In US Midwest, communities gear up to help Ukrainians in need

Finding tourniquets, first aid kits, thermal underwear and socks is foremost in the mind of Cincinnati transplant Evgenia Nemirovska De Santos as she sits in an office space turned storage facility north of the US city.

A native of Kyiv and now a volunteer with Cincy4Ukraine, a group assisting territorial defence volunteers fighting to hold off Russian forces across Ukraine, Nemirovska De Santos’s world has been turned upside down by the Russian invasion of her homeland.

“We need medical supplies,” she tells Al Jazeera, reading from a list of requested items sent to her from contacts in the Ukrainian capital. “Any medical supplies.”

Last Thursday, Nemirovska De Santos and a team of volunteers loaded more than 700kg of aid – socks, boots and radios for Ukrainian territorial defence members, as well as nappies and foodstuffs – into a truck that was then driven 1,025km (637 miles) east to New Jersey, where a Ukrainian shipping company’s headquarters is located. It was then flown to Warsaw and taken over the border to Ukraine.

She says the day-to-day situation facing territorial defence volunteers she is in regular contact with is terrible. “They are wearing sneakers in the cold; the conditions are freezing. They can’t even take showers and keep themselves clean.”

Thousands of kilometres from the front lines of the war in Ukraine, Nemirovska De Santos is part of a growing legion of volunteers in Ohio, a Midwestern state home to about 43,000 people of Ukrainian heritage, that is stepping up to help with the fallout of the Russian invasion.

Refugee influx expected

But volunteers are not the only ones currently in crisis mode.

Ohio’s state government is gearing up to deal with an expected influx of refugees. On Thursday, a summit called by Governor Mike DeWine is taking place in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland that is home to about 4,000 Ukrainian immigrants.

“While we do not yet know what role Ohio will play in helping these families, I want us to be prepared when the time does come,” DeWine said when he announced the summit last week.

Charity organisations, refugee resettlement agencies, state agencies, local Ukrainian communities and other interested parties will convene at a local Ukrainian church hall to prepare for Ukrainian refugees that will be in need of resettlement in the United States.

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