4am phone calls to support fleeing Ukrainians: Hamilton humanitarian, 20, focuses on evacuees
Every morning at 4am, a young woman from Hamilton wakes up to help an 18-year-old trapped in Ukraine.
The country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, came under a barrage of Russian air and rocket attacks last week. The UN has confirmed at least 351 civilian deaths as a result of the invasion. The actual figure is thought to be significantly higher.
The Ukrainian teenager on the other end of the line is now hiding in the metro station with thousands of other civilians waiting for evacuation trains to western Ukraine, and Timi Barabas, 20, can hear explosions in the background as they converse.
Barabas, who is part of several youth-led organizations, is working to evacuate as many Ukrainians as possible and is advocating for an end to the war.
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“When I’m on the phone with people, I can hear the pain and the fear in their voices,” Barabas said from his home in Hamilton.
“It’s hard to hear, but crying won’t help anyone. Action will. It’s important that I listen, so I can help them get resources and evacuate.
Born in Hungary – which borders Ukraine – Barabas knows some of the corruption and violence that Eastern Europe faces.
It is for this reason that she and part of her family fled Hungary to start a new life in New Zealand five years ago.
Her two older brothers, still in Hungary with their families, are now considering joining them because of what is happening in Ukraine, she said.
“I also have friends in Hungary and Ukraine who cannot escape and who will die.
“War affects everything, from the economy to humanity.
“We need people to wake up. They are people like us, and we must act now.
‘Decades of peace undermined’: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday called on Russia to end its assault on Ukraine.
At 20, Barabas already has a history of humanitarian work.
In 2020, she started an organization called Rise For Lives which raised thousands of dollars for people in Yemen to tackle the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
She then became one of four young people to set up a task force under Fridays For Future, called Activists in Risk Zones.
This team in August 2021 – with minimal adult participation – through crowdfunding raised over US$200,000 to resettle over 50 at-risk people from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over Kabul.
Now the band is trying to do the same for Ukraine.
In a bid to raise awareness and involve more young people, Barabas wrote an open letter to Vladimir Putin and national leaders, demanding an end to the bloodshed.
Although she knows this is highly unlikely to attract the attention of the Russian president, she hopes the campaign will inspire people, especially young people, around the world to get involved.
“It’s important that we talk because it’s our future and that of our children. When this is all over, it will be up to us to clean up the mess and devastation.
“This war must end.”