‘They’re not alone’: Ukrainian community in Spokane gathers, ships warehouse full of donations to refugees

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – The war in Ukraine continues. More than 3 million people have escaped from the bombings, shootings and destruction. Ukrainians in the Inland Northwest are working hard to help their families back home, those who chose to stay and those who are now homeless in a foreign country.

It’s been an exhausting three weeks for Anna Zakharova. Not because she helped organize a donation drive that lead to a warehouse full of boxes, but because her family is stuck in Ukraine fearing for their lives.

“It’s hard. If your family couldn’t leave and there was a chance that every conversation you have with them, every day would be the last one, it’s terrible,” Zakharova said.

RELATED: Spokane’s Ukrainian community gathering donations for fleeing refugees, those fighting on the ground

She said she could “barely function” the first few days the war started. Zakharova left Ukraine when she was 17 years old, but her dad, aunt, grandma and other family members still live in Dnipro, a city in southeast Ukraine. The men can’t leave and the women don’t want to leave them.

Russia attacked Dnirpo more than a week ago.

“My family takes shelter every day. I’m signed up for the air raid sirens. Every time one goes off, I wait to see. Hopefully, call my family and hopefully know they’re okay,” Zakharova said.

Zakharova needed something to do to help her family back home. She started collecting donations in conjunction with other Ukrainians in Spokane through a group called the Humanitarian Aide for Ukrainian War Refugees.

On Friday, Zakharova, other people part of the Ukrainian community and missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ Ladder-Day Saints came together to help box the piles of donations to send to Poland for refugees and those fighting on the ground. They collected many items including toiletries, medical supplies, clothes, blankets, and more.

“It helps me put into perspective how blessed I am to live in the United States and to have all the opportunities that I have as well as all the things I have access to,” said Savannah Hideman, a missionary volunteering. “It really helped me grow a greater love for all the things I’ve given, and I want to give that to other people.”

Zakharova says they’re shipping off boxes with medical supplies to refugees on Friday, needing to send those first since people in Eastern Europe are in urgent need.

Looking at all the boxes full of donations, Zakharova said she didn’t expect to see so much come in when they started collecting two weeks ago.

“It eases my heart. It eases the hearts of the people in Ukraine that I’ve been in touch with because I think it helps them to know they’re not alone,” Zakharova said.

While they will continue to need donations, Zakharova said they’re putting a pause on it for now. They want to get through what they have and send it off before taking more.

If you have items you’d like to donate, hold onto it until they ask for more. You can stay up-to-date on their Facebook page here.

READ: 6.5 million displaced inside Ukraine due to war, UN says