From Grapevine to Ukraine: Five Glimpses into War Relief Efforts
Most people are aware of the war that is ongoing between Russia and Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. According to the United Nations, this war has killed almost 3,000 civilians, and over 7 million people have lost their homes. Another 5 million Ukrainian citizens have had to seek refuge in neighboring countries, most popularly Poland, which is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Refugees can seek help in any NATO country, and Poland is the closest.
Locally, several individuals, groups, and organizations that are actively participating in the relief effort for Ukraine will have tables at the 38th Annual Main Street Festival that will be held on May 20 – 22.
Tanya Czyz is the liaison between the First Presbyterian Church of Grapevine and the other organizations that support fundraising for Ukraine. Members of the church collect donation items, medical supplies, and other things that were sent to the hospitals in Ukraine, as well as items that were sent to an orphanage.
“Master Made Feeds, a local Grapevine store, offered us an opportunity to have a tent and table set up on their property at 702 Main Street during the festival, so that we can sell some items, and have representatives from several organizations for fundraising,” said Czyz.
“I was born and grew up in Russia over 20 years ago. I moved to the U.S. because my husband is from here, but I do have relatives and a lot of friends in Ukraine. We have done a few things for the cause. We had a rally on March 20 in Grapevine, and it was well-attended. Now the Festival is coming up, and we are always open to taking financial or material donations for Ukraine,” she added.
Iryna Sherchuk is part of the Ukranian Cultural Club of Dallas (UCCD), which will also be represented at the festival.
“I was born and raised in Ukraine. I've been a resident of Grapevine for the last 18 years. I came [here] for school and to join my husband. I graduated from University of North Texas, and now I live in Grapevine with my family. I'm an active member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of St. Sofia in The Colony. Since I'm not working, I have a little bit more time to volunteer and help where I can.
“My husband works with the airlines, so he helps to schedule those flights and just kind of speeds things up and also helps pick up boxes, deliver boxes, and just works on those logistics. I help out at the Ukrainian store, where people can bring the items that they're wanting to ship to Ukraine. The store is at 12817 Preston Rd, Ste 124 in Dallas. Right now, the store is focusing only on tactical gear and medical supplies,” Sherchuk said.
“My husband and I flew to Warsaw [Poland] not too long ago because somebody brought items to the Ukrainian store that needed to be delivered really quickly. Some of those items were military uniforms and boots. And then another person said they needed a drone to be taken to Ukraine, also really quickly, to help the military, and we had a lot of medical supplies that needed to be shipped. So, we both flew to Poland where we have friends. We gave it all to them and they took it across the border,” she added.
PROTECTING LAND AND CULTURE
“So, for people in Western Ukraine, they feel like they have to unite, and they have to do everything they can to win this war and to stand up to the bully that is Russia, so they are protecting their homes. They're protecting their culture. They’re protecting their lands. All of my friends and all of my relatives are not leaving. Everybody is staying to help refugees who come from the east, helping with medical supplies, helping with tactical gear, and hosting refugees. One of my friends turned his gym basically into a refugee shelter. Another friend is helping to feed everybody who comes to the train station. And yet another friend is helping kids from orphanages who have been displaced. It's wonderful that most of the world is united and trying to help.
“I have a six-year-old, and I have a hard time explaining to her why nobody can stop this bullying. She knows that [Putin] is doing wrong and she's been taught at school that you can talk to a trusted adult, or you can call the police, and somebody will take care of it. So, she asks, ‘How come nobody took care of it?’ It’s so hard to explain,” Sherchuck added.
Elena Mackoway is a representative of Palm of Hope (PoH), which consists of a small group of volunteers united by one original goal - supporting kids with life-threatening or incurable diseases in Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. They raise funds to assist children with essential nutrition supplies and critical medical equipment. However, in these tumultuous times, PoH has had to re-focus their mission.
“Families are fleeing their homes, which means they need portable equipment. They need to buy power generators, as power outages are becoming increasingly common. In the past, local hospitals and organizations were able to partially cover the families’ needs. Now, their support is uncertain. Palm of Hope volunteers are working around the clock to help the families, but they need some extra help to keep them safe,” Mackoway explained.
“I'm originally from Uzbekistan, so I'm Russian by birth. My family immigrated to Pakistan, and I was raised there. And then we all moved to United States. So over time, I just felt like I always need to help people because of my own experiences,” she added.
Palm of Hope started out as three women united about one cause. Mackoway is in Texas, another volunteer is in California and the third participant lives in New York.
“We realized that we are connected by a desire to help children, especially in the former USSR. What happens over there is if you have a child with special needs, has a terminal disease, or is on a breathing machine, the medicine and supplies are not going to be there. They don't have an insurance company, like many of us here do. That means that the child who depends on that equipment has to live in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). And their ICU is very different. The parents are only allowed to visit maybe once a day for maybe an hour. They don't want people coming in and out of there because there is no separation of patients. So literally, the parents just sit outside the hospital room for hours until they are let in.
“So, this is where we felt like we could help. We started to look for gently used equipment that could be donated. And we formed a plan where the doctors at the hospitals would set it all up and train the parents on how to use everything. Then the parents could take their children home. Now, with the war, the hospitals and medical organizations can’t donate as much to us,” Mackoway explained.
“Buying gently-used equipment is not our only cost. We also have to ship it, and that's fairly expensive. The three of us also have full-time jobs. This start5ed out as our hobby. I've been spending my own money, but at some point, it became too much to bear.
“We are looking for ways to find a way consistent income for our foundation, so we don't have to fundraise all the time. We have over 300 families under our care right now. We need sponsors so we can promise a reliable supply of medical equipment and supplies to our kids because right now, we never know what we’re going to have, if anything, from month to month. It's a lot of stress. Imagine that you have to take care of your sickly child who is fighting for his life, as well as worrying about keeping a roof over his head?
“Unfortunately, we still have a lot of kids in Russia, and we cannot send them anything. And it's devastating because this is not their fault, and we would love to help. But in Ukraine, our needs tripled,” Mackoway said.
Other volunteers transport donations to Ukraine themselves. Nataliya Krasovska-Cabe has taken several trips. Her latest was on May 5.
“I was born in Ukraine and my sons, who are US citizens, are volunteering now over there. Lots of my family are there: My daughter-in-law, my grandson, my brothers, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my cousins,” Cabe said tearfully.
She was in the middle of fighting a sinus infection and was completely exhausted, yet she didn’t even consider canceling her trip, which was less than a week away at that point.
“My doctor gave me medications for my trip. From here, I fly to Frankfurt, Germany. From Frankfurt, I go to Warsaw, Poland. I will take a rental car and they will drive me and the donations to the Ukraine border. A volunteer will pick me up there. I’ll have my own suitcases and I will meet up with my son and my friend, and they will deliver the donations,” she said.
Cabe gets donations, cards of support, and military items from all over the world.
“Some people from Australia have sent me messages, some order stuff from Amazon for delivery. They know I’m here and that I deliver to Ukraine,” she said.
Cabe explained the danger of transporting donated goods to Ukraine.
“You can get killed at the airport. You can get killed on the road. You can get killed in Poland or Ukraine. It is just horrible over there right now,” she said.
“My friend who was in the military disappeared. We still don't know where she is. It’s not like when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and there were websites so families could find each other. We just have to wait and wonder if that person will show up.
“I've done this for my family. I've done this for my kids. I've done it this way because I can trust everyone on my journey. Some other people have had trucks of supplies stolen, been put into human trafficking, or even been killed. A lot of volunteers are dropping out because they are afraid,” she said.
Cabe is an entrepreneur but has had to put her business on hold so that she can help her country-mates.
To see the Amazon Wishlist that Cabe has created, click HERE.
Other people have been guided to their role in Ukraine relief.
“I was born in Western Ukraine, in Chernivtsi,” said Liliana Nedzielska, an artist and art teacher in Keller. “In childhood, I was engaged in dancing and drawing. Then we moved to Kyiv and at school, I took an internship in the hospital.
“The doctors of the department believed in me, taught everything to me, and called me a ‘daughter of the orthopedic department.’ As a result, I worked for three years in this hospital, but then changed my mind and entered the Institute of Culture. My love of medicine and great respect for this profession has remained with me for life,” she said.
“On February 24, friends began to call me and send messages. At first, I did not even understand what was happening. When it turned out that Kyiv was fired on with rockets, I was in shock for five days. I couldn’t sleep or think about anything else. And then, in one moment, it became extremely clear to me: Something needs to be done from my side to help my country.
“I rushed to call friends and the doctors, but there was no connection. My friend who lives in Kyiv next to the hospital was able to get to the corps and find the staff. So, for the first time, I was able to talk to the principal of hospital #12, whom I know from my younger years.
“The chief of the hospital connected me to the person who was in charge of a pharmacy in the hospital, and she sent a list of the most necessary medicines because real hell was happening in the hospital from the very first days. The doctors worked nonstop around the clock and even operated in the basements. It was impossible to stop during bombings. You can’t leave patients on the operating table. Operations were performed by everyone who could possibly do them, and the medicines and surgery supplies eventually ran out,” Nedzielska said.
“I wanted to transfer money to the hospital, but it turned out that it was not so easy to do. And then I had the idea to collect medications right in my art school building!
“We found a specialized site on the internet from which you can order medical supplies, dressings, and first aid, which are now constantly needed in hospitals in Ukraine. Our design artist created a flyer with all the information, and we began to send letters to friends and acquaintances with a request to make an order for my studio.
“In addition, I made an agreement with a local printing business, and they made posters for the Support Ukraine lawn signs at a discounted cost. All of these things may be brought to the studio, located at 300 Bowie St, Roanoke, TX 76262. Any donated money goes to buying hospital medical goods,” she said.
“As a result, I started accumulating a huge number of boxes, which would be impossible to take to the hospital in Kyiv. And then, quite by accident, fate tapped me on the shoulder in the form of an American named Edward, who collaborates with the corps around the world. He had heard our story, and long story short, he asked me only one question: ‘When will you be ready to send help?’
“After that, everything spun at an incredible speed. Edward requested the contacts of doctors and more information about the hospital in Kyiv, and together with his friend, who is an anesthesiologist from France, connected with hospitals in France and Germany. They were also able to get $12,000 EU worth of expensive medical materials donated. It filled a whole truck! We added the stuff we had collected, and Edward flew to Europe to deliver the humanitarian cargo to the border of Ukraine. They flew over there without a clue of how they were going to actually get the supplies to the hospital in Kyiv.
“While Edward was flying, I unexpectedly got an email from a friend that stated, ‘I know how to help you.’ She connected me with guys in Ukraine who had repurposed their transport and construction business, turning it into a non-profit organization to help with humanitarian logistics…FOR FREE. When Edward arrived in France, I was just negotiating with the Ukrainian side so that he and the entire French cargo would be met. Before I had time to agree, Edward wrote that they were already near Lviv [the humanitarian border of Ukraine]. His French colleague had moved mountains to arrange delivery as quickly as possible. When I asked how this was possible, he answered simply, ‘You said that you needed this urgently.’
“Edward and his friend drove, without stopping, through three countries to take the cargo to the border. The children of the owner of the van painted it with the inscription, ‘Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine.’ They had to find which of the gas station owners in Germany and Poland gave significant discounts on gasoline for Ukrainian Aid Supplies.
“On the third day after being sent from the US, the boxes were already delivered to the hospital. The supplies will only last about two weeks, so our story is far from over. We are already collecting for the next packages. We still need hemostatic materials, burn materials, dressing, and suture materials, but now that have a team in place, we feel that we can perform real miracles. And those who learn about our history are eager to help, for which we are eternally grateful. The main thing is that we continue to work with very specific and trusted people, so our help goes quickly and reaches the right place,” Nedzielska said excitedly.
“To be honest, at every stage of our project, I didn’t even think, what’s next? I just solved each individual problem as best I could. There was no time to think two steps ahead. It was necessary to believe that everything would work out. And I believed.
“It is a miracle that this whole incredibly complex chain took shape exactly when it was needed. There were people, transportation, and money that seemed to appear when we needed it most. It is still hard for me to realize that we did it, but now I know that miracles happen. When the war is over, there will still be a lot of work to be done, and a lot of help will be needed as well. I'm not going to stop, because I know this for sure: Caring people can do anything,” Nedzielska said with a smile.
If you’re interested in placing an order through Liliana’s studio, click HERE. The delivery address is Studio Art Wheel, Liliana Nedzielska, 300 Bowie St. Roanoke, Texas 76262.
OTHER WAYS TO HELP:
Contact your local senators and congressmen to thank them for everything they've been doing so far and encourage them to keep supporting Ukraine.
Share the resources listed above with your friends and family, because even though the war is far away, it’s a human issue, so it truly affects everyone.
If you have a company or organization that can become a Sponsor or grant writer for Palm of Hope or the Ukranian Cultural Club of Dallas, please get in touch with them via their websites as soon as possible.
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