Julia*, a beautiful young woman in her 30s, is raising three children — two girls ages 10 and 12, and a baby boy of 18 months. Twice each week, she and her best friend, Larisa, drive from her home in occupied Ukraine through rebel lines to a place where she fills her car with food for hungry people. Then, she drives into some of the most dangerous areas of eastern Ukraine to deliver it to those who can no longer buy their own.
Every week, Julia makes this dangerous journey and loads her little car to the top with flour, rice and bread. Then, she risks her life going into lawless regions to save the hungry. In addition to feeding them, she and her friend have escorted hundreds of men and women, boys and girls, out of the occupied zone in their own version of the Underground Railroad.
These people once led normal lives just like you and me. Mostly middle-class, they worked 40 hours per week until the conflict brought life in their villages to a grinding halt. Without any regular economy, the people couldn’t buy food even if they could afford it; the shelves in their local grocery stores have been emptied out months ago by hoarders and panic shopping.
And that’s what makes Julia and Larisa, and hundreds of others like them, so special.
These angels of mercy are risking everything to save the lives of strangers, mainly refugees and the newly destitute. Julia knows what can happen to her if she is confronted by the separatists. She would be beaten, gang raped and left to die by the side of the road. But she makes these hazardous journeys every week anyway.
When I heard Julia’s story, I realized what a critical role we play by enabling her weekly mission. She, and the people she is saving, are the reason for Save Ukraine Now.
* Name changed to protect Julia and her children.