Bay Area residents hang up the Ukrainian flag outside their house to show their support for Ukraine.
Bay Area residents hang up the Ukrainian flag outside their house to show their support for Ukraine.
Masha Rozenfeld

Ukrainian refugees receive Bay Area support

The day the war started was stressful for everyone. Tanya Veretennikova knew she needed to prepare for what was to come, so she headed to her local grocery store to stock up on produce. She also went to the bank to get money, but many people in her community had the same idea, so she had to wait in a long line to get to the bank.

The line for the bank in Cherkasy, Ukraine, on the day the war started. (Tanya Veretennikova)

The eerie sound of constant sirens going off rang day and night. Veretennikova was fatigued and didn’t get much sleep.

“As soon as I would lay down, a siren would go off, and I had to hide in the hallway,” Veretennikova said.

The sirens and stress were the reason for her constant headache. She was sick of living with this constant anxiety, so she decided to leave.

The war between Russia and Ukraine has caused pain worldwide, including in the Bay Area. Many families in the community still have relatives in danger, but numerous nonprofit organizations (such as Nova Ukraine) are working to support refugees and provide necessities such as medical supplies and clothes.

Russia and Ukraine have always been very closely related. Their cultures, as well as their languages, are very similar, but there has always been political tension between them.

According to Reuters, on Feb. 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine. Putin explained his actions as protecting Russia and preventing NATO expansion.

On Mar. 16, 2022, Veretennikova started her refugee journey. With the help of her nephew, who lives in the U.S., they planned out her escape route from Cherkasy.

Veretennikova was also experiencing difficulty with her vision, so she ventured on this journey with a friend for support. They set out on a bus that picked them up from a local synagogue.

“We were on this bus for 11 to 12 hours riding across the whole country,” Veretennikova said.

As they left their home with merely a backpack filled with necessities, they didn’t know what to expect from their journey. They were planning to stay with an organization, but they didn’t respond to them by the time they left, so they risked not having a place to stay.

When they got to the border between Romania and Ukraine, it was cold and dark. To their surprise, they were met with a stand with complimentary snacks and hot tea as they walked across the border.

“I was so surprised by their kindness and hospitality,” Veretennikova said.

After they crossed the border, a small bus took them to a church designated for refugees. They stayed there for a couple of nights while figuring out their action plan.

They decided it was better to take a plane to Germany because crossing all the countries and borders would be too much of a hassle. With the help of her nephew, they got plane tickets for Germany.

Another obstacle was the COVID-19 pandemic, so testing was a requirement before getting on the plane.

The duo overcame that obstacle and landed in Germany, where they took a train to Wolfsburg. Arriving at their final destination, the pair were welcomed with open arms.

“(Our hosts) fed us very well when we arrived and were very welcoming towards us,” Veretennikova said.

Since then, Veretennikova’s whole life has flipped upside down. She lives in a new country, with new rules and new people speaking a language she doesn’t understand.

“There is a big contrast between the people here and the people back home. Here, everyone is very relaxed and carefree and rarely talk about the war, but at home, everyone is constantly anxious, and it’s a very depressing atmosphere,” Veretennikova said.

Now Veretennikova checks the news about her home daily and hears about many tragedies. She also goes to meetings where they protest the war.

Locally, there are Bay Area organizations and people helping refugees like Veretennikova.

One of these organizations is Nova Ukraine, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to distribute humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups and individuals and to spread awareness about Ukraine throughout the United States and the rest of the world. The organization was founded in 2014.

Nova Ukraine by Masha Rozenfeld

Nova Ukraine is showing its support for Ukraine and its people by organizing fundraisers, collecting and distributing donations, providing medical supplies and other necessities, and helping refugees in the United States and Europe.

Igor Markov, a director at Nova Ukraine, has been with the organization since 2016. He was inspired to join because he grew up in Kyiv and wanted to help his home country.

“I would like to emphasize that what’s happening in Ukraine is affecting the entire world, and the world has changed dramatically in the last six months, and the changes are continuing at a very high pace. And so it’s important to understand that the nature of security arrangements in Europe and the kind of world security is being redefined right now,” Markov said.

Many people from the local community have come together to support this cause.

“Many people quit their jobs just to have a couple of months to help, fundraise, prepare, and organize things,” Markov said.

The need to address the conflict has acted as a unifying force for the local community.

“The nonprofit work and fundraising brought many people together, and some people have become friends because of this work. But we are quite far physically from the war, and aside from more expensive gasoline and some inflation in prices, I would say life goes on here. Only (people’s) psychological well-being is affected right now,” Markov said.

Another Bay Area non-profit organization, Hearts for Ukraine, hopes to save lives in Ukraine by delivering critical supplies directly to Ukraine.

Hearts for Ukraine by Masha Rozenfeld

Leon Kogan, the chief operating officer at Hearts for Ukraine, was inspired to join because he was born and raised in Odesa, Ukraine, and wanted to help in any way he could.

“All the people who wave ties, friends, and family in Ukraine are restless, trying to see what we can do, how can we help,” Kogan said.

Another issue is that freezing temperatures can be a threat to some refugees, as many areas don’t have power or heat in freezing temperatures.

“Any shipments that we send will help them stay warm. Any single dollar that you donate, you help keep them warm,” Kogan said.

Amidst all the chaos, Kogan finds it inspiring to see people coming together to support one cause.

“We’re there to help save every single life in Ukraine, be it children, adults, elderly, people who are fighting soldiers, anything that you can donate, anything at all that you can provide, we will make sure that this will reach people that are in need,” Kogan said.

About the Contributor
Masha Rozenfeld, Staff Writer
Masha Rozenfeld is a junior at Carlmont and this is her second year with Scot Scoop. She wants to keep people informed through journalism and help people see both sides of a story. Other than journalism, Masha enjoys, playing soccer, traveling, and hanging out with her friends. Twitter: @masha_roze Instagram: @masha_roze

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