One year on, Ukrainians in U.S. cope with war, displacement

Feb 23, 2023, 10:09 AM | Updated: 10:23 am

Valeriya Roshkovan pauses during an interview as she volunteers for Razom for Ukraine, a New York-b...

Valeriya Roshkovan pauses during an interview as she volunteers for Razom for Ukraine, a New York-based nonprofit, to help package donated firefighting equipment to ship to her country, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Woodbridge Township, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

PORT READING, N.J. (AP) — In New York, far from her home in northern Ukraine, Valeriya Roshkovan tries to do what she can to end Russia’s invasion of her country.

“I cannot sit and do nothing,” she said earlier this month in a New Jersey warehouse where she volunteers with the nonprofit Razom for Ukraine, helping package donated firefighting equipment to ship to her country.

Roshkovan, 41, fled Konotop, her city close to Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus, soon after the fighting began in order to keep her teenage daughter safe. She had to leave her husband and other family behind.

“The town was surrounded, all the artillery was pointed at the town and most of the exits were already in the hands of Russia,” Roshkovan said through another volunteer who translated her words.

“We had the hope that it’s going to finish very soon, that the war will be over,” she added. “And that we will be able to come back quickly.”

As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches Friday, that hope is diminished. Roshkovan has enrolled her teenage daughter in school. She’s trying to get her to engage with their Brooklyn, New York, surroundings and to stop dwelling on the war and their long escape, driving through Ukraine and several neighboring countries.

Last year, many Ukrainians living in America discovered Razom, a small nonprofit that started in 2014 with the mission to help make Ukraine more prosperous. In previous years, it had received around $200,000 in contributions annually. In 2022, the number of donors jumped from around 4,000 to 170,000 and gifts now total at least $75 million, said Dora Chomiak, the organization’s president.

“A lot of people are just moved by the complete injustice of the bad guy next door to Ukraine, just destroying lives. People are moved by the resilience of the people of Ukraine,” she said.

The nonprofit stood up a logistics network, opened and staffed an office in Washington to advocate for Ukraine to lawmakers and granted at least $3 million to small nonprofits in Ukraine. They’ve held almost weekly protests in Times Square to try to keep the war in the public eye. Support for sending weapons and aid to Ukraine and for hosting Ukrainians displaced by the war among Americans has waned from May to January, a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found.

Initially, Razom focused on sourcing and delivering tactical medical equipment and communications equipment to the frontlines, including to volunteer fighters.

“Tourniquets, chest seals, different bandages to either stop bleeding or give the first help at the battlefield,” said Andriy Boychuk, 35, a businessman who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years and was leading the effort at the warehouse.

“If not us, who else?” he said, when asked why a nonprofit was sending supplies to the frontlines. More recently, it has shipped generators, wood burning stoves and candles to its warehouse in Lviv, tracking the shipments with a software program that Razom members developed themselves. Razom’s staff in Ukraine then reloads the goods into vans to take where needed.

Boychuk and other volunteers said packing these supplies by hand is a kind of therapy for them, helping them feel like they are making a difference.

“It touches everybody,” Boychuk said of the war. “And that’s why I think we are here, because we want to help and try to not think what’s going on there because it destroys people,”

The aid they send is in line with Razom’s charitable mission, as well as import and export regulations, Chomiak said. But that line is sometimes difficult to navigate.

“Who is a civilian and who is military? That was hard for myself personally to kind of parse out,” she said, until she realized while visiting Ukraine in the summer that everyone was fighting to survive, in one way or another.

Another volunteer, Dmytro Malymonenko, learned about Razom when the war began, through Boychuk, who is a neighbor. “I wanted to help but didn’t know how and where to start and where to look for the community,” he said.

Over the past year, the war’s impact has intensified for him. Malymonenko’s mother recently died in Ukraine of an illness he said was exacerbated by the stress and depression caused by the war. His father returned to their hometown of Sumy, which has been under bombardment, to organize a funeral.

His life has been torn apart, he said, urging everyone to take some action.

“Even a thought or a prayer can help,” he said.

Roshkovan said it still gives her goosebumps to talk about the war, which she did not believe would break out between countries whose populations have been intertwined for generations.

“It’s not just the war. It’s not just the aggression that happened,” she said, touching the skin on her forearms. “But it’s also the basically breakage of those ties. It’s the huge betrayal.”


Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court has h...

Associated Press

Supreme Court decision on Trump’s election status could come Monday morning

A SCOTUS decision could come Monday in the case about whether Trump can be kicked off the ballot over his efforts to undo his 2020 defeat.

3 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley poses for a selfie after speakin...

Associated Press

Nikki Haley wins D.C. Republican primary, her first 2024 victory

Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary in the District of Columbia, notching her first victory of the 2024 campaign.

4 hours ago

An Apache group that has fought to protect land it considers sacred from a copper mining project in...

Associated Press

A US appeals court ruling could allow mine development in central Arizona on land sacred to Apaches

An Apache group that has fought to protect land from a copper mining project in central Arizona suffered a significant blow.

8 hours ago

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yogurt sold in the U.S. can ma...

Associated Press

Eating yogurt may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, FDA says

Eating at least two cups of yogurt a week might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

10 hours ago

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

2 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

One year on, Ukrainians in U.S. cope with war, displacement