The last few months have been hard for Camanche resident Lyuda Lyashenko.
Her sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew live in Ukraine, and have dealt with many hardships brought on by Russia’s invasion. Kherson, Ukraine, the city where Lyashenko grew up and her relatives live, is now under Russia’s control. Her relatives have seen the restaurants they manage be completely destroyed by bullets, and they’ve had to flee Kherson to find safety further west in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, spending over a month in refugee camps.
With her family’s safety constantly on her mind, it’s been a restless few months for Lyashenko.
“At the beginning of the war, it was really hard to sleep,” Lyashenko said. “I started using Benadryl to help me fall asleep, because my brain just doesn’t shut down … I think about the sirens. For us, sirens mean storm coming, you know, tornado. For them, it’s go to the bomb shelter.”
“This is movie material, this is not real life,” Lyashenko said of Russia’s war on Ukraine. “This is not happening … it should not be happening.”
While she was in refugee camps, Lyashenko’s sister began telling her about the need for medical supplies in the camps and across the country.
“While my sister was there, she had connections, she was asking what’s needed,” Lyashenko said. “The lady who was volunteering there, she’s like, ‘Oh, we really need sutures. Kharkiv needs sutures, we need some medicine.'”
That inspired Lyashenko to take action.
A few weeks ago, Lyashenko started asking people and businesses around the Quad Cities area for medical supply donations. Word of her efforts began spreading fast, and now, at the end of April, she has suitcases full of supplies from community members and businesses, including a large donation from Genesis Health System.
“The whole community’s coming together, and to tell you the truth, I did not anticipate it,” Lyashenko said.
But to take things a step further, Lyashenko isn’t simply just shipping all of these supplies to Ukraine. She plans on flying to Ukraine this Saturday, bringing extra medical supplies that she can carry with her, and visiting her family in Uzhhorod, distributing the supplies across the area.
While she does have some fears flying to the war-torn country, it’s a trip she feels she has to take.
“I cannot imagine actually seeing it in person,” Lyashenko said. “(But) I was thinking, ‘Okay, they need help, they need medicine.'”
On top of the donations she already received, Lyashenko has a friend, Angie Kilmer, who works at Genesis, and wanted to send her to Ukraine with at least one extra suitcase full of donated supplies.
“It’s heartbreaking thinking about those who are innocent … I think a lot about the children,” Kilmer said of the people impacted by Russia’s war on Ukraine. “I would love to be able just to send an extra suitcase with her if she could take it.”
Now, Lyashenko is just a few days away from flying to Ukraine and bringing some much needed help to the Ukrainian people. She has just one thing to say to everyone who helped out before she leaves.
“Thank you all. For the support, for help, for thoughts, for prayers,” Lyashenko said.
Lyashenko says she will continue accepting donations in the future as well once she returns from Ukraine. If you want to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.