Local people support Ukrainians: ‘Makes me feel like I am doing something’

People with ties to the Dayton area are showing support for Ukrainian people in a variety of ways, from assisting refugees fleeing the worn-torn country to joining rallies here, to flying the blue and yellow flag outside their home.

Leah Harper, who recently graduated from Cedarville University, is living in Romania and is working with a church that runs a community center helping Ukrainians as they leave their country. She said she’s been doing anything she can to help.

“I’m providing food, doing dishes, cleaning rooms as people are coming and going,” she said.

Wednesday marked one week since Russia attacked Ukraine and began an invasion into the country. Many people are fleeing Ukraine and heading west. Romania is southwest of Ukraine.

The center where Harper works has a hotel that’s been turned into a transitional center where refugees can stay free. Harper, who studied social work, said she’s talked with the people, mostly women and children, to find out how she and others can help them as they seek safer conditions.

“When people first started showing up ... most of them were able to pay for the hotel and only stayed a night and were traveling west,” Harper said. “And now we are getting people who don’t have anywhere to go. They are not as rich, they are literally showing up with the clothes on their back and a passport.”

She said they have told stories of people sleeping in hallways because explosions are shaking windows and car alarms constantly going off because of bombs shaking the ground. She’s using her education from Cedarville to assist the refugees in their transition.

“One of the things my professor taught me was as social workers, we don’t have to have all the answers, we just need to ask the right questions. And using that skill has helped me build relationships with people from Ukraine and has allowed me to understand their situation better,” she said.

Supporting Ukrainians has become a priority for Oksana Knapp, a Ukraine native who lived in Huber Heights for a couple of years when she first moved to America. She said watching the Russian invasion has wrecked her nerves.

“I don’t sleep and don’t even eat. I just read the news and call my friends and family in Ukraine,” she said.

Knapp has participated in rallies to support Ukraine, like the one held Sunday in downtown Dayton. She also sent money to organizations helping Ukrainians and is collecting clothes and supplies to donate to Matthew 25 Ministries in Cincinnati, which will then ship it to Ukraine.

“That’s my little contribution and what I can do from this far away,” said Knapp, who now lives in Blanchester. “The only thing I can do is send money and help with packages. It makes me feel like I am doing something, which I understand it’s not the same as fighting in Ukraine.”

The Montgomery County Administration Building was lit up blue and yellow, the same color as the Ukrainian flag, this week in support of the country. A Montgomery County family is also flying a Ukrainian flag next to an American flag outside their home in Oakwood to show their support.

The resident said that they’ve worked overseas and have friends from Ukraine. She said they started flying the Ukrainian flag to show solidarity.

“My interaction with my friends who are from Ukraine, they are just really good people,” she said. “I have a friend right now who has a family member she hasn’t heard from yet; it just hits home.”

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