The world has watched in horror as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. It's causing strangers to come together and do what they can to help.
People like Viktor Morozov and Irina Ahdoot, who are both from Ukraine and now living in Arizona, are stepping up to help those who are trapped get what they need to survive.
Morozov came to the United States when he was just six years old. He said, “At the time, Ukraine was like breaking up from the Soviet Union and there's a lot of uncertainty and everything was collapsing and my family was lucky enough to be able to emigrate to Tucson, Arizona, and so it was me, my brother, my parents and we basically got on a flight and started all over here.”
Over the summer, he returned to Ukraine. It was the first time he’d been back since he was a little boy. And when the Russian troops started to build up along the border just months after, he was still cautiously optimistic.
“I was like you know, this is just posturing. There’s no way Russia would do this,” because, as he put it, Ukrainians and Russians are “almost the same kind of Slavic people.” He thought an invasion was unthinkable.
“I was surprised and almost surreal when it did happen, I was like what is going on can't be real,” he said.
He wasn’t the only Ukraine-born Arizonan watching it all unfold.
Ahdoot was beside herself seeing what she thought was impossible too.
“I just couldn't sit there and watch it,” she recalls as she fights back tears. “My husband told me, I can do, I’ll do anything you want to help people."
They started raising money and paid out of their pockets to start the charity United for Ukraine. Ukrainians from all over Arizona were connecting to try and help. That’s how Morozov and Ahdoot teamed up.
They raised money and collected supplies to send overseas. And when it's shipped, Anatoliy Sidak steps in to help get them delivered.
Sidak was also born in Ukraine but has been living in Germany for years. He had also been collecting supplies to send to the front lines.
"We used to bring, in the beginning, more food. And now we are focusing more on medicine and stuff which is ‘harder to get,'" Sidak says.
Four times a week, he loads up a van with as many supplies as he can, and he and another driver will make the more than nine-hour drive from Berlin to the Poland/Ukraine border to do the drop-off. And he says Ukrainians know much of the world is behind them. He said, "Especially U.S. people. They can't help us with material at the moment because it's super expensive to send stuff but they're helping us financially."
Ahdoot's mission now is to help with the material by finding a company that can help her ship donations overseas. That’s the biggest expense, she says, and the most urgent need “because we can do so much with this. We can start shipping medication."
That is the urgent need now. For more information on ways to help and to donate, click here.