HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — If you ask most members of North Alabama’s Ukrainian-American community, many will say the current priority amidst the bloody war in their home nation is to get more neighbors to donate money and materials.
Since Russia’s invasion in February, millions of displaced women and children have been staying in makeshift refugee camps in neighboring countries like Romania, Moldova, and Poland.
“People just left their homes, you know? Not even all of them had their passports,” Huntsville-based activist Yaryna Zhurba told News 19 last week. “Especially little kids, they didn’t have passports yet.”
Zhurba went from organizing local rallies in February, to volunteering in Bucharest, Romania for a week with American veterans from other states just to secure money transfers, donations, and set up camps to refugees in need.
“We felt that the inflow of aid to Ukraine coming from the Romanian side (needed) to be increased,” she said. “It seems more effective if the money raised here in North Alabama or the U.S. would be transferred to, let’s say, Romania or other countries, and then (the) aid purchased there.”
So how can more neighbors in the Tennessee Valley help? Zhurba points to a Huntsville-based group with a history of establishing relations with foreign nationals.
“A non-profit like Global Ties Alabama. They will arrange purchases and aid in Romania, and that aid will be delivered to Ukraine. And after that it will be all reported where the aid went, so people understand who they helped in Ukraine,” she said.
Jacquelyn Shipe is the CEO of the group, for which Zhurba collaborated with to streamline aid sent from the area.
“Right now the refugee community needs essentials for living and we’re hoping that the donations that are collected will be able to be put to the use for that purpose,” Shipe said.
Those donations the women say, can also bring glimmers of hope in a time of despair.
“These are immediate needs. The long-term needs obviously won’t be determined until the outcome of this crisis and we know that rebuilding will need to take place,” Shipe said.
“I feel people here in North Alabama are trying to help Ukraine and looking for good ways to do that,” Zhurba said. “And I see my purpose in here – and with Ukrainians in North Alabama – we’re just trying to help those who want to help Ukraine.”