For over 16 months, a Spaniard, Emma Igual, 32, was engaged in the most dangerous work possible on the war front in Ukraine: evacuating injured civilians and soldiers.
Emma and Anthony
On September 9th, Emma and a Canadian, Anthony Ihnat, were lost to this world, killed in a Russian mortar attack in Eastern Ukraine.
There was no mention of their deaths and their heroic work on the National news. They caught my attention only because I was searching for information on Ukraine. And then I couldn’t forget their story. What’s prompts a 32-year-old to sacrifice her life rescuing strangers? How does a 58-year old guy from Toronto end up in the middle of a Russian invasion, rescuing Ukrainians?
Road to Relief
Emma Igual, a young Jewish woman, co-founded the Road to Relief NGO soon after the war in Ukraine started. Emma and her mother grew up in Barcelona. Her Jewish grandmother escaped the Holocaust in Austria as a teenager, losing her whole family in concentration camps, and was adopted by a family in Spain. What happened to Emma’s grandmother, and the deaths of her murdered relatives under the Nazis provided a major motivation in devoting her life to war-zone rescue missions.
After earning a degree at the University of California in Berkeley and a Red Cross academic course, Emma became involved in humanitarian aid projects, often with a focus on children, in Greece, Myanmar, Morocco and Kenya.
If Ukraine Falls We All Fall
When war in Ukraine broke out, she and a Frenchman, Henri Camenen, co-founded Road to Relief. She felt she needed to put all her experiences to good use, and to apply her humanitarian and Jewish ethos. And she explained, “as a European, I saw that if Ukraine falls, we all fall.”
Typical of her work was a trip into Severodonetsk, in the east of the country. She was trying to help people evacuate from a burning building.
“Suddenly a man ran towards me and handed me a beautiful little bouquet of a few flowers — I suppose his way of saying thank you,” Emma told a reporter. Aid-worker colleagues and good friends had been killed, “but so far,” she said, “I have been extremely lucky — not even a scratch.” Until September 9th.
September 9, 2023
A van carrying Emma and three aid workers came under Russian attack near the town of Chasiv Yar in eastern Ukraine. They were trapped inside the van as it flipped over and caught fire after being hit by shells. Two of the workers escaped from the car with serious injuries and pulled Uhnat’s body from the car but he was already gone. The fire prevented them from trying to rescue the rescuer. Emma’s remains were later recovered by Ukraine soldiers.
Peter Fouche, a colleague running a different rescue operation, paid this tribute to Emma.
“Emma was by far the most hard-working civilian aid worker in Ukraine. She could not keep still. She had her fingers in many pies. Emm was incredibly brave. But because of her, a lot of people are alive, and hundreds of villages have been fed.”
Anthony Ihnat was a 58-year-old Ontario man. Remembered as a joyful, caring, and hardworking man who loved the Toronto Maple Leafs. Taisia Orikhovska, a coordinator with Brave to Rebuild, added Ihnat volunteered with the group earlier this year in the Kyiv region. He was a handyman whose skills were invaluable to the teams that helped to rebuild homes.
Ukraine on My Mind
Ukraine has been on my mind since Russia invaded early on February 24, 2022. I listened to a live feed on twitter. It was late at night our time. It felt like midnight in the world.
I’ll have more to say about this in future posts. For now, please join the conversation below. What are your feelings about the war in Ukraine? How have you been involved?
Post your comment below.
Previous Posts about Ukraine on REVwords
Hope grows here. We share stories that inspire people, build faith, and offer lasting purpose.
We’d love to have you Subscribe to REVwords. We’ll put helpful content into your inbox Mondays and Fridays.