but immediately after the start of the war she began helping her fellow countrymen. It was the charitable initiative of Olena and her sister Olga, “Angels of Freedom,” that served as the start for the emergence of a foundation of the same name in Kazakhstan. Olena spoke in an interview about how the action was born and how assistance to Ukrainian schools united dozens of countries.

Interviews with Volunteers

Angels of Freedom
Interview with the founders of the Angels of Freedom Charity Foundation
The founders of the Kazakhstani Angels of Freedom Charity Foundation, Yevgeniy Ribalko and Iryna Semenchuk, both have Ukrainian roots and a close connection to the Chernihiv region. Irina graduated from school in Chernihiv and lived there until the age of 20. For them, supporting the affected kindergartens and schools in this region is not only a way to assist compatriots during challenging periods, but also an important personal mission.

The first interview with Iryna and Yevgeniy was published on our website a year ago, and today we want to find out what has changed over the past year and how the Angels of Freedom foundation is operating now.
Interview with Zhanibek
Zhanibek Madenov became a volunteer for the non-profit organization Angels of Freedom in October last year. He only has two days off a month but still finds time for volunteering and church service. The war became personal for him since his close friends were in Ukraine at the time of the full-scale Russian invasion. He shared with us how his life has changed since the start of the war, his crisis of faith, who inspired him to become a volunteer, and why he will continue to help.
Interview with Iuliia
Iuliia is from Ukraine, her husband is from Russia. This is one of many couples who were forced to emigrate to Kazakhstan after February 24, 2022. Like others, they had to build their lives from scratch. And in this new, complex and uncertain life, they did not isolate themselves and their problems, but found an opportunity to help others — they found the “Angels of Freedom” project. We talked to Iuliia about their departure from Moscow, the people who impressed her at the “Angels of Freedom” fairs, and the choice between “giving up” and “continuing.”
Interview with Viacheslav and Kristina
February 24, 2022 destroyed a lot of Ukrainian-Russian marriages. And yet there are cases when such alliances withstand the test of war and find the strength to move on together. One such example is the story of Viacheslav and Kristina. Despite belonging to different nationalities, they perceived the interstate conflict in the same way. Now Viacheslav and Kristina live in Kazakhstan, work and engage in volunteer activities. We talked to them about why it is important for them to help the “Angels of Freedom”, how easy or difficult it is, and what surprised them during their participation in the project.
Interview with Saltanat
Saltanat lives in the north of Kazakhstan, works as an HR specialist and helps retired parents who run a small farm (breed horses). She is 34 years old, she has completed a master’s program in Malaysia and worked in a large company. Saltanat joined the Angels of Freedom project in March 2023. We discussed with her what motivates her to volunteer, how she decided to represent the fund helping Ukraine in one of the most difficult regions of the country, and where to start if you want to participate in the restoration of destroyed Ukrainian schools.
Interview with Anna
Anna is the mother of four. In her life, Ukraine and Russia were always closely connected — both countries at different times were a home and a place where they wanted to live, make plans and make dreams come true. But in July last year, Anna and her family moved to Kazakhstan. She started a new page in her life together with the Angels of Freedom. We talked with Anna about why the project has become an important part of herself and how a great desire to help appears from a small action — making of an angel.
Interview with Sholpan
One of the largest and the very first Angels of Freedom volunteer group in Kazakhstan operates in Astana. Since March this year, Sholpan, a museum researcher, is its coordinator. We talked with Sholpan and found out what it takes to be a volunteer curator, and what gives strength not to lose hope in the darkest times.
Interview with Aelita
Aelita works in a government agency. According to her, she is “an ordinary clerk.” But it is very difficult to agree with such an assessment when you get to know her better. For almost a year now, Aelita helps the Angels of Freedom project, never missing a single fair or toloka. If you ask other volunteers about the people who inspire them, many will name her. We talked with Aelita about the brightest and saddest moments of her volunteer life, as well as what makes her stay involved in the project.
Interview with Assemgul
Assemgul is often seen at fairs and tolokas in Astana. Since last year she (a translator by education) has become one of the most active participants in the Kazakhstani project to help Ukrainian children. We talked to Assemgul about the kind of people the project brings together, the connection between rebuilding schools and gaining hope for peace, and for whom the “angels” become true guardian angels.
Interview with Dinara
Dinara works at a diplomatic mission. She is an English language teacher by education, who graduated from a military university, served 12.5 year at the army, and retired with the rank of reserve major. Outside work, Dinara helps at tolokas and fairs telling people about Angels of Freedom project and its important mission. We talked to Dinara to find out how people react to requests for support and whether it is difficult be the project’s volunteer.
Interview with Assel
Assel is an employee of a foreign company in the field of production and sale of energy, a financier by education, and a volunteer. We talked to her and found out why we want to feel our involvement in the restoration of Ukraine, whether the “little man” can influence global processes, and how the Angels of Freedom was supported by the US Embassy in Kazakhstan.
Interview with Zarina
Zarina is a student-ecologist, works as a marketing specialist, and in her free time helps the Angels of Freedom in Almaty. We learned from Zarina what people talk about at tolokas, why angels are got and not bought, and how her family feels about her being a volunteer.
Interview with Zulfiya
iya is a project manager at UNDP (United Nations Development Program), FAO projects in Kazakhstan, a PR consultant and a former journalist. Zulfiya has been in the Angels of Freedom project nearly from the moment of its inception, that is, almost for a year. We talked about how we managed not to burn out being a “long-distance” volunteer and how the project changes its participants.
Interview with Iryna and Yevgeniy
For eight months now, a charitable project of helping for Ukraine Angels of Freedom has been operating in Kazakhstan. Volunteers organize meetings (toloka), where everyone can make an angel doll or simply purchase a handmade talisman. The funds raised from the sale are used to restore schools damaged by Russian shelling. How the project was started, what kind of people it unites and why, its organizers, Iryna Semenchuk and Yevgeniy Ribalko, told.
Interview with Gaukhar
Gaukhar is a yoga teacher, nutritionist, she had worked as an HR-specialist for a major construction company. A few months ago Gaukhar began to help to the Angels of Freedom project. We inquired why it is important to her and how events in the neighboring country are seen in the yoga philosophy.

Zarina from Almaty about her help to Ukrainian children (in Russian)