‘Worse than a horror movie’: Ukrainians receive aid from Yakima, share stories from the warzone

Ukrainian Yakima Supplies

Yakima community members have gathered together to provide food, medical supplies and other desperately-sought items for people struggling to survive in a warzone more than 5,600 miles away.

“I’ve done some trips to work with refugees over the last 10 to 15 years, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Liz Hallock, a Yakima woman who organized a humanitarian aid trip to Ukraine.

Hallock said when the news came out that Ukraine was under attack, she knew she had to find a way to help. That’s when a post in a Romania to Ukraine group on Facebook caught her eye.

READ: How to safely donate to Ukraine relief efforts

“We connected with a woman in Atlanta who had a friend who’s a doctor in the Ukraine,” Hallock said. “They were specifically asking for things that they’re just not able to get there.”

Hallock put a call out on Yakima area Facebook groups in early March, asking for community members to donate whatever they could. Within days, she had received an overwhelming number of donations.

“We had people donate ramen noodles, whatever was on their shelf at the time, paper plates, soaps, batteries,” Hallock said. “Foods and tape and flashlights, bedding, blankets, anything to make them more comfortable.”

Hallock enlisted the help of her friend, Scott Nelson, who works as an ambulance driver in Seattle. Nelson worked to gather additional medical supplies and traveled with Hallock to deliver them.

“I was able to amass a couple hundred pounds of bandages and splints, IV supplies,” Nelson said. “That was the bulk of what we brought over.”

READ: Kennewick pharmacist answers the call to serve at a field hospital in Ukraine

Carrying a half-dozen suitcases with hundreds of pounds of supplies, Hallock and Nelson headed to the airport to catch a flight to Romania.

“Alaska Airlines let us check all of our bags for free,” Hallock said.

The pair headed to the Ukraine – Romania border, where they were able to find a way to get the bulk of the medical supplies to Kateryna, a dentist and mother of two whose husband is a doctor working at a hospital in Ukraine.

“Everything that is happening in Ukraine now is worse than a horror movie,” Kateryna said. “Bombs are falling on residential buildings, not everyone survives, people are left without houses.”

Kateryna said in the first days of the war, they didn’t know what to do and were paralyzed by fear and horror at the events unfolding around them.

“I don’t know what they say in your news and what you know, but if you see terrible footage, you should know that this is not a montage — this is Ukrainian reality,” Kateryna said.

Kateryna said her family stocked up on food, packed their things and waited, hoping they wouldn’t be fired upon next.

“Those who want to leave are shot on the road by the invaders, or blown up by mines,” Kateryna said. “My friend’s whole family was blown up by a mine.”

Kateryna said she decided to stay because she didn’t want to leave behind her husband, her parents or her grandmothers. She felt compelled to help with humanitarian aid for refugees coming in from other parts of the country.

She said that includes all of the supplies donated by members of the Yakima community.

“To be honest, everything is needed; we load the buses ourselves with everything we have (food, medicines, things) and send them to the front, and to hot spots where people need it,” Kateryna said.

Hallock said after dropping off the medical supplies, the remainder of their journey was spent bringing food and other necessities to refugee centers in Romania.

“You should have seen the look on these kids faces when we came with crayons and chocolates,” Hallock said. “Kids are really resilient and so they were playing and having good time but you know that this stress and anxiety and trauma all of this will have effects later.”

Hallock said she hopes the families they met on their journey will be able to return home soon and that other people will find it in their hearts to donate what they can to help the people of Ukraine.

UNICEF is providing food, safety, health care and protection to the millions of children displaced in Ukraine or living as refugees in surrounding countries. Donate here.

Médecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders has hundreds of people working as surgeons, doctors, nurses and psychologists and have brought more than 225 metric tons of medical and relief supplies into Ukraine. Donate here.