In these terrible times, when peace in the western world has been brutally shaken for first time since WWII, I realize the only way to survive this tragedy is to hold our connections tight and offer immediate help to those who need it.
I would like to tell you a story of how one family has fared in this war.
Irina Yershova is a young widow of a friend Tom and I knew very well in Moscow in the 90s. She and her three children aged 16-8 had to flee their bomb ravaged neighborhood near Kyiv. Their apartment building is located in Bucha, one of the most bombed towns in the first days of the war. When they left a week ago, their building was still standing, but the town and areas around have been decimated.
They were the lucky ones to have boarded a five car evacuation train for Kyiv, after running through open fields under enemy fire and being given a lift in a car by strangers. Thankfully, their train arrived to Kyiv station untouched, as the following two days saw several unsuccessful attempts at evacuating civilians from that area. The train station in Bucha itself was destroyed a couple of days after their departure.
It took them another week to make their way to the Polish border. After that they were helped by families in Poland and Germany. This part of their trek is a separate story of ordinary people working together to help people in dire need.
Right now they are safe, staying in a small town in Bavaria hosted by a young family who has their own four kids. Their resources are very few and they depend entirely on the kindness and support of friends and strangers. There are no personal savings to rely upon. Irina had just found a new job in Ukraine and bought an apartment for her kids to grow up in a safe, peaceful town before the war broke out over their heads.
Heartbreakingly, this is not the first time this family is faced with an unimaginable tragedy. Five years ago at the time when I myself was going through a grueling treatment for breast cancer, I found out that Irina’s husband, Alexander, was diagnosed and treated for metastatic cancer.
After a short and intensive battle with cancer, he passed away in his early 40s, leaving behind a young wife and three small children. At that time, they were residing in South Korea. Irina had to make the difficult decision to return to her hometown in Ukraine, since their situation in South Korea depended fully on her husband’s work. They lost not only a beloved father and husband, but all there friends and connections, and the country the kids called home.
Since then she and I kept in touch on Facebook, I came to know their beautiful family very well. It took Irina three long years to overcome crippling depression and assure her family future.
She told me: !I finally began to want to live again!” The life insurance payment the received went to the purchase their new home in Bucha, where on Feb 24 they woke up to distant explosions that over the course of the week came closer and closer to their street.
This small family is trying to figure out the next step after once more losing everything: financial stability, peaceful and established life in their beautiful country, friends and family (Irina’s mother and her disabled brother remain in Ukraine). I would love to be able to offer some small comfort to them by raising funds to help them begin their new life abroad: as a Russian (whose Siberian roots stretch deep unto the 19th century Donbas region) to a Ukrainian whose country was viciously attacked by mine, as a mother of five to another mother raising her family alone, and a cancer survivor to another one hurt by this cruel disease.
I know all of you are following the news from Ukraine and have already donated to many organizations providing help to Ukrainians fleeing the war. Some of you asked me personally how to help. Now I would like to ask you to sponsor this family directly. My goal is to raise $10,000 that would allow her to establish herself in the next place they’ll call home.
HOW TO SUPPORT:
1. Venmo account @ alexandra-laurita. Please put “a gift for Irina” in the “What’s it for” section, and don't forget to let us know your mailing address.
2. Personal checks can be sent to 389 Belfast Rd, Camden ME 04843. Please make it out to Alexandra Laurita with “a gift for Irina” in the for section. Again, make sure your mailing address is included.