More than 220 days after Russian invasion, aid efforts still building for Ukraine

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Two North Carolina residents are uniquely intertwined with Ukraine. Despite their different histories with the damaged country, they both hope for an end to the war.

Stephanie Pridgen lives in Wilson County, but taught English in Ukraine for three and a half years.

Olena Kozlova-Pates raised her family in the Raleigh area, but she was born and raised in Ukraine.

Both still have ties to the Eastern European country. Pridgen has students that have evolved into lifelong friends and Koslova-Pates’ parents and extended family still live in the uprooted country.

One friend of Pridgen, who lives in the western part of Ukraine, shared in an update what it’s like to live in an invaded country.

He said they “had gone for a couple of weeks without air raids and said it’s a little easy for us to become complacent and we woke yesterday morning to an air raid.”

Pridgen explained that the hardest part for her has been adapting as a friend and accepting that the status of their safety could change.

As Pridgen and many others monitor change and updates on the war, Koslova-Plates fights alongside a network of volunteers.

Eight years ago, she started a nonprofit, the Ukrainian of in the Carolinas. She founded the initiative to aid those caught in the Russian crossfire.

In the last seven months, she has mourned for her grandmother who has lived through the invasions of World War II and maintained living in Ukraine through countless invasion attempts.

“It is surreal as an adult and that my elderly parents and grandmother have to relive, she has to relive this war again,” Koslova-Pates said.

However, during the last 200-plus days of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, she has seen the volunteer efforts at the nonprofit multiply.

The nonprofit has been able to gather funds for a medical vehicle, unique medical supplies, restore a water purifying station, and build homes for Ukrainian medics to stay at, along with the contributions they had before.

“We have made many more connections, we have advocated much more, we have received many more supporters joining our efforts, So, I feel like our efforts are going to grow,” Koslova-Pates said.

Both women have plans to go to Ukraine and help rebuild once the war is over.

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