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A Plymouth woman turns helplessness into action for families in Ukraine

Anya Delendik created the nonprofit Extending Hands to Kids to help families in Ukraine with funerals, medical bills, food, or patching up partly destroyed homes.

MINNEAPOLIS — Anya Delendik smiles when she talks about her hometown, Mykolaiv, in Ukraine.

"It’s a very peaceful city," she said.  "There’s a big sense of community, people help each other," Delendik said.

Delendik spent 19 years there before moving to the U.S. She is now working in finance and has lived in Minnesota for more than five years. Delendik is currently residing in Plymouth.

But Delendik's entire family is still in Ukraine.

"My parents, my brother, his family and his wife two kids, my aunt, my cousins so everybody on my side is still in Ukraine, in Mykolaiv," she said.

Mykolaiv is in southern Ukraine. It sits on a river that leads into the Black Sea. It’s also on the way to a prime target for Russian troops.

"It's the city on the news right now that's being actively attacked and it looks like they're trying to go through my home city to Odesa," Delendik said.

The choice for her family to stay wasn’t an easy one. Delendik said she was the one to alert them about the attack, calling them around midnight here as the news was breaking. She said by the time her family thought to leave, bombs were dropping from the sky that made the trek to safety too dangerous. Delendik said her family is fortunate their home is still standing. They're mostly sheltering in the home for now but have to go underground when the sirens blare.

"You go through these situations where you're on the phone with them and they're like, 'Oh we need to run to a shelter,' or sirens and they just click and they go," Delendik said. "It’s nerve wracking, it’s really stressful."

It's because she knows with every passing day, her family could be hurt or killed. Delendik said they know some long-time friends who have already met that fate.

"There was another woman that my mom and aunt personally knew and she went out to go pick up her kid outside because she heard noises and she was hit by the debris of the missile and she got killed," she said. "I have been sitting here and I have mixed emotions, anger, helplessness, hope, faith." 

She also has many questions.

"So what about those people who got their home destroyed and have nowhere to go? What about people who have immediate funeral expenses? People who need to feed their kids?" she asked. "So I wanted to figure out how to close that gap and have an immediate impact on people in my hometown and help them."

Her GoFundMe campaign has so far raised more than $17,000. Delendik said she wanted to provide people with receipts so they knew 100% of their donations would go to people in Ukraine. She quickly started a nonprofit called Extending Hands to Kids. The goal is to help families and children directly without any bureaucracy or fraud. She wants to help Ukrainians who were unable to leave because it was too dangerous, or they didn't have the means by providing them funds for groceries or money to buy items like tarps to patch up their homes because they still need a place to shelter.  

She also wants to help with medical and funeral expenses. For example, Delendik said they have already sent funds to the father of a 12-year-old boy who had just come out of a coma. His sister and mother were killed. Delendik said the boy's father will use the money for rehabilitation for his son, other medical operations, and funeral costs for his wife and daughter.

But as long as this war continues, the needs for families still there will go up.

"I would never want it to happen to anybody I know, but it's happening to our kids and I call them our kids because I think every mother can relate," Delendik said. "It's horrifying, you can't imagine this is happening in real life and that's why it prompts you to act more than ever," she said.

You can find the link to her GoFundMe campaign here.

Watch more coverage of the developing conflict in Ukraine in our YouTube playlist: 

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