Zelenskyy's Heroes The Ukrainians Aiding Turkey's Earthquake Response

Rescue workers from Ukraine have been working nonstop since the Russian invasion to save civilians from the ruins of their buildings. After the earthquake in Turkey, though, some of them took a break from the war to help out in the disaster zone.
By Özlem Gezer, Timofey Neshitov und Emre Caylak (Photos) in Antakya, Turkey

Aleksander is sitting on a green camping chair in the western part of Antakya, not far from the Syrian border, an orchard of olive trees stretching out behind his tent. From Ukraine, Aleksander is monitoring the bombs falling back home on Kyiv using the rocket alarm app on his phone.


The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 8/2023 (February 18th, 2023) of DER SPIEGEL.

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3:58 a.m.: Alert level red, everyone take cover.

4:48 a.m.: All-clear.

8:27 a.m.: Alert level red.

He writes a WhatsApp message to his wife: "How are you doing? More air-raid alerts? I’m worried."

"They sent us home from work," she responds. "But I don’t want to hunker down in the subway without you again."

It’s Day 351 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Day 4 after the largest earthquake that has ever struck Turkey. Magnitude 7.8; 10 regions affected; on this Friday, the death toll stands at 18,000. Antakya lies in Turkey’s southwest, in Hatay Province, one of athe regions hit hardest by the quake.

On the morning after the temblor, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made the decision to send an elite unit to the disaster zone, a total of 87 men and women along with eight dogs. They came to pull survivors out of the rubble, recover the dead and put out fires. Their doctors would also amputate legs in the ruins.

Just a few hours after receiving their orders, 25 Ukrainians boarded an Antonov AN-26 at a secret airfield in the western part of the country. An additional Antonov transported shovels, pneumatic drills and concrete saws. At the same time, 62 others headed off on the overland route in trucks and ambulances. They initially wanted to head for Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter, but upon learning that a Russian team was already there, they continued onward to Antakya. The town is located not even 30 kilometers from the Syrian border, and hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been living in the region since the outbreak of the civil war back home.

Among the Ukrainians in the military plane on that Monday morning were:

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Squad leader Vitaliy, 36, a broad-shouldered man who is always the first to walk into the ruins of collapsed buildings. His parents live in the Russian-occupied area of the Kherson region and he hasn’t seen them since the beginning of the war.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Olga, 34, a former marketing professional who is now a dog handler. She hasn’t taken shelter in an air-raid bunker even once since the beginning of the war because one of her dogs can’t stand tight spaces. She lives with her mother, sister and six dogs in Kyiv.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Ninja, 4, full name "Ninja Impossible To Stop." The rescue dog lives with Olga in Kyiv. She is a Brittany spaniel and sleeps a lot when she’s not on the job.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Ivan, 41, a doctor, is one of the few in the team who can speak proficient English. When he’s not in the ruins saving people, he cooks borscht for his team.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Roman, 28, distills his own schnapps in Kyiv. He’s the entertainer in camp, donning a white apron to sometimes play cook, sometimes doctor. His sister is married to his comrade Serhiy, who he lovingly refers to as "the sister fucker."

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Serhiy, 32, was an amateur boxer before the war. When he heads into the ruins, he often only takes a shovel along with him. They call him the "miniature jackhammer." Whenever air raids start becoming more frequent in Kyiv, he sends his wife and five-year-old son to relatives in the countryside.

They are all part of "Team A," part of an elite unit, and they all share a tent.

In the Field – Insaf Shahade is sitting on a wall in front of her collapsed apartment building and waiting for the team, which has come here from the war in Ukraine, to bring her daughter back to her.

Shahade, the 43-year-old mother of five children, is from the area around Idlib in northern Syria. She fled the war in Syria with her family in 2012. Her husband used to be a furniture upholsterer in Syria, and he now works in construction in Turkey. It was a good apartment, she says, pointing at the ruins, where her one-year-old’s stroller can be seen. Their rent for the five-room apartment was 800 lira, the equivalent of around 40 euros. Their building is emblazoned with blue amulets. People in the Orient believe such amulets protect them from the evil eye.

In the building across the street, Turkish rescue workers are trying to save a cat from the fifth floor and they ask the Ukrainian team if they can borrow a sledgehammer. The mother continues waiting for her daughter Amina to be rescued.

Ninja, Olga’s rescue dog, disappears into a dark hole that was still Amina’s bedroom just four days ago. Ninja whines loudly, runs out and bumps into the stroller, which lights up in red and blue. Olga sends her dog back in.

Rescue dog Ninja inspects what's left of the apartment where Insaf Shahade's family once lived.

Rescue dog Ninja inspects what's left of the apartment where Insaf Shahade's family once lived.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Serhiy, the boxer, tries to access the apartment through a side wall. He carries out window frames, pipes, mattrasses, branches and a blue sofa. "That was our living room," says Shahade.

When the earth began quaking, she and her husband spoke the Shahhadah, the Muslim confession of faith, and began looking for their children. The floor beneath their feet vanished and the four floors above them plunged into their apartment. If you look at the building from the outside, it looks as though the first floor never even existed. Relatives pulled the mother and her baby out of the rubble. The father and their 17-year-old son were able to free themselves from the room next door, and the two young ones crawled out on their own. They later told their mother that they had tried to pull Amina out, but their big sister had been too afraid to leave the room.

Insaf Shahade refuses to believe the worst. "Maybe she made it after all?" she asks. "Maybe she’s in the hospital? Or someone took her with them?" Amina is 14 years old. "What was she wearing that evening, the rescuers ask. "Black pajamas," her mother responds. She shows Amina’s WhatsApp profile picture, a doe-eyed girl in a white headscarf.

Vitaliy, the team leader, leans a ladder against the balcony and asks for a pneumatic drill. The girl must be somewhere beneath them. They drill holes into the floor to access a space that is about half-a-meter high – the place where Ninja started whimpering. They extend a 360-degree camera into the darkness, looking through the remains of the children’s room for Amina. They search for two hours.

"She was probably crushed into the rubble," says Vitaliy, asking the interpreter not to translate that sentence for the father. They are looking for a hand that might be sticking out, or a foot or the black pajamas. The father keeps drawing sketches of the apartment: the children’s room, the bathroom, the location of the windows, doors and wardrobes. Serhiy asks if the girl could also be outside of the children’s room. The father nods. He wants them to keep drilling holes and to keep searching with their camera.

The Ukrainians have two teams active in the neighborhood. When they move through the streets, residents gaze at them as if they are superheroes. Tears form in the eyes of old men when they hear that the Ukrainians have left their war to help them.

Team A working in Antakya: "Every child that you pull out of the rubble reminds you of your own."

Team A working in Antakya: "Every child that you pull out of the rubble reminds you of your own."

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL
Ukrainian Roman exchanging nametags with a Turkish soldier.

Ukrainian Roman exchanging nametags with a Turkish soldier.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Across the way is a park – a place, they say, where they can finally walk on grass again. In Ukraine, they avoid green patches out of fear of mines. Children fill the Ukrainians’ pockets with pistachios, volunteers bring them lentil soup in paper bowls and Syrians set out orange lemonade for them on the remains of walls.

The father pulls everything he can reach out of the collapsed building and piles it up on the ground in front of his wife – a book with verses from the Koran, a prayer rug, a bag of medicines and a doll with blond hair.

The mother goes through the things. She clutches a white cloth in her hands and begins shaking. It is her daughter’s headscarf. She holds it to her nose.

She learns from the crowd of people in front of the building that the Ukrainians uncovered the bodies of their Turkish neighbors that morning. And she is told that the youngest daughter of the five-person family is the only one who was brought out alive – and that she tore out her hair under the rubble out of fear.

At 6:30 p.m., darkness begins to fall and Vitaliy climbs down from the balcony, approaches the father and says: "Unfortunately, we can’t do any more without a crane and an excavator. Otherwise, everything here will collapse." There have been numerous aftershocks throughout the afternoon. The father turns to his wife before looking Vitaliy in the eyes and saying: "I don’t want anyone else to lose their life here. God bless you."

Shahade, the 43-year-old mother of five, is still hopeful that the Ukrainians will find her daughter.

Shahade, the 43-year-old mother of five, is still hopeful that the Ukrainians will find her daughter.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Amina Shahada is the last resident of the building who cannot be recovered on this evening.

A man is lurking in front of the house. The neighbors say he's a looter and chase him off. "I’ll bury you alive under the rubble," one of them yells. A member of Team A gestures with his hand across his neck. The Syrian man nods. In Ukraine, they tie looters to light posts with their pants pulled down.

When an operation has come to an end, you can always hear the same noise: the sound of a can of spray paint. A member of the team sprays UKR on the wall of the house to identify the team, then 10. FEB, D4. The latter stands for four dead. Once the dead bodies are pulled out, the code is crossed through, and the rescue workers spray a D. That means that there may be more dead bodies still to be found.

In Camp – The Ukrainians have set up their tents at the convention hall. A rescue team from Romania has set up camp next to the Ukrainians while a team from India is located higher up on the hill. The mountains here, they say, are just as beautiful as in their Crimea. These Ukrainians have never before participated in an operation abroad. Some only know Turkey from beach vacations in Kemer on the Mediterranean coast and rave about the sea and the Turkish pomegranates. They like the Turks.

In camp, they frequently talk about the Bayraktar, the combat drone built by Turkey which has been used in Ukraine to destroy Russian tanks, ships and anti-aircraft guns. They ask if we are familiar with last year’s summer hit. "The monster in the Kremlin spews his propaganda," goes one lyric, "now they know a new word there: Bayraktar, Bayraktar!" It’s nice, say members of the team at their tent camp in Antakya, to finally be able to help the Turks in exchange.

The Ukrainian president also wanted to express his gratitude. He needs Turkey in the fight, and the Turks are part of NATO. Plus, by sending the team to Turkey, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hopes to show the world that his country is strong enough to send away its best right in the middle of a war with Russia.

The Ukrainian camp is the largest on this particular hill, a total of 14 tents in orange and gray, the Ukrainian flag flying overhead. This is where Aleksander coordinates every morning with the Turkish planning team to decide where to send his people. On good days, they head out three times a day with four teams.

The Ukrainian camp was right next to a team from Romania and not far from the team from India.

The Ukrainian camp was right next to a team from Romania and not far from the team from India.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL
Team A's tent: Some of the team members had vacationed in Turkey, but most had never been there.

Team A's tent: Some of the team members had vacationed in Turkey, but most had never been there.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

In Team A’s tent, there are two rows of folding cots. Serhiy sleeps on the last one in the right-hand row. Diagonally across from him is team leader Vitaliy’s cot, with two Ukrainian flags above his bed. Olga sleeps at the entrance, next to Ninja. They only had two hours to pack before leaving Kyiv and some of them forgot their charging cables. They also have no towels or razors.

In the Field – Team A is standing next to the wall of a cemetery, a mountain of wooden caskets in front of it. They are there to discuss the day’s mission. Vitaliy is holding a map in his hands and showing the route they will be taking.

They walk past a minaret that has fallen onto a house, though neighbors say that everyone managed to get out alive. Passersby greet the team and turn around to watch as they go. They see the Slavic names on their helmets and say: "Look, the Russians are here."

Across the street, a five-floor building has collapsed into a pile of rubble several meters high. Two men come running up. "We can show you the bodies," they say. Vitaliy makes a call and is told not to go over to the building since it is part of the Croatian team’s sector. He hangs up and goes over anyway.

A group of men is crouched in front of the building. They are injured and furious. They have dug a hole into the mountain of rubble with their bare hands. A Syrian man wearing a headlamp crawls out of the hole, pulling a knotted wool blanket behind him. He managed to find his family members with his bare hands.

The men begin talking about a Turkish rescue team. They say the Turks stood around smoking, showed no urgency and didn’t give them back their mobile phones. The Turks, they say, merely rammed the excavator into the building, randomly pulling down floors – despite the fact that their dead family members are everywhere under the rubble. The team then left after three hours, they say, promising to come back the next day, but they never returned. That was several days ago, they say.

Since then, they’ve been standing here waiting for their dead to be recovered.

Seven of the Ukrainians climb onto the pile of debris. Some of the family members who came up with them say that a woman and two girls are lying beneath their feet. An hour later, Serhiy asks one of the men: "Would you like to carry your wife out yourself?"

Serhiy doesn’t know much about this region of the world, but he is aware that he, as a man, should avoid touching women he doesn’t know, including those who have died. The Syrian man kneels and cautiously extends one leg into the opening. He is 65 and injured. He then looks at Serhiy and Vitaliy and moves to the side.

The men standing in front of the building on this afternoon are all Syrians. They or their fathers fought against Assad, they say. Some of them fled the country when the war began, others followed when the Russians started bombing their cities. One of the men points at the team and says: "The Ukrainians are the only ones here who understand us Syrians."

They recover five dead bodies on this day.

In Camp – Back at their camp on the hill, Serhiy hangs his socks on the laundry line they have strung between the tents. He keeps thinking about the war in Syria and says: "Their country lies in ruins. Our country lies in ruins. But we are getting help from the world."

Serhiy was 19 when he joined Ukraine’s disaster response agency. He had already been trained as a welder, but he then received additional instruction as a paramedic, including rescue diving and rope climbing. After a year, he was a disaster response professional. He encouraged his older brother to join as well; and in 2014, the two were promoted to the elite unit. The exam lasted 36 hours, during which they pulled people out of destroyed buildings and provided first aid to the injured. The instructions for the test mission noted it was a simulation of "an earthquake region in Turkey."

Serhiy empties his canned meat into a bowl and pours Turkish bulgur on top of it. He watches a video about Turkish rescue workers who were buried in the rubble and checks the news – no missile strikes in Kyiv today. His mission commander Vitaliy is lying on his cot across the aisle, also with his mobile phone. His wife and son spent several hours yesterday in the parking garage across from their apartment building in Kyiv. His son is 15.

Cooking borscht in the Ukrainian camp

Cooking borscht in the Ukrainian camp

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

"Every child that you pull out of the rubble," says Vitaliy, "reminds you of your own."

Olga, in the first cot on the right, is looking at dog pictures on Instagram.

Serhiy draws a map showing Kyiv, Irpin and Bucha. He then tells the story of how he was taken prisoner by Russian soldiers on March 9 on the outskirts of Bucha. He was traveling in a column of buses on a mission to evacuate people from the occupied towns surrounding Kyiv. He was forced to undress at a Russian checkpoint, he says, and was given nothing to eat or drink for two days. Before he was released, the Russians fired a bullet through his mobile phone.

Before the war, Serhiy and his colleagues often didn’t have much to do. They would be sent out a couple times a month to larger traffic accidents and natural gas explosions, or they would pull a lost hiker out of the forest, earning 13,000 hryvnia a month, around 400 euros. In his free time, Serhiy would hire out his services as a tree trimmer. The war changed everything. Serhiy and his colleagues now earn three times what they once made, and they no longer have to take extra jobs.

At headquarters, Aleksander is planning for their 8 p.m. departure. They plan to continue searching for survivors until Day 10. They dig for six hours, take a six-hour break for showering, eating and sleeping, and then they head out again.

Back at the camp, the leader of Team B is talking about the previous night, when they had to break off their operation earlier than planned. First, a large family had tried to force them to pull their dead relatives out of the rubble even though it was impossible without an excavator. Then, they saw police officers hunting down looters, their weapons at the ready.

Patrolling the center of Antakya: "If you see anyone else stealing, kill them! Immediately!"

Patrolling the center of Antakya: "If you see anyone else stealing, kill them! Immediately!"

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

Now, with the city full of looters, foreign rescue teams have been told they can only work with police or military protection. The Ukrainians wait for an escort, but it never arrives.

Out in the City – Before the earthquake, Antakya had a population of around 400,000 people, including Christians and Jews. Every year, almost as many tourists would visit the region as well. They would come to see what was considered the oldest Christian church in the world, the perhaps oldest mosque in Anatolia, the last Armenian village in Turkey and the old pilgrimage route to Mecca and Jerusalem. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria. Now, people are coming from afar to recover the dead and rescue the survivors. Or to loot.

On this night, the center of Antakya is reminiscent of a city wracked by civil war. The buildings are destroyed, the military is directing traffic and security personnel are patrolling the streets with machine guns. Flames rise out of the trash containers. The police pull a man down the street by his collar, behind him a group of 10 men in yellow vests carrying clubs. "If you see anyone else stealing, kill them! Immediately!" one of them says. The city’s jewelry and watch shops are located in the side streets. When asked if he's a police officer, the man who told his companions to kill looters says "no." He actually works for the city administration in Istanbul, he says, and is here as a volunteer with a citizen’s militia. The men then disappear into the darkness again with their clubs.

On the day after the catastrophe, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a state of emergency for the region.

In Camp – The next morning, Vitaliy shaves the heads of the men on his team. Injured villagers receive treatment at headquarters, and potatoes are peeled in the kitchen tent. Ivan is trying to light two old cookers that were provided from German military stockpiles. They're from 1990, and a small eternity goes by before the flame flares up. "It takes too long," says Ivan, "like the tank deliveries  from Scholz," a reference to the German chancellor.

Squad leader Vitaliy gives one of his men a haircut: "We had two hours to go home and pack."

Squad leader Vitaliy gives one of his men a haircut: "We had two hours to go home and pack."

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

In the Field – A Syrian man named Ismail is sitting on a rock behind the collapsed residential building where he used to live. He says he built his own house back in Syria, behind a hill in Latakia, far away from Assad. He wasn’t afraid during the war, he says, until the Russians showed up with their helicopters and warplanes.

Ismail left Syria in 2016. And shortly after he brought his family to safety in Turkey, the Russians bombed his house to bits. Afterwards, he says, it looked a lot like it does here.

The Ukrainians and Syrians who randomly encounter each other here in the ruins of Antakya all talk about "the Russians." The one group comes from the war that the Russians are waging against them, the others fled from a war in which the Russians intervened.

Roman carries a sledgehammer into the building, Serhiy follows with the concrete saw and Ivan turns on the generator. Olga is taking pictures of a chicken.

Then, a military helicopter flies over the house, and it’s the first time the Ukrainians look unsettled. When they arrived at the building, an aftershock shook the ground, but it didn’t bother them at all, and they marched inside. They aren’t afraid of the ground. They’re afraid of the sky.

One of the Ukrainians kicks a few of the bricks that have crumbled from the building. "Back home, they only use these to build doghouses," he says.

Olga has found a dog out on the street and is thinking about taking it home with her. Vitaliy says: "It’s war. You have to produce at least eight children."

Ismail had four children prior to the earthquake. The Ukrainian rescue workers pulled the bodies of his wife and three-year-old daughter out of the rubble yesterday. Today, they hope to bring out his nine-year-old daughter, his sister and his mother.

After four hours of work, the Ukrainians have freed the bodies from the rubble.

Members of Ismail's family pulled from the rubble in Antakya: "We'll store them in a fruit cool room during the night."

Members of Ismail's family pulled from the rubble in Antakya: "We'll store them in a fruit cool room during the night."

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL
Syrian father Ismail waits for the bodies of his family members to be recovered: "The Ukrainians are our brothers."

Syrian father Ismail waits for the bodies of his family members to be recovered: "The Ukrainians are our brothers."

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

The family members approach the ambulance. They lay their hands on their hearts and say they plan to bring their relatives to a village so they have a place to mourn. They don’t want to have to stand at a mass grave.

Tonight, they plan to place the bodies of their relatives in a fruit cooling room, which is already packed with remains, they say. On this day, the Ukrainian team recovers 11 bodies.

In Camp – Team A remains in camp the next day, because the Turkish coordination team has not yet assigned them to a new sector. Since their arrival, they haven’t been to the center of the city, where the destruction is most severe. But they do what they are told. Olga takes walks with Ninja on the small field behind the shower tent, while Ivan and Roman stir 40 liters of borscht, the broth made from three chickens.

The poultry was brought by a man from Belarus, who drove up to the camp in a Renault with Ukrainian plates. He tells the Ukrainian team that he fled from Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator and Putin lackey, and has been living in Turkey ever since. On this day, he helps the Ukrainians by peeling garlic, and they give him a list of things they need in camp: cigarettes, soap and dogfood.

Team B returns from an operation. The team leader climbs out of the car, heads into the tent and makes himself an instant coffee. "They’re sending us to some kind of chicken coops," he says. In the car are men like Serhiy’s brother, who pulled a woman out of a building in Dnipro in mid-January after a Russian plane fired a missile into it. It contained 950 kilograms of explosives, the kind of rocket designed for use against aircraft carriers. It was the heaviest attack on a civilian target since the beginning of the war.

In the tent, Aleksander shrugs his shoulders. They spoke with Kyiv on the phone that morning and reported that there was less and less for them to do here. Kyiv told them to begin preparing for departure.

The Austrians have already suspended their activities because of looting and headed home. The Swiss are gone, as are the Dutch and the Greeks.

This is the first day that frustration can be sensed in the Ukrainian camp. My wife’s birthday is today, says one of them. Serhiy says he would like to finally continue work on expanding his garage instead of spending the day lying on a cot in Antakya. Vitaliy says he would prefer to be working in Ukraine, adding that there is plenty to do there. Ivan says he’d like to bake a lasagna for his wife, who he sees so rarely. They want to have a child.

Before the war, Ivan says, he and his friends used to reenact World War II battles with airsoft guns. He says he never thought that war could break out in 21st century Europe. In no way, though, does he question the marching orders his president has issued. Nobody here does. Most are officers with the Interior Ministry.

In the Field – The alarm clock goes off at 7 a.m. in Team A’s tent after a night in which they were unable to go out. Nobody says anything. Serhiy burns his foot with a cup of boiling water and he has to stay in camp. His team is sent to a mountain village to the south.

The village leader serves tea to Vitaliy and tells him that he only lost a couple of animals in the quake. He adds that villagers have begun shooting at looters. "Good idea," says Vitaliy. "You have to defend yourselves. There are a lot of armed people back home in Ukraine, too."

Their next destination is a well-off suburb where doctors, lawyers and businesspeople live. The homes look as though there hadn’t been an earthquake at all. Roman phones his wife on a video call to show her the mountains. He picks a laurel branch from a tree for her. The Ukrainians take selfies on the hill, with the city below.

Vitaliy phones up operation headquarters. "What are we doing here? Give us a place that needs us!"

In the Field – On this afternoon, the Ukrainian team heads into the center of Antakya for the first time. Body bags can be seen everywhere among the mountains of rubble, several meters high, where excavators are working. Vitaliy seems relieved – finally, a place where they are needed. They pull the body of a woman out of the rubble in the first hour they are there. They continue onward toward the market square, where Turkish soldiers have their base. The Ukrainians are hungry, and the Turks invite them in and serve watermelon lemonade. Together, they have a seat around a rain barrel where a fire is burning. The soldiers give the Ukrainians cans of tuna. Later, they want to trade nametags and pocketknives.

They look down into the ruins of a building where three excavators are pulling down the remains. There are a dozen men standing on the pile of rubble when suddenly, people begin yelling. Someone has heard a voice from down below the pile of debris. They think it might be a baby.

It is 4:35 p.m., eight-and-a-half days after the earthquake. The Ukrainians run over to the ruins of the building and try to make their way through the excited crowd that refuses to calm down. The men are volunteers, most of them miners from Zonguldak. Roman lifts his arm into the air and yells in Ukrainian that they are professional rescue workers. A team member pushes his way through and Roman follows. They kneel in front of a concrete slab, beneath which is a narrow opening in the rubble, not even half a meter high. To their left, a man in a red vest – from Şemdinli, an educational, cultural and environmental association – throws himself into the dust and begins digging through the pieces of concrete with his bare hands. "Allahu akbar!" he yells.

Team A forms a chain and begins passing tools forward over the heads of the crowd. They cut through metal rods and Roman frees a door of rubble. Beneath it, a leg can be seen.

Roman and the other team member carefully pull the woman onto an orange stretcher. The woman is holding her right arm with her left.

Soldiers, helpers, police officers and onlookers with mobile phone cameras are standing around on the mountain of rubble. But nobody from the woman’s family is there, nobody is waiting for her. Her name is unknown. As she is being carried to an ambulance, the people begin chanting: "Long live the miners!"

Roman says: "The main thing is that she survives."

On this day, the Ukrainians recover nine bodies and the one survivor.

Rescuers pull a woman survivor from the rubble in the center of Antakya eight days after the earthquake.

Rescuers pull a woman survivor from the rubble in the center of Antakya eight days after the earthquake.

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

In Camp – Back from the field, they learn that after that day’s miracle, Kyiv has decided that they should stay a while longer.

In the Field – The next morning, they head back to the center with two teams. As they make their way through the quarter, they post on Instagram a message of gratitude they received from the Ukrainian president for saving the woman the day before.

Team A of the Ukrainian disaster response mission in camp

Team A of the Ukrainian disaster response mission in camp

Foto: Emre Caylak / DER SPIEGEL

"Which death is actually more senseless," Ivan asks. "If you’re killed in war or if you die in an earthquake?"

"In war," says Olga. "Nothing is more senseless than when people kill people."

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