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As a Dublin mother of two tries to not worry endlessly about her own mother, who must shelter in a basement several times a day in Kyiv, she’s taking action by organizing a donation drive in the Tri-Valley.
Katernya Bila, a pharmacist who came to the Bay Area from Ukraine with her husband Oleksandr Bilyi two years ago, filled her apartment and SUV in just two days with items collected from her neighbors for a Bay Area humanitarian aid collection center in San Jose.
Bila, mom to a 1-year-old and an almost 5-year-old, and her husband are collecting non-perishable food, including baby food and formula, medicine, first aid supplies and more, for a collection center managed by volunteers, Wellfamed on Amazon, IDL Packaging and the charitable organization Nova Ukraine, based in Palo Alto.
She said all of her husband’s family is still in Ukraine not far from the center of the Russian attacks. His sister and her two children were able to evacuate to Poland but cannot come to the United States without a visa.
“I felt really bad when my mom called me, and she told me what happened and what went on,” Bila said in an interview Sunday. “It was hard to understand it. I’m like a child who cannot help, but we do what we can do, collecting humanitarian help, and we should let everyone know what is going on and spread this information to the whole world.”
Nova Ukraine is also accepting cash donations (donors should add “Kindness San Jose” in the comment section). The organization, according to its website, was founded in 2014 to coordinate programs to assist Ukraine in recovering from its social and economic crisis and in building a stronger country aligned with Western values.
Nova Ukraine said on its website that monetary contributions are preferred because they can be used to purchase needed items in Europe, avoiding some international logistics issues.
People wishing to help in other ways are asked to contact their elected representatives and request support for Ukraine in the form of financial, material, and military aid. There are also petitions in circulation on change.org (a call to terminate relationships with Russia-linked companies) and via openpetition (close the airspace over Russia), which Bila said is urgent.
“They’re still wondering should they close it or not,” she said. “I can’t understand it.”
This week, Bila said, Nova Ukraine is not accepting clothes, but is in need of food, diapers, formula, flashlights with batteries and sleeping bags. A wish list posted recently on Amazon served as a stark reminder of the gravity of the situation, with needed items including combat splints, cast tape and surgical wound closure supplies.
While the situation is frustrating, Bila remains grateful to those who are responding to her call for help, and she is preparing to take another load to San Jose this week.
“We are really thankful,” she said. “The American people are so gorgeous and so compassionate.”