A Brave Ukrainian Journalist and Refugee Supporter Needs Help to Save Her Eyes

A Brave Ukrainian Journalist and Refugee Supporter Needs Help to Save Her Eyes
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Photograph of Tatyana Goryachova.

Photograph of Tatyana Goryachova.

Own work

A lot of human rights defenders put their lives on the line, because those who want to trample on others’ rights for their own gain will stop at nothing, including murder, to get what they want.

Journalists also put their lives on the line by standing up for common folk and writing about the corruption that bleeds the little guy.

So as a human rights defender, I’ve always felt a kinship with journalists.

One I’ve long admired is Tatyana Goryachova, a Ukrainian who had acid thrown in her face in 2002 for reporting that offended powerful people in Berdyansk, the city where she lives.

I’m writing about her 15 years after the attack because she needs help: Scar tissue from her acid burns has grown in her eyes, threatening to blind her a second time.

She needs $17,000 for the first of two operations. The most crucial one is to stop the scar tissue from reaching her pupils. There’s an urgency for this surgery because the scar tissue is close to the pupils already.

The second surgery will be to replace her eye lenses.

The operations must be done outside Ukraine, her ophthalmologists says, because the country lacks the laser equipment needed for such precision surgery.

The $17,000 she needs for the first operation is a fortune in Ukraine, where a typical salary is a few hundred dollars a month. But it isn’t that much for a lot of people in the United States or Europe, so I’m hoping someone with means reads this story and makes a donation to save her sight.

Tatyana and her husband Sergei were running the scrappy Berdyansk Delovoy that they founded when the acid attack occurred in January of 2002.

After a long day at work, she was heading home alone from her office in the dark when a burly man stepped out of the shadows and threw hydrochloric acid in her face.

Her eyes felt like lightning had struck them, and she was immediately unable to see.

Although in searing pain, she had the presence of mind to drop to the ground and grab handfuls of snow to thrust into her eyes so she could dilute the acid. The quick thinking probably saved her vision, her doctors said, although a lot of treatment was to come.

She spent months at Odessa’s famed Filitov Eye Clinic and then, in August of 2002, at the University of Texas Medical Center in Dallas, thanks to an American donor who asked to remain anonymous.

News of her acid attack, and the fact that she continued to write afterward, led to her winning two international courage-in-journalism awards. One was from the International Women’s Media Foundation, and the other from Human Rights Watch’s Hellman Hammett Awards program.

When the Ukraine War broke out in the summer of 2014, Tatyana saw Berdyansk’s population more than double — from 110,000 to 230,000 — from people fleeing the fighting in the east.

Many of the refugees were children and old people whose families sent them west on their own so they wouldn’t be collateral damage in the conflict.

Tatyana was heart-broken at seeing the homeless and hungry children in particular, and started a charity organization to help them, families, elderly refugees and wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

It has raised money for food, clothes, shelter, prosthetics and other care. Most has come from small donors.

Tatyana has pumped a considerable amount of her own money into the charity, even when it has left her family short, friends of hers have told me.

She has used her journalism skills not only to report on the war, which continues to rage not far from her city, but also to chronicle the plight of the refugees.

Because she basically has two jobs — journalism and running a charity organization — she often falls into bed late at night bone-tired. But she picks herself up and starts again the next morning, knowing there’s still so much to be done.

Those who know Tatyana will tell you that she has dedicated most of her life to helping others.

Now she is in desperate need of others who can help her.

Doctors have told her the scar tissue must be removed from her eyes within weeks for her to save her vision.

She scheduled the operation for mid-August, hoping she would be able to come up with the money to pay for it. But she was unable to come anywhere close to raising the funds needed— so she had to postpone the surgery.

Those who know and love her were devastated by the news.

The world needs more bright lights like Tatyana Goryachova.

Please join me in helping her.

There are two ways to do this. One is by going to a Go Fund Me page for her. The other is by sending money to her bank account.

The bank account is:

Tetyana Goryachova, Account # 26259009259947, UkrSibbank, Andriivska Street 2/12, Kyiv, Ukraine, SWIFT Code: KHABUA2K, Intermediary Bank: BNP Paribas New York, SWIFT Code: BNPAUS3N.

Thank you.

Armine Sahakyan is an Armenian human rights defender.

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