When disasters occur, people abroad who want to help the affected country’s refugees collect clothes, toiletries and basic food staples.

But it was nothing like that Thursday as Ukrainians, people of Ukrainian descent and their friends converged on a truck parked at the Hilton Garden Inn San Antonio on the Rim.

They were donating things you might see in a combat medic’s kit on the battlefield – abdominal bandages, water gel burn dressing, IV starter kits, IV catheters of various gauges, tongue depressors, sutures and stainless steel hemostats.

“Today there was a hospital bombed,” said Viktoriya Lundblade, an accounting clerk from San Antonio. “It’s a war, of course, you need everything that can help. You need medical supplies. “

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An estimated 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine. None have arrived yet in the Alamo City, and Ukrainians here are not sure when they’ll come. Like the Afghans who have streamed into the United States following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last summer, they will need a bit of everything.

The focus is different while the war still rages. Ukrainians here are trying to help soldiers in their homeland stand a fighting chance against a larger and far better-equipped Russian army, which is shelling and bombing civilian population centers across the country.

Olena Khrystyuk, a native of Vinnytsia, Ukraine, a town of 371,000 people, sees things far worse than waves of people fleeing the country if the Russians win the war.

“What scares me a lot – I grew up in the Soviet Union, I know what propaganda is – and propaganda in Russia right now is super scary. They call Ukrainians ‘Nazis.’ It’s so absurd and people truly believe it, ”she said. “If they invade Ukraine, it will be worse than Stalin’s repression. They will be killing people. “

The Ukrainian community here is sending everything medics and medical teams need to save the lives of combatants and get the least-wounded back into a fight.

“So we are trying to get medical supplies, and these are medical supplies to treat wounds, and these are not medical supplies we get at Walmart, these are EMT-type supplies,” said Khrystyuk, a CPA here and founding member of Ukrainian San Antonio, the group that is spearheading the donation drive.

Anastasia Delebis sorts donated items that will go to Ukraine. An organization called Ukrainian San Antonio has been collecting donated supplies, including military gear, Thursdays at the Hilton Garden Inn near the Rim.

Kin Man Hui / Staff photographer

“They’re designated to stop really heavy bleeding,” she added, explaining that the supplies are badly needed because Russia’s bombing isn’t only killing combatants and civilians but also causing traumatic injuries that include broken bones and amputations. “We call it tactical medicine.”

Ukrainian San Antonio’s website lists the supplies it collected Thursday and intends to truck to Chicago. From there, the gear will be loaded on a plane bound for Europe and, ultimately, Ukraine.

The substance and tone of the group’s website is far different from earlier this year, when it was dedicated to notices about a sausage cooking masterclass at St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church and a Ukrainian calendar heritage presentation last November.

The site now features a story about a Ukrainian paramedic shot while on her way to evacuate injured people from the outskirts of Kyiv. She was recently buried in the capital.

The group, which formed in 2015, held a demonstration early in February as war loomed. Now they’re at war.

Olenka Bravo, 35, of San Antonio, said her mother, Svitlana Tsalyk, is refusing to leave Ukraine even though at 60 she recently had an angioplasty. Bravo said her family has the money to bring her to the United States, but her mom is cooking and giving tea to Ukrainians who are fighting.

She lives in Kyiv along with her ex-husband.

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“I feel destroyed, I feel helpless,” Bravo said. “I need to help the other people because I hope they will protect Kyiv, protect Ukraine and hope those people will help people like my mom to stay alive.”

Khrystyuk has trouble falling asleep. She goes to bed around 2 am and awakens at 7.

“I have trouble and we’re working so hard to get things done,” she said. “There are so many people reaching out and coordinate the volunteers, trying to reach out to businesses to raise money, talking to people back home and trying to work with other organizations to figure out what is the best way to get things into Ukraine. There’s just so much going on. “

Lundblade, who left Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine 20 years ago to come to San Antonio, and still has friends and distant relatives there, called the war personal. She has close friends in Kharkiv, which she said is being bombed and shelled by the Russians every day.

“I’m angry and sad – sad because it happened to my friends and it happened to my country. My country is America, I live in America, but it’s happened to my homeland, ”she said, noting that she lived in Kharkiv for 30 years. “It was my beautiful city where I grew up, it was very beautiful, and everything’s destroyed. I don’t have a place to go to visit. “

sigc@express-news.net

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