Bay Area nonprofit lends helping hand to Ukrainian refugees

For Igor Markov, a Ukrainian American living in Mountain View, Calif., watching Russia invade his country has been heartbreaking — so he and his team are pitching in to help as the refugee crisis worsens.

Markov, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1993 to attend a graduate program at UCLA, is the director of Nova Ukraine, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization that has been helping Ukrainians since 2014.

“I’m from Kyiv originally. I grew up there. My parents emigrated to Western Europe sometime ago. My uncle and my aunt are still in Ukraine,” Markov told Yahoo News. “They escaped Kyiv last Friday.”

The escalating violence in Ukraine has forced more than 2 million people to flee to neighboring countries. Markov said his organization, made up of over 100 volunteers, has been shipping urgently needed medical supplies by plane to help those fleeing Russia’s ongoing attack, which entered its 14th day on Thursday.

Markov explained, “The planes land in Warsaw, Poland, at one of the airport’s warehouses. The medical supplies and everything else is delivered to Lviv by truck.

“The Ukrainian Ministry of Health, in some cases, receives these supplies [and] there are local volunteers that deliver them to farther cities and trucks, which is risky,” he said. “Some of these delivery roads need convoys.”

Igor Markov
Igor Markov at a San Francisco Bay Area rally in support of Ukraine. (Nova Ukraine)

Markov said there is a growing need for medical supplies, especially trauma medicine. In the past two weeks, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been killed, according to authorities. Officials in the city of Mariupol said three people were killed, including a child, after Russia bombed a children’s and maternity hospital there on Wednesday.

“We’re also in need of tactical medicine, which is basically what can be the ways to help people who were wounded,” Markov said.

Nova Ukraine’s group of volunteers on the ground in Ukraine and in surrounding countries are beginning to mobilize to help the elderly evacuate the country, he added.

In the U.S., the nonprofit has been welcoming Ukrainian refugee families arriving in the San Francisco Bay Area. Markov said the group has law firms on standby to provide pro bono services for those entering the country.

Displaced Ukrainians
Displaced Ukrainians at a bus station in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday. (Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

He said Ukrainians who were in the U.S. as of March 1 are protected by the Department of Homeland Security under temporary protected status for the next 18 months.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week of the designation: “Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries. In these extraordinary times, we will continue to offer our support and protection to Ukrainian nationals in the United States.”

Although most of Nova Ukraine’s work is being done in Ukraine and surrounding countries, Markov said his team will continue to raise awareness about the situation across California by organizing “Stand With Ukraine” rallies.

“Ukrainians are doing very important work to make the world a livable place for everyone, and function in a place where democracies thrive and dictatorships fail,” he said.

What happened this week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.