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First Ukraine Relief Flight Takes Off From LAX

A room is filled with open cardboard boxes full of Ukraine relief supplies. Several people are in the back of the room filling boxes.
Volunteers fill rows of boxes with supplies at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
(Leslie Berestein Rojas
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Ukraine Relief Flight Takes Off From LAX

A cargo plane loaded with medical supplies, baby formula and other critical items for Ukrainian civilians and soldiers left LAX Thursday morning.

The shipment was prepared by volunteers, primarily local Ukrainian Americans spurred to action by Russia’s invasion of their homeland.

The work was well underway earlier this week in Echo Park — St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Los Angeles buzzed with activity.

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Outside in the parking lot, volunteers offloaded cardboard boxes from a moving truck. In a large room upstairs, dozens of people packed and taped many more boxes, which covered the floor.

One volunteer, Ira Kolomiets, pointed toward a stack of boxes near the door.

“We have different types of medicine, starting from general pain killers, like for stomach aches … also, we have a lot of stuff for the soldiers,” like blood clotting products and splints, she said. Other items for soldiers in the shipment included flashlights and binoculars.

The boxes were ultimately put on a truck bound for LAX and then loaded onto the plane en route to Germany. From there, the supplies will be taken into western Ukraine by truck.

Mariana Boyko, one of the volunteers who helped prepare the shipment, said she was deeply moved by the outpouring of support, which has included donations of supplies from as far away as the Bay Area and San Diego.

“Every day we have more and more volunteers, not just Ukrainians, but also Americans and all other nations,” said Boyko, who has family in Ukraine. “Some people, they have moving companies, they are offering their trucks … Some volunteers, they bring food, they bring lunch and they bring dinner to those who are working the whole day. This is amazing.”

Some people have gotten involved through groups like the Ukrainian Culture Center in East Hollywood, which last weekend hosted volunteers assembling first aid kits that would be included in the shipment. Others learned about the effort via word of mouth.

“We are flying over 10 tons,” said Julia Stadnik, whose family manages the Glendale-based California office of Meest, a shipping company that serves Eastern Europe and is handling transportation of the supplies to Europe.

Stadnik, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine more than 30 years ago, said the company helped kick off the effort, which has since mushroomed. She said a crowdsourcing effort will partly pay for the transportation.

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How Local Volunteers Are Helping Send Critical Supplies To Ukraine

Seva Mohylyak oversaw the packing operation at St. Andrew Church. He said he began collecting medical supplies after his father, a surgeon in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, told him what kinds of things were needed.

Mohylyak said some items are not encouraged: “We realize that clothing is getting us too overwhelmed,” he said.

But medical supplies are in high demand, along with things like baby food and formula; Stadnik said there are at least 26 boxes of formula among the more than 100 boxes of supplies in this shipment.

Two men stand at the rear of an empty white container truck. A stack of several boxes with supplies for Ukraine is on the ground between them. A red dolly is in the right foreground.
Volunteers unload a truck with donations outside the St. Andrew Ukranian Orthodox Church of Los Angeles.
(Leslie Berestein Rojas/LAist)

The relief flight is the first of what volunteers hope will be many. Stadnik said right now, the plan is to send a plane with supplies from L.A. each week.

So far, the community is meeting the demand. As those at the church did the hard work of sorting through donations, and checking and packing the most critical items, another truck pulled in downstairs.

“We literally just had a 24-foot truck come in with medical supplies,” said Mohylyak, as volunteers downstairs hurried to unpack it. “We can’t stop this train anymore, that’s it. It’s just coming.”

Here’s more information on local efforts to help Ukraine.

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