By Lisa Kava
Upper West Sider Tetiana Samokysh is from the town of Kalanchak in the Kherson region of Ukraine. She and her husband Artem have been living and working here in New York since 2016. But while she and Artem are going through the motions of life, her closest friends and family are living a nightmare in Ukraine.
It had been a dream of the couple’s to live on the Upper West Side ever since they spent a week in a friend’s apartment here a few years ago. “We fell in love with the family-friendly neighborhood, the community and the easy access to both Central and Riverside Parks,” Tetiana told West Side Rag.
But with the war raging, it has been difficult and emotional for Tetiana to be on the other side of the world from her family and friends.
“I’m going through the full range of emotions,” she said. “It is a daily roller coaster. My day starts with messaging my loved ones to make sure they are okay and alive, then reading the news, which is impossible to contemplate. Seeing tanks on the streets of my city and hearing all of the stories from my family and friends just breaks my heart.”
Artem’s parents are currently at home in Kyiv, hiding from the shelling in a basement with their cat and dog. “They hear air sirens a few times a day and at night. They do not want to leave Kyiv because it is their home and their entire life is there.”
Tetiana’s parents live in the southern part of Ukraine. “They see tanks on their streets often and hear the sounds of air missiles launched from ships daily.”
It is not so easy to flee to safety, Tetiana explained. Julia, her closest childhood friend, attempted to drive from Kalanchak to what she thought would be a safer place. But she, her husband, her 10-year-old son and one-year-old daughter did not get far.
“The Russian armed forces were moving fast, so their family took shelter in a small village between Kherson and Myolaiv that later became a battleground,” Tetiana said. “They spent six days without electricity under constant shelling. They could not even go outside to get food.”
Julia and her family ultimately returned home after driving 150 miles in 12 hours. “They traveled through military checkpoints and had guns directed toward them. They were lucky, but not everyone was. Plenty of families like that were shot dead,” Tetiana told the Rag.
Soon after returning home, Julia learned that the house where she had previously been hiding was destroyed by an air missile, and that her relatives did not survive.
It has been devastating for Tetiana to hear these stories from friends and family. As a longtime runner, she has found tremendous support and camaraderie through the Ukrainian Running Club, which has organized events and fundraising initiatives.
So, how can we help?
Donations are crucial, Tetiana said. “Financial donations are needed in any amount and no amount is too small. Anything you can do matters. Twenty dollars can buy gas.”
West Side Rag previously published a list of organizations where people can donate to help Ukraine. Tetiana has provided us with the following additions. Click on each link to learn more.
How to Help Ukraine Now Super Site:
Donation for Ukraine:
NYC Moms for a Cause:
Revived Soldiers Ukraine :
The Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/help.ukraine.nyc/ was started by a Brooklyn based Ukrainian woman named Nataliya, who owns Aesthetika Beauty Salon. Nataliya has turned the salon into a warehouse for needed supplies. She created the below Amazon wish list where people can send items directly to her warehouse. She then gets the items to those in need in Ukraine. https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/18GL3XCAS4ERL?ref_=wl_share
Tetiana would like to emphasize the importance of kindness and providing emotional support to Ukrainians living in the United States. “Please reach out to any Ukrainians that you know are here. Listen to them. Be there, offer a kind word. Take them for a cup of coffee. We need our mental and psychological strength, and just need to know that people are there for us. We are in this together.”
For those who do not know any Ukranians here, Tetiana recommends attending one of the rallies being held in NYC (listed on the How to Help Ukraine Super Site above) as a place to meet Ukrainians.
Most Ukrainians in New York have connections to family and friends in Ukraine, so by reaching out to Ukrainians, you may be able to help in a direct and personal way, Tetiana told the Rag. For example, she personally collected and sent $1,000 to a friend in a town in Ukraine that has been under heavy bombing for two weeks. “My friend had no electricity. I sent the funds to her via pay pal and the next day she bought a generator and medicine for the local hospital.”
Tetiana is trying her best to remain positive through this dark time.
“Ukrainians are strong and resilient, fighting hard for freedom and democracy. I know that the light will win over darkness.”