Natalia K., a 29-year-old pediatrician, found herself in a dark basement with her six-year-old son, amid shelling and bombardments, scared and traumatized, hungry, and left without anything else to do but to sit and hope to survive. Natalia had to make a choice between leaving her son alone in that dark cold basement to find food and water. When she was two blocks away, she heard the sirens, and the shelling started. Natalia recounted, “I froze. I just stood there with the bombs falling not knowing what to do. Do I go back to my son alive and stay there together starving or do I keep going not knowing if I can survive and come back to him at all?” We evacuated Natalia K. with her son a few weeks later.
Vanda Obiedkova, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor whose audiovisual testimony I arranged in Mariupol in 1998 for the Shoah Foundation, was killed by the Russian shelling on April 4th during the siege of the city. In 1941, 10-year-old Vanda hid in her basement while her mother was taken away to be murdered by the Nazis. Eighty-one years later, as she lay dying in another basement without any medical attention, freezing, in agonizing pain, and pleading for water, Vanda asked, “Why is this happening?”
This is the reality for millions of people in Ukraine. This is happening in 2022, and it is not an exaggeration. There are a variety of ways, all tailored to your unique skills and resources, that you can help make a difference in a refugee’s life. In the end, when it is all said and done, isn’t that one of the salient points of being here in this space and time together? We each have a unique way of helping, and if we each did one small thing, it would make a tremendous difference in the lives of innocent people who are being subjected to unimaginable trauma. Let’s fully imagine it, and let’s do something to improve it together.
BE AN ANGEL FOR UKRAINE: WHAT CAN YOU ACTUALLY DO
Just as I was able to make an impact from my desk at home, you also can help in a myriad of ways: A small monthly donation, or as large a donation as you can comfortably afford, to Friends of Be an Angel USA will have a significant impact. You can donate your skills and knowledge as a graphic designer, webmaster, content writer, public relations professional, marketing maven, fundraising caller, doctor, teacher, host family, videographer, podcaster, and more. You can choose how often and when you want to share your talents. Ask your employer to participate. We can provide you with all the necessary tools for making a difference, and we are open to hearing your suggestions and solutions.
If you can and want to donate more than $5,000 US, you can closely work with a coordinator to choose a specific project to sponsor, such as purchasing a certain amount of baby formula to be delivered to a specific location or place in the hotspots where few other organizations go. Anything and everything we do is based on need, and the need is endless.
I know, people are donation weary. It is also concerning that many charities are less than transparent about where donations go and disturbingly top-tier heavy when it comes to their executives’ salaries. Friends of Be an Angel is different. It is completely volunteer fueled, by people like you and me; 100% of each donation is utilized to operate its programs and assist Ukraine’s refugees. Helping Ukraine is more important than ever each passing day. I am a proud volunteer, and I urge you to roll up your sleeves, join us, and make a difference.
Friends of Be an Angel also documents everything in real time — showing you the mother in Ukraine or in a refugee camp who received your donation of infant formula, the elderly man who received lifesaving medication, or the children who received your gift of warm clothing for the winter. Your monetary donations are equally transparent, and your donation of time or professional skills pays off in concrete, understandable ways rather than the merely conceptual and somewhat cryptic. You can read more at FriendsOfBeAnAngel.org.
To date, we have evacuated more than 12,000 vulnerable people, distributed more than $29 million in aid value, provided 2,700+ tons of humanitarian aid, and sent more than 1 billion liters of clean water, hospital beds, wheelchairs, baby food, blankets, medications, and so much more.
You now know my story and the story of my organization — how, in a short time, I united with an international team of like-minded individuals, some like me with personal experience of forced displacement, some from completely different walks of life, to come together to the aid of Ukraine’s people. I implore you, help on your own, talk to your friends and ask them to not forget those in need, or join with us, but please do something and do it more than once — and, if you can, do it on a regular basis. This war is not over; it is getting worse, and winter is coming soon. We need you now more than ever.
I still feel like a refugee myself, all these decades later. I am so grateful that I was given refuge. Who are my people? These are my people — human beings in need — and I hope they are your people, too.