Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ukraine’s Underground AIDS-Treatment Railroad

For HIV-positive eastern Ukrainians, the struggle against Russian-backed separatists isn't just about dignity — it's about their right to stay alive.

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On a rainy day last fall, longtime AIDS activist Olga Palamarchuk took me back to her new home in Odessa, Ukraine. To call it a home might be too generous; it was a chilly basement room in a halfway house for recovering drug users. But Olga and her teenage daughter were happy to have a roof over their heads, two years after they fled Donetsk, a center of the war between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country. Olga is one of the estimated 1.7 million people displaced by the conflict. She participated in the massive demonstrations at Kiev’s central square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, in 2013 and 2014, and in local pro-Maidan protests in Donetsk, where she was severely beaten by titushki, or paid thugs. Soon armed men — supporters of the Russian-leaning, anti-Maidan separatist movement — were shooting and beating whomever they pleased. “I was able to laugh at the explosions,” Olga told me, “but when the fighting started on my own street, I knew I had to leave.” Olga and her mother caught the next-to-last train out of Donetsk; Olga’s daughter had already departed.