The Blood Matters Blog ·

Global Blood Fund Launches Initiative to Support Ukrainian Blood Centers

Since the first days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, employees of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center have worked tirelessly in the face of life-threatening conditions.


The following article has been reproduced in its entirety from the Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies' September 2023 issue of AABB News. The article highlights "Thanksgiving Wednesday," a program that has provided hot meals to the employees of Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center in southeastern Ukraine every week since April 2023. The program is a partnership between Our Blood Institute, Global Blood Fund and DonorUA.

Maryna, a registrar at the Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center in southeastern Ukraine, described February 24, 2022, as the “longest and most difficult working day of her life.” That morning, explosions and air alarms reverberated across the country as Russia launched an unprecedented invasion of Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, Russia obliterated 177 medical facilities in Ukraine during the 14 months of full-scale war thus far and damaged more than 1,400. Some blood centers were ravaged in the aftermath, creating widescale challenges to the blood supply in the war-torn country.

Ukrainian residents came out in droves in response to urgent requests for blood donations. However, the surge in blood donations, including long lines of donors and endless phone calls, has placed an immense burden on blood center workers in Zaporizhzhia. Of the 10 years Maryna has worked at the blood center, she conceded the past one and a half years have been the most stressful due to the full-scale Russian invasion.

“With the beginning of the war, numerous air alarms, sounds of explosions, destruction of buildings, constant worry for loved ones, separation from relatives, losses and pain entered our lives,” stated Maryna, the first point of contact for blood donors as a registrar. “Due to the great need for blood components for health care facilities and for the security and defense forces, we need to attract even more donors. Sometimes it is not easy, and it takes a lot of time, but we are very grateful to all donors who respond to the call, find time and sometimes even come with the whole family to share blood.”

Vladyslav, a paramedic-laboratory assistant, recalled starting his medical career at the Zaporizhzhia Blood Center on the day of Russia’s invasion. His first shift lasted 36 hours.

“When I was signing the contract the day before the full-scale invasion was launched, the training air alarm was on,” Vladyslav stated. He added that the camaraderie among staff helped him transition into his position and manage the heavy workload during the war. “I made friends among my colleagues and got to know beautiful and kind people who became my second family. I learned a lot here thanks to friendly and sensitive colleagues who have been helping me acquire professional skills and knowledge all this time."

Token of Appreciation

Located fewer than 100 miles from the front lines, Zaporizhzhia became a refuge for thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the bombings. Like Maryna and Vladyslav, the dedicated employees of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center have been working tirelessly to save lives since the war began.

The Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center continues to accept donors, and 150 blood center staff — often work overtime and without days of — take care of replenishing and maintaining blood supplies for civilians and the military despite the potential and real threats in the area. The frantic pace and long shifts make it challenging for frontline workers to cook hot meals or enjoy long lunch breaks. To that end, DonorUA, Global Blood Fund and Our Blood Institute set out to help the center’s blood donor staff and launched “Thanksgiving Wednesday” in April to provide support and relief through weekly catering services. The program allows the center’s 150 blood bankers to convene and take a break over a freshly prepared nutritious meal every Wednesday, providing respite during their busy shifts.

Maryna has limited time for lunch due to her schedule, but she noted that eating together weekly brought her and her colleagues closer together. “Every Wednesday, we finally have a joint lunch with colleagues, when you can relax a little and enjoy warm dishes together.”

Vladyslav credited the “Thanksgiving Wednesday” program for changing his opinion about food in hospitals. “The lunches are tasty and very balanced. And it’s also very nice that there is dessert,” he said.

Global Blood Fund executive director Gavin Evans stated the collaboration demonstrates the power of collective action in times of crisis and shows appreciation for the frontline workers. “With our partners in Ukraine, we send lunches to the staff on the front line of the war zone as a thank you from the international blood banking community. Food is hard to come by with working overnight and sleeping in the centers. We want to show them we appreciate them,” Evans told AABB News.

Evans noted that GBF plans to expand the program to other Ukrainian blood centers and hopes to raise awareness about “Thanksgiving Wednesday” to garner interest and support from other organizations. “The Zaporizhzhia Regional Blood Service Center is just one of many blood centers across Ukraine,” Evans said. “We want people to understand what we are doing and become inspired to do something similar for other blood centers around the country. It would be great and even more impactful to bring more centers into the program.”

More from Ukraine

“My first working day began on February 24 and lasted 36 hours. I went to work in the morning, finished the day shift, went home to eat and came back.”

Vladyslav's Story

    How to Help

    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.

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