Often I find myself frustrated and stymied by conditions that prevent me from helping others struggling to eat and take care of their families caught up in horrible events like the conflict in Ukraine. Personal stories help connect me to an individual or family trying their best to deal with the devastation taking place all over Ukraine. The stories are happening daily, affecting thousands and thousands of families who are hunkering down in crowded basements or doing their best to escape to safer accommodations in neighboring countries.
In my last blog, Helping Ukraine, I talked about meeting Sam Rozenberg. Co-founder of SHARE Detroit and born in Ukraine, he is passionate about helping families forced to deal with this tragic event. Sam and the good folks at SHARE Detroit are doing their part to educate and inform us of families and organizations that are working diligently to help families that need assistance.
Sam forwarded a story to me about his wife’s friend, an accomplished photographer who is doing her best to cope with the difficult conditions taking place in her country. It is amazing how quickly this nightmare became a reality and will likely change millions of lives forever.
Before you read Aleksandra Bolotina's story, I thought you would like to hear Sam’s recent comments from a radio interview helping to explain to an American audience what is important for us to understand about Ukraine.
For the last 30 years, Ukraine has made tremendous strides toward being a representative democracy. The country has leaned towards and emulated our western values in a political, economic, and most importantly, social sense. The Maidan/Orange Revolution and the subsequent eight years demonstrated that Ukrainian SSR was genuinely dead. New modern Ukraine, valuing its people, minorities, democracy, and traditional family values, was a rising star on the world stage. This success and adoption of our American/Western values is the main reason for Putin’s attack. In fact, in this attack, Putin attacked America the same way we were attacked on 9/11. Ukrainians are dying, and their country is getting annihilated as a price for that.
Powerful words to remember as we watch in horror the carnage that is taking place.
On a personal level, Sam shared his story of Aleksandra to gain support for her and her family. I hope you will join me and consider helping them by contributing to the GoFundMe campaign started by Sam’s wife to help Aleksandra’s family.
Some 10 years ago, my wife picked up photography as a hobby. It quickly turned into her passion and obsession. My wife connected with other like-minded folks from around the world very quickly. One of those was a rising star in professional photography, Aleksandra. This brilliant, energetic, and full-of-life wife, mother, world traveler, and talented photographer became my wife’s best friend. They traveled the world together, competed in the same photo competitions, took master classes, and later became two Batmisvahs. She was a hit with all of our American friends.
Back in Kharkiv, her ancestral home, she invested in a brand-new studio to accommodate her growing business. Her clientele began to include not just Ukrainians but people from other countries. I encourage you to visit her Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/bolotina.alexandra). On February 23, she was confident that there would be no war. “What are you talking about? We are all Russians here, why would they attack us? They are bluffing, they just want us to get away from western values and be more like them,” she was saying.
Aleksandra barely spoke Ukrainian, she sent her 19-year-old son to Moscow to attend the art university. This is where he and his two cousins were on February 24. This was when Alexandra’s and her family’s lives changed forever. Within 24 hours of the Russian invasion, she connected with her elderly, barely mobile parents. Together, they decided to hunker down for a long hall.
Her parents were children during WWII but remembered the war vividly. They did not evacuate then, and they refused to evacuate now, even though their other daughter with her family did escape West, still staying in Ukraine.
Alexandra, with her husband, who is recovering from recent surgeries, her parents, and her nine pets, five of which were left behind by their friends and relatives, took shelter in a deep basement on the city’s outskirts and decided for better or worse to stay home.
The city around them crumbled under constant artillery and rocket barrages. The building above the basement they sheltered in took an indirect hit, lost all of its windows, and showed structural instability after many close calls and nearby shelling. A week into the war, food and medicine began to run out. Fortunately, I was able to help them through my Kyiv-based friends with connections in the Territorial Defense Forces. Now there are rations dropped off every few days. My wife started a GoFundMe campaign amongst the thousands of photographers that admired Aleksandra’s work to raise money to assist with post-war help in rebuilding their lives from zero.
Her son and cousins were able to escape Moscow to Latvia, and for now, they are safe. We hope the US will recognize Ukrainian refugees as refugees. But words are not enough. The US must take appropriate steps for well-meaning Americans to take in families and help them go on with their lives. This war will NOT end quickly, and it will take even longer for Ukraine to recover from this war. Years, Decades, and Generations.
Aleksandra and her family are proud Ukrainians and didn’t see much distinction between them and Russia. However, the war opened her eyes to a different reality. Along with the physical damage to Ukraine, it destroyed all opportunities for any goodwill toward Russia and its people.
We continue to pray for Ukraine, our families, and friends in Ukraine. We anxiously await any word from Aleksandra, sitting on pins and needles every time we have a day of silence.
To help Aleksandra and her family directly I have provided the GoFundMe link. This is a personal connection to Sam Rozenberg and not a 501c3
*** It is important to consider all the great efforts being shared and offered by SHARE Detroit, including their SHARE Ukraine endeavor.
Please check out SHARE Detroit for information on the many great groups helping small and medium-sized charities in Southeast Michigan, including the numerous programs and useful information on the SHARE Ukraine page.
I appreciate your time and attention on this important matter.
Roger N. Steed
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