2023 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Shadrach Ludeman, Terah Yaroch, Brooke Harding and the Office of Transition Initiatives Ukraine Team

Provided ​critical ​assistance to the Ukrainian people following ​the​ 2022​ Russian invasion​, partnering with local organizations to help Ukrainians evacuate to safety and deliver food, clothing, ​power ​generators and other supplies to those in need.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in 2022 triggered an urgent ​and massive ​need to provide assistance to the Ukrainian people—buses to ferry evacuees and food, clothing, shelter and other suddenly scarce staples often found lacking in less-developed countries. 

A dedicated U.S. Agency for International Development team anticipated Russia’s possible aggression. Working closely with other USAID offices, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and Ukrainian partners, the team acted swiftly, delivering support before most other Western allies could gear up to help the besieged country.  

“I was blown away by how fast they reacted,​”​ said Oksana Nechyporenko, director of the Ukraine Assistance Coordination Center and a former advisor to the Ukraine government. “They were closer to the front lines than anyone else. They were the ones working with the communities. Ukrainians are capable, but this USAID team enabled us to do what we needed to do to protect our country and help our people.” 

The team, led by Shadrach Ludeman, Terah Yaroch and Brooke Harding, quickly procured 225 buses and drivers to transport more than 13,000 at-risk, displaced Ukrainians—including ​women, children and members of the LGBTQ+ community​​​​​​—from train and bus stations​ in Ukraine​ to welcome centers in Poland. Over time, the team handed off the transportation task to the Ukrainian government and helped Ukrainians in occupied and front-line areas, coordinating with local governments and civil society groups to evacuate more than 33,000 people to safer parts of the country​​​​​​​​​.​     ​​ 

Supplying generators for emergency services  

As front lines and crisis points shifted, the trio delivered 900 ​power ​generators to help local authorities ​provide ​electricity, heat, hot meals and internet connectivity, despite Russia’s attempts to freeze and starve the Ukrainian people by knocking out energy infrastructure. ​​ 

The team showed leadership that “embodies and exemplifies the values of the United States, not only by addressing an acute global threat, but by amplifying the threatened set of democratic civic values shared by Americans and Ukrainians,” said Brittany Brown, director of the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives. 

As the team’s leader, Ludeman provided strategic vision, while Harding focused on providing critical supplies and equipment and on finding ways to get them to local governments, civil society organizations and volunteers.  

Yaroch brought expertise in media and strategic communications that included countering disinformation, promoting Ukrainian stories of bravery and resilience, and spearheading a letter-writing campaign where Europeans wrote to people in regions under Russian occupation.  

Reacting quickly to meet evolving needs 

The team and the U.S. government were not the only ones assisting Ukraine. But their ability to pivot quickly when Russia’s invasion started was remarkable, said Juan Camilo Castillo, a stabilization advisor for Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian counterpart to the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives.  

In February, as Russia’s brutal intent toward Ukraine became increasingly clear, Ludeman​ moved from Kyiv to western Ukraine along with ​other​​s​​ ​from the U.S. Embassy Kyiv team, and then to ​Poland​ to continue supporting vulnerable Ukrainians following the invasion and to stay close to Ukrainian refugees.  

“You had to be quick on your feet and readjust to something that would still be relevant, with high impact, and do it on the fly,” Castillo said. “What they accomplished was the gold standard.” 

As the war raged on, the team worked with a Kharkiv-based youth group to help deliver more than 36 tons of hygiene products, food and clothing to Ukrainians in front-line regions under bombardment. 

The team accomplished all of its work under difficult and intense circumstances.  

“One of our Ukrainian colleague​s​ was murdered by Russia​’s​ ​armed ​forces. ​Our other Ukrainian teammates​​’​​ ​houses were struck by missiles,” Ludeman said. “Almost all of our team has been displaced.” 

But what matters, Harding​ said​, is this: “We’re going to be on the right side of history.” ​     ​