Community gathers donations bound for Ukraine

Photo by Jessica Brodkin Webb Bohdan Kniahynyckyj and Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj (left) in a La Mesa facility being used to store donations intended for shipment to Ukraine.

La Mesa residents Bohdan Kniahynyckyj and Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj stood among boxes neatly labeled ‘Medical Supplies’ in large black letters with accompanying Cyrillic handwritten on each box.
“There is a large group here that we call new Ukrainians. Some don’t even speak Ukrainian as their first language, they speak Russian. Through this network, we were able to secure this warehouse and donations are being pooled here from all
over,” Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj said.
People have donated from all over, she said, her blue eyes twinkling, with boxes being delivered from across the county. It took less than two weeks for the Ukrainian community to rally, begin gathering donations and formulate ways to ship supplies off to the country after Russia began a military invasion on Feb. 24 that has steadily escalated although there has been no formal declaration of war.
The House of Ukraine, located in Balboa Park, has served as something of a hub for Ukrainian-Americans in San Diego, a convenient location to deliver donations while gathering in fellowship. Throughout the week, volunteers have transported assorted donations from the cottage, wheeling out combat boots and bandage packs by the wagon. Gathered from different donation sites, the supplies are collated at a central building where La Mesa meets El Cajon, tucked in between neighborhood pho shops and a thrift store.
As of March 7, there were two shipping companies— one in Los Angeles and one in Ukraine— that were working together, Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj said. There was a hierarchy of donations which the companies would ship for free, based on what Ukraine deems most dire, although the influx of donations might skew that pricing model. The entire contents of the storehouse were scheduled for transport to Los Angeles on March 9 and would continue on to Ukraine from there.
Both husband and wife say the situation is worse in cities.
“I have friends in cities with no bread yet in small villages, they have supplies because they are more self-sustaining. Many of the donations are headed for cities,” Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj said.
She urges people to check on current needs as posted on the House of Ukraine website before donating anything, primarily to support Ukrainians with items they truly need. The fight might take some time, she said, but they are determined to continue shipping items to Ukraine as long as necessary.
“We’re going to do this for as long as it takes,” Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj said.
Bohdan Kniahynyckyj said Ukraine is not backing down.
“When Stalin was in power, there was everyday execution in the form of death by famine and he sentenced the intelligentsia to prison or execution,” Bohdan Kniahynyckyj said, a tactic that must not unfold again. “There was no freedom of religion, no freedom of press or speech and they enforced laws in Ukraine that, well, their goal was to get Ukraine to be Russian,” Vera Skop Kniahynyckyj said.
“Ukraine is not Russian,” they say, almost in unison.
Kniahynyckyj’s requests: blood coagulants and prayers.
“Please, keep Ukraine in your prayers, whoever you pray to,” Bohdan Kniahynyckyj said.
Sage Creek High School senior Victoria Mameshin stood in the sunlight outside the cottage on March 5, nine days after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded the country that is less than one-third the size of Russia.
The 17 year old’s fingers tied blue and yellow ribbons, Ukraine’s national colors, to a tree outside the cottage, potentially drawing in financial donations from the throng of people spending their Saturday at Balboa Park.
Gesturing to her father, Igor Mameshin, Victoria said her family is Ukrainian but split between countries. She lives with her father here in San Diego county, but her aunt lives in Hungary. Her grandmother, gazing on from a few feet away, typically divides her time between the two countries, an international human bridge between family.
“There is such an outpouring of support because they’re fighting for all of us. We could just give in to Russia and Putin, it would be easier but instead they are fighting for the world, for peace and freedom. They kissed their kids and wives goodbye and went to fight back. Really, they’re doing it for the world,” Mameshin said.
Inside the cottage, stacks of flyers are placed in arms’ reach on several tables with Quick Response codes for Revived Soldiers Ukraine, United Ukrainian American Relief Committee and Ukrainian National Women’s League of America websites
where tax-deductible donations can be made, along with information on how to donate to the National Bank of Ukraine.
Volunteers at the House of Ukraine have been maintaining a list of most-needed supplies on their website for would-be
donors, including items like military-grade helmets, kevlar vests and plates, first aid kits and items like QuickClot
for injuries and medical-grade tourniquets— the list is clearly rooted in military support.
Like many others, Mameshin said cash travels faster but gathering donated military supplies and personal care items
“helps emotionally” and produces an energy he deems important for maintaining hope.
“Energy is important. We are a people of the world and with support, we will prevail and win freedom for our country,” Mameshin said.
Putin is evil, he said, missing something in his consciousness.
“The Russians struck a children’s hospital. Who does that to sick kids? It is to humiliate, to destroy, it’s pure evil. He
should have something in his consciousness to keep from doing that,” Mameshin said.
A full list of donation needs can be found at