Alaskans in Ukraine: Evacuating and aiding the community

A group of Alaskans are currently in Ukraine providing aid and helping evacuate people, a dangerous endeavor as the war there continues.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 9:10 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A group of Alaskans are currently in Ukraine providing aid and helping evacuate people, a dangerous endeavor as the war there continues.

Anatoliy and Nazariy Rudenkiy, a father and son from Wasilla, are currently overseas in Mykolaiv, Ukraine aiding whoever needs it.

“So as we were about to connect to Zoom, there was a jet flying by and we think they dropped some bombs,” Nazariy said. “So there were some — it was loud. It was loud and definitely we could see the sky lit up a little bit.”

The outcome, to them, is worth it, as smiles cross the faces of everyone they help.

“They are very grateful, thankful. They cry, they hug us, and they are very thankful that we have not forgotten them,” Anatoliy said through Nazariy, who was translating for his father. “And when we tell them that we have come from Alaska, it’s a shock from them.”

Nazariy said they have been able to evacuate 194 people so far from dangerous war zones, and they aren’t the only ones from Alaska lending aid.

Christopher Lujan of Anchorage is in a city north of them, Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, experiencing those same realities.

“There are horrible days here. We’ve all had days where we go home crying,” Lujan said. “You see something then it just it’ll wreck you but at the end but but but in the end, we all do truly believe that this is going in the way of Ukraine right now.”

One of the many things Lujan is out doing is gathering funds to buy groceries for people in need.

“Pretty much make grocery runs to West from western Ukraine back to here,” Lujan said. “And then every day of the week, where we do is ... I have some office girls that will take orders all day. And then me and a few other guys, we pretty much go throughout the whole city, you know, delivering to addresses to families in need.”

Lujan said he and his crew give families about a week’s worth of groceries and are usually helping out between 30 and 50 families a day.

“There’s groceries in the city and there’s definitely plenty if you go far enough west, or you know go into Poland and buy and fill up,” he said.

Even though there is food, it’s still a problem right now as Lujan said a lot of people have run out of groceries or have run out of money.

“Just because with the war, business stopped, and with business stopping, paychecks stopped. And with paycheck stopping, people can’t buy the food that’s on the shelves,” Lujan said.

There is food and other items available on the shelves, but the volunteers all say no one can really afford to buy them, especially the elderly, because the prices have increased.

“The the groceries themselves, they’ve even doubled in price, tripled in price, just like inflation in America,” Lujan said. “It was hitting here at the same time and then the war’s made it far, far worse and just, it’s practically inaccessible.”

There are many churches, Anatoliy says, that are distributing bags of food.

“There are many churches here in the city that are preparing these food, these bags of food, and they just distribute them in the villages,” he said through Nazariy.

At the same time, water, fuel, and other supplies are becoming harder to get.

“Yeah pretty much combat medical equipment is a is a big deal, stuff for ... gunshot injuries, for shrapnel injuries, things for severe hemorrhaging, that that that kind of stuff is in big demand right now.”

Lujan is using his own military experience in training Ukrainians on how to use the medical equipment they do have.

“There a lot of people they’re just, you know, not equipped ... a lot of them aren’t fully trained,” Lujan said. “And so I’ve been able to go out and actually hand out kits and do tactical medical classes with the soldiers on how to react to combat casualties.”

And when the units find out he is from Alaska, Lujan said they are elated.

“The morale just goes through the roof,” Lujan said. “Whenever they learned that somebody across the world, literally 11 hours away, almost exactly on the other side of the world, cares about them so much.”

The Ukraine Relief Program is saving up to airlift 600 Ukrainians to Alaska and after the plane arrives volunteers will be filling the plane with supplies to take back to Ukraine.

For more information on how to help please the New Chance Inc Ukrainian Relief Program website.

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