RICHMOND, Va. -- It is a congregation born a little more than a month ago and membership is growing by the day. Some share different languages but each person is united by one common goal — to ease the suffering of people thousands of miles away.
Oskar Zagorodnyy, a native of Ukraine, co-founded Lift Up Ukraine days after Russia invaded its neighbor.
“I am mad,” Zagorodnyy said. “I want to stop it somehow, but it is impossible."
Zagorodnyy felt compelled to act while watching his native land disintegrate into all-out war.
“My first thoughts were when the war started was to go there. To protect the homeland,” Zagorodnyy said.
The non-profit is galvanizing people across Virginia and beyond to help Ukrainians who’ve lost almost everything.
The group also collects donated personal hygiene products like toothpaste, deodorant, bandages, and soap for citizens and soldiers alike.
"Right now the biggest thing is medicine. Medical equipment and medicine," he said.
The goods are shipped to New Jersey, then Poland, and then driven to Ukrainians in the war zone.
Maks Zagorodniy sorts and compiles the items that pour into his Henrico warehouse daily.
“Some people are asking me, 'Do you have a family there?' and in some ways it feels like every single person is your family. It hurts,” Zagorodniy said.
Lift Up Ukraine has already delivered 1,500 sets of life-saving protective gear for soldiers fighting the Russians.
“You just know you have to do it because you ask the question if I’m not going to do it then who will be?” Zagorodniy said.
Co-founder of Lift Up Ukraine Levin White said donations are key.
“I don’t believe it is going to end any time soon,” White said. “I see more bad times coming. One shipment could cost $7,000-$8,000 and that is a big bulk of our expenses.”
The law enforcement officer said the group depended on the generosity of Americans to grow their mission.
“The small businesses and individuals here in the Richmond area are the ones who have stepped up to the plate,” White said.
With the situation deteriorating by the day volunteers behind Lift Up Ukraine remain determined.
“So many people throw themselves to help. I can tell you how appreciative we are and how much of a feeling of community that they care,” Zagorodniy said. “As long as we need to do it. As long as we can help that is all that it takes.”
This new congregation said they have no choice but to carry on. Because so many lives are depending on them.
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