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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 17, 2022 6 months ago

Ukrainians explain how Sarasota can help in Thursday seminar

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A Ukrainian aid discussion took place Thursday at Selby Public Library.
by: Blake Fussell Staff Writer

A short seminar was held on Thursday at Selby Public Library that examined how Sarasota-area citizens can help Ukrainians during the war with Russia. Those directly affected by the invasion also had a chance to voice their struggles.

According to Wojtek Sawa, who coordinated the seminar, more than 2 million people have evacuated Ukraine while many civilians have stayed to fight for their country. Donations were collected last week for both humanitarian and military efforts of Ukraine.

“This is the largest crisis for humanity since World War II,” Sawa said. “We want to broaden both humanitarian and military aid. I also have an online opportunity called Ukraine Exchange. It is for refugees to be offered services and for people who would like to provide those services.”

Multiple foundations made presentations to the capacity crowd at the Selby Public Library Auditorium. In addition to monetary donations, a list of less-conventional items such as medical equipment, tactical gear and protective supplies was provided to those in attendance.

The Ukrainian American Coordinating Council has created a delivery system that assists with the shipping difficulties for donated supplies. The UACC collects items and has partnered with Meest, a European shipping company, that receives the supplies and gives them to Come Back Alive, a group that distributes the supplies to Ukrainians in need.

“Meest has a huge warehouse where people have come to donate,” said Iuliia Danilovets, who has family in Ukraine. “It currently costs $500,000 a week to ship this stuff over there. The best way you can help is to go to us.meest.com and sponsor shipping.”

According to Meest, the shipping company has already provided more than 1,500 tons of humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The company has 581 pallets of aid items ready to be shipped and urges the public to contribute to the shipping fund, according to its website.

Iulia said the international response has been uplifting for Ukrainians to see but Ukrainians have also made major sacrifices as well. She described how her Ukrainian family has prepared food for neighboring cities, which gets transported by a small truck amid gunfire.

“I have a good friend there who is in the Army Reserve. He’s a very strong man,” Danilovets said. “But he told me even he is very scared. They are seeing children’s body parts and it is devastating. Even the strongest people are very scared right now.”

Thursday’s event also included a discussion about the refugee process for Ukrainians. Typically, the United States has permitted under 200,000 refugees each year to enter the country.

Several speakers asked those in attendance to speak with their congressperson about their desire to help displaced Ukrainians. During the open discussion, some of the speakers suggested that the United States should allow more refugees into the country due to the conflict in Ukraine.

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