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Mass. Ukrainians send money, tactical medicine to battlefield back home

At Sunday mass at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Rev. Yaroslav Nalysnyk delivered a prayer for his homeland.

“Today, we call out in prayer to the almighty God, to protect and save courageous people of Ukraine.”

The war hits home for Nalysnyk. He served as a doctor in the Ukrainian army before being ordained in 1990.

The pews were packed with Boston-area Ukrainians seeking solace as Ukraine faces what Nalysnyk called “Moscow’s brutal aggression.”

Among the parishioners was Myron Kravchuk, a West Roxbury resident originally from western Ukraine. He’s coordinating an effort at the church to send medical supplies to help people back home — soldiers and civilians alike.

“Most of [the] death is from blood[shed] not stopped at the right moment,” Kravchuk said.

His group, Ukraine Forward, formed just two weeks ago to supply non-lethal items, mainly tactical medical supplies, walkie-talkies and drones.

It’s already raised nearly $100,000 in donations, most of it through an Amazon wishlist.

Kravchuk wants to make one thing clear: “We’re not collecting clothes. Please, please. No clothes, no diapers, no water. We ask only things … on the list.”

Kravchuk said he knows what’s needed because he’s in touch with non-governmental organizations in Ukraine, contacts he developed starting with the 2013 Maidan Uprising that led to the ouster of a Russian-backed president.

Vera Bokhenik serves traditional Ukrainian food to parishioners of the Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church to help raise donations to aid the people of Ukraine.
Jesse Costa
Vera Bokhenik serves traditional Ukrainian food to parishioners of the Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church to help raise donations to aid the people of Ukraine.

Kravchuk said at one point, the group wanted to send bullet-proof helmets and body armor. But that required licenses from the U.S. government.

There are roughly 10,000 Ukrainians in Massachusetts, according to census figures, and many of them want to help, as do the second, third and fourth-generation Ukrainian-Americans who feel connected to the country.

Noah Gottschalk, global policy lead at Oxfam America, said the best way to do that is to give cash. Groups closer to the conflict zone can buy supplies, avoiding shipping costs as well as climate impacts. Plus, sending clothes and food can undercut local markets, he added.

“Sending cash directly to organizations which know how to program with it — who are experienced on the ground — gives them the ability to purchase what they need in that specific moment,” Gottschalk said.

A good resource for those who want to donate, he said, is Charity Navigator, which now lists 35 organizations helping Ukraine.

And many local Ukrainians are donating: one bride and groom in Stoughton are donating their wedding cash to the Red Cross in Ukraine.

But some people here still want to send supplies that are hard to come by in the conflict zone. Iryna Saks of Framingham volunteers with a local nonprofit, Sunflower of Peace, which is putting together first-aid backpacks to send to Ukraine.

“We’re looking for items that don’t take a lot of space,” Saks said. “They can be easily [packed] and not take the very, very precious space in the plane.”

All those supplies have to be prepped for shipping, and some of that is happening at at Bosmix, a shipping center in Stoughton. Owner Roman Malko said the packages are trucked to a warehouse in New Jersey, then flown to Poland and taken into Ukraine. Senders can use tracking numbers, he said, to confirm that the packages have arrived at their destination.

Malko said this is his way of aiding his country.

“I’m in the war with Russia, right now, doing my job,” he said, standing on his loading dock. “That’s all I can do. I’m too old to go to Ukraine, but I can do a lot from here, helping Ukraine win this war.”

Malko said dozens of people have been volunteering at his business to help get supplies to Ukraine. And he needs the extra hands: he’s shipping up to 10 times the volume he was doing before the war.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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