“We don’t ask each other how we’re doing,” says Maryna Baydyuk, president of United Help Ukraine. “All of us have connections to Ukraine. We know the sons on the front lines defending our country against Putin’s aggression, and we know the mothers who stayed behind to supply the defenders. Asking how someone is doing risks making someone say they lost someone they loved.”
United Help Ukraine’s members have always drawn strength from their connections to their home country that today feel threatened by war. The group was founded by Ukrainian immigrants at protests outside the White House against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine had no army to speak of at the time, few lifesaving medical supplies, and not even enough uniforms. Combat casualties were high from blood loss, and internally displaced people needed help fleeing Crimea and the Donbas to escape Russian aggression.
Ukrainians on the other side of the world saw this need and began sending aid to help their compatriots flee the war and reestablish normal lives. This network became United Help Ukraine, and between 2017 and 2022, its focus changed to supporting medical establishments that helped veterans and wounded soldiers with physical and mental health services. Today, it is an international logistics operation and an emblem of Putin’s miscalculation that the Ukrainian people would fold to the Russian army quickly. As it turned out, the opposite was true: United Help Ukraine grew overnight, as soon as the first Russian boots crossed the border.
“We got boxes of checks ranging from five dollars to $1 million,” Maryna recalls. “In total, we’ve raised more than $36 million since February 24, 2022, and all of it is committed to supporting the men and women defending Ukraine and those suffering from Russian aggression.”
United Help Ukraine’s relationships with medical providers and its supply network to the front lines of the war in the Donbas, established over eight years of ongoing war, enabled it to be one of the first organizations on the ground with aid when Putin launched his broader offensive. Their first cargo shipment went out on February 28—just four days after Putin ordered his military to undertake the first ground war in Europe since World War II—and that was just the start. Maryna explains that United Help Ukraine had to create an international logistics operation on a scale they never imagined, much less had any real experience managing, to meet the needs of Ukrainian resistance fighters.
They did it in the span of two weeks. Skilled attorneys helped them get licensed through export controls and obtain other permissions from the Bureau of Industry and Security to begin shipping cargo to Ukraine. Velox International-Nova Poshta and Ukraine Express provided shipping services that moved cargo from the U.S. to the front lines of the war.
Amalgamated Bank provided safekeeping for the precious financial resources that United Help Ukraine channels to the soldiers fighting to protect their home country.
“Receiving a check for $1 million is surreal,” Maryna says. “But what sticks with me are the times when kids come to us with money from their piggy banks, money they earned from lemonade stands and odd jobs, and say they want it to help the people of Ukraine. It gives me hope—it gives our resistance hope.”
On March 22, ten tons of medical equipment arrived in Kharkiv from the United Help Ukraine warehouse in New Jersey, just as Russian forces began shelling the area. Volunteers rushed to secure the delivery from the assault. They formed a pass-along line to move supplies from the truck to the warehouse as shells and bombs fell around them, knowing they were securing not just much-needed aid for their soldiers but also hope for the Ukrainian people.
“Volunteers see what the donations mean in the eyes of soldiers. They see that the equipment that comes from the U.S. helps them survive, and these reports give us hope and reason to keep working,” Maryna says.
As Putin’s war machine grinds on, United Help Ukraine hasn’t wavered from its mission. If fact, the group is expanding to provide aid to civilians, refugees, and internally displaced people who need food and shelter. United Help Ukraine’s supply lines mean it can deliver aid and supplies within two weeks of shipment.
Amalgamated Bank is proud to be a banking partner to United Help Ukraine.