WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — While over 1 million refugees continue to flee from Ukraine, neighboring countries are rushing to their aid.
Weronika Kassin-Lenik moved to Sherwood, Wisconsin in 2004 through a work and travel program and now lives in Lublin, Poland - a city just 60 miles from the Ukraine border. Since the Russian invasion began, she says refugees have flooded into her city.
“There’s lines on the border to cross to Poland and it’s really hard to watch because the mothers with kids are just standing in the cold,” Kassin-Lenik said.
Of the 1 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, Poland alone has taken in over 500,000. Kassin-Lenik says many of the refugees coming in have traveled to the border on foot and have very little food and supplies when they arrive.
"I believe they left home in a rush so all they have is a backpack. So when they are at the border, we support them with food and other supplies they need to live," Kassin-Lenik said.
She says the Polish people have united to support the Ukrainian refugees. She says her city has set up shelters to take in thousands of refugees and some are even welcoming refugees into their own homes.
“There’s a lot of people who just travel to the border and pick them up to their homes," Kassin-Lenik said. "Everyone is helping, when you talk to people everyone is helping somewhere.”
Here in Wisconsin, Ukrainians are rallying to support their home country. Jonathan Pylypiv, who is originally from Ukraine and now lives in Kimberly, says his friends and relatives are living in a warzone. He says many Ukrainians are fleeing from cities to villages to avoid the conflict, while others have joined forces with the Ukrainian military.
“They’re experiencing a war. To them this is World War III," Pylypiv said. "You have families that need to tape up their windows to help minimize what kind of glass and shards are flying through when the indiscriminate rockets come from Russian Federation military forces.”
Pylypiv organized a collection drive through his Facebook page Wisconsin Ukrainians to collect items such as non-perishable food, clothing, and medical supplies to be flown to Ukraine. The much-needed supplies will support refugees and those resisting Russian military forces. You can view the full list of needed items here.
“There is refugees going and walking for 48 to 72 hours because their car ran out and they’re trying to get to the Polish border," Pylypiv said. "Think of the weather. It’s very similar to Wisconsin so imagine walking for 3 days straight.”
He is urging the community to listen to Ukrainians' stories and donate items if they are able to.
“Talk to people that are Ukrainian. Go on our page," Pylypiv said. "This need is literally helping people defend their own freedom and ability to live.”
To get updates on the drive and make a donation, you can follow the Wisconsin Ukrainians Facebook page.