The Solomiansky Kotyky, or Solomiansky Cats, Charitable Foundation was born out of a community of activists in Kyiv on February 24, 2022.
“Initially, we did everything we could. Following a successful counteroffensive in the Kyiv area, we realized that we needed to focus on where we had the most expertise,” says Solomiansky Cats Chair Andriy Yerofeyev. “That’s why we called ourselves cats – they also know how to identify a person’s sore spot and warm and treat it.”
Before the invasion, Andriy and his team already gained some experience in delivering first aid trainings for Kyiv residents and a defibrillator project in the subway. So, the Charity’s current team of trainers is made up of people who taught first aid and tactical healthcare before the big war. Since the outbreak of the full-scale war, they have passed this knowledge on to more than 25,000 people, both civilians and military.
“Last year, my team and I realized that it was important to teach these skills to teachers, because very often missiles hit schools,” says Mr. Yerofeyev. “That’s why we want people to be ready to help in case of emergency.” Solomiansky Cats is conducting first aid training in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions. The training includes stopping critical bleeding, using a tourniquet, applying a bandage and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. All the trainings are part of the Spilnodiia Program implemented by East Europe Foundation in partnership with the Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Research and the Together Against Corruption nongovernmental organization with funds from the European Union.
During each of these four-hour training sessions, the team observes participants and asks who would like to become an instructor and pass on this important knowledge in their communities. “We intend to increase our capacity to train people in first aid, so upon completion of our grant, we will train 12 instructors who will be able to teach in their regions,” says Mr. Yerofeyev. Solomiansky Cats will continue to provide mentoring support for another six months to build teachers’ confidence.
Feedback from educators indicates the training is a success, describing it as “the best training they have ever had.” “I’m very pleased to see that the instructors of our organization, who started developing in this area only a year and a half or two years ago, are already conducting such trainings and getting applause. As the head of the organization, I am very happy to see this growth,” says Mr. Yerofeyev.
In addition to first aid, the Foundation also works in landmine safety. It all started when sappers who were demining the Chernobyl nuclear power plant came to the activists and showed them their 1983-era bag of tools. The Solomiansky Cats asked what a tool kit should include now and then began to assemble one. At first, they ordered special sapper probes in the United States and when they got acquainted with the Institute of Metal Physics in Kyiv, they determined the most accurate copies of the probes could be reproduced in Ukraine. “That’s how we began to develop our expertise in this area and later realized that since demining takes decades, we should educate the civilian population, especially children, about landmine safety in the meantime,” according to Mr. Yerofeyev.
Thanks to a grant from East Europe Foundation, Solomiansky Cats were able to conduct landmine safety trainings for children and adults in the de-occupied territories of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions. More than 300 people attended these trainings as part of the Spilnodiia Program to gain life-saving knowledge. “We showed what different mines and explosive devices look like, how to behave if you come across them, and where to call. Now people will be better prepared in case of emergency,” says Andriy Yerofeyev.
What makes the Solomiansky Cats’ trainings for children special is that they are fun and are akin to a mini-festival, Mr. Yerofeyev says. “We create the opportunity for children to not only learn something useful, but also switch their attention and relax.” In addition to the training session, children try on a deminer’s uniform and work with a metal detector. In the Kharkiv and Sumy regions, experts from the State Emergency Service helped conduct the training. They brought their fire truck, demonstrated how to extinguish fires and provided the children with exposure to firefighting tools. An educational and entertaining format helps better convey vital information, and, as Mr. Yerofeyev notes, there is a significant demand for such events.
Where to Next?
The Foundation’s ultimate objective is to ensure every Ukrainian master first aid skills. The Solomiansky Cats are working to create a robust tactical healthcare center; the organization recently received the necessary certification to expand the number of courses and recruit more trainers. “No one knows where a missile will land, so it’s better to be prepared. These skills can come in handy at any time, so we are focused on regular training of the population,” says Mr. Yerofeyev.
The Foundation will continue its landmine safety activity. While working with all demining operators in Ukraine and helping them with kits, the Solomiansky Cats are conceptualizing new formats for civilian events and festivals. When asked where they get their strength, Mr. Yerofeyev says the team atmosphere is a great help. The opportunity to build effective cooperation, where participants in the partnership reinforce each other, is a priority.