The volunteers risking their lives to help drug users in Ukraine

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The volunteers risking their lives to help drug users in Ukraine

7 June 2022

By Delaney Nolan, Al Jazeera

Alexey Kvitkovskiy was already far from home when he got a call about a man dying in a nearby village.

After Russia invaded in February, Kvitkovskiy fled his hometown of Severodonetsk in the east of Ukraine and settled in Burshtyn, a small town 90km (56 miles) south of Lviv. His wife and children continued on to Lithuania, far from the threat of missiles. As a man under 60, Kvitkovskiy is forbidden from leaving, though even if he were released from military service, he would choose to stay to support his particular community.

Not long after his arrival in Burshtyn in March, the 47-year-old received a call from one of his new neighbours. They knew that Kvitkovskiy worked in harm reduction, supporting people who use drugs. A man nearby had been injecting narcotics, and he had overdosed. Could Alexey help, the neighbour asked?

“I’m coming,” Kvitovskiy said and ran to a borrowed car. Kvitkovskiy is energetic, with a round, expressive face. He sprinkles responses with a long, melodious “Taaa-aaak” (yes.) During the tense 20km (12-mile) drive, he stayed on the phone with the man’s friends, advising them to clear his airway and call an ambulance. But the apartment’s owner refused to let them, lest the ambulance also brings the police.