While the United States has committed $54 billion to Ukraine since Russia launched its brutal attacks, some Americans feel the need to do more than passively watch their taxes channeled into military and humanitarian assistance. I reported earlier on the fundraising efforts of United For Ukraine Baltimore, led by Ukraine-born Marta Lopushanska. Here are three more examples of Baltimoreans who heard the call to get involved.
Having been born in Ukraine and spent summers there, Mark Kreynovich felt an immediate urge to do something. Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24. The next day was Kreynovich’s 24th birthday; it was also his college roommate’s 24th birthday. Kreynovich and his buddy from Cornell, Dillon Carroll, soon formed the two-man Mission To Ukraine.
“My friends and family in Ukraine were defending their homes, volunteering and supporting critical medical efforts while I was sitting at home,” says Kreynovich, a graduate of Towson High School. “After a few days of this overwhelming helplessness, [we] felt we had to act. So, we dropped everything and came to eastern Europe to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees and those under siege in the country.”
Kreynovich, who was working for a New York-based dental health startup, and Carroll, who was employed at a technology company in Washington, gave up their jobs and went to Poland. They arrived on March 11.
The United Nations has recorded nearly 7 million border crossings out of Ukraine since the start of the war. Some Ukrainians have started to cross back into their homeland, but millions are homeless inside and outside of the country as Russia continues its attacks on cities and towns.
Kreynovich and Carroll recorded a video appealing for donations and have raised more than $400,000 so far, much of it through a spotfund campaign (spot.fund/41WyEa). Kreynovich says he and Carroll have already spent about $250,000 on supplies.
“We procure and deliver medical devices, pharmaceuticals and protective gear to civilian volunteers in cities under siege by partnering with trusted, verified contacts in Ukraine,” he says.
Kreynovich and Carroll have also worked with refugees at the Ukraine-Poland border, providing transportation and translation, and helping them find places to stay.
“There are few words you can use to describe the feeling of seeing thousands of people fleeing from their homes with little more than a backpack or a carry-on suitcase they hurriedly packed as they fled,” Kreynovich reflected in an email from Poland. “As we walked through the crowd of refugees, we would stop to help people with their bags or speak with them, asking where they were from in Ukraine and where they were headed next. Most had traveled for days on end, oftentimes packed tightly into train cars or buses for 18-plus hours. The eyes of each person looked either exhausted or crazed. Dark circles hung under the eyes of adults and children alike, especially those that had escaped the most active combat zones. …
“Being at the border instilled a motivation and drive to continue our work like no other. When you are face to face with those who have had to sacrifice their entire lives for this war, you don’t just sit down and mourn with them, you feel a deep call to action to help.”
A native of Ukraine, Karina Mandell chairs the Baltimore-Odesa Sister City Committee. After learning that a similar organization in Cincinnati raised $250,000 for its sister city, Kharkiv, Mandell’s group launched a fundraiser (baltimoreodesa.org) for Mission To Ukraine and for relief efforts in Odesa. They’ve taken in about $12,000 so far, but are hoping for more while planning a BMore for Ukraine fundraising festival on Saturday, July 23, in Patterson Park. Proceeds from the event are intended for Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen and United Help Ukraine; both nonprofits have provided considerable humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, the latter since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.
Born in Kyiv, Yana Karp arrived in the U.S. in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. She’s been employed as a sonographer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center for 25 years.
When war broke out, her instinct was to travel to Ukraine to help the staff of a clinic in the city of Uzhhorod, where she has relatives. But a health official in the mayor’s office there discouraged it. “They don’t need doctors,” Karp says she was told, “but they need medicine and people will start dying if they don’t get it.”
So, with the help of Dr. Carol Ritter, a gynecologist and activist who has treated women in developing countries, and the support of GBMC’s president, Dr. John Chessare, Karp launched a campaign (gbmc.org/ukraine).
“We started it on Mother’s Day and so far have about $7,000,” she told me last week. “The plan is to approach pharmaceutical companies and buy the drugs they need. We would love to make an Uzhhorod clinic a sister clinic for GBMC and continue helping them during the war. … I realize there is a lot of money donated into the different Ukrainian funds, but not sure if people understand that there are little towns with small hospitals that are overwhelmed and not receiving medications. These hospitals are saving lives of people who live there as well as people who fled to safety away from the war. These are victims of the war as well.”