Local Resident of Ukrainian Descent Helps War-Weary Ukrainians

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(Courtesy of Sari Heyman)
Sari Heyman, in a parking lot in Poland, after stocking up on food and toiletry items urgently needed by Ukrainian refugees. Her family left Ukraine two generations ago, so her effort, which was partially funded by her Orinda neighbors, is especially personal.

    Moraga native and now Orinda resident, Sari Heyman, recently began her effort to reach out and help desperate Ukrainians. It started with a GoFundMe page which earned more than $12,000 –much of that coming from her Orinda neighbors.
    After receiving the donations, Heyman went to Krakow, Poland, to volunteer and buy much-needed goods for the neighboring Ukrainians.
    For Heyman, this was a deeply personal journey.
    “My grandfather, Harry, left a small village in Western Ukraine in the early 1900s. He eventually came to New York and brought his entire immediate family over,” Heyman said. She sadly recounted the Nazi’s massacred all the Jews in that small village in 1941.
    “I was obsessively reading the news and listening to the reports about the Russian invasion. I just couldn’t stop following it. If my family had somehow survived in place during World War II, I could just as easily be one of those people fleeing right now. I kept on thinking I would have wanted people to help me,” said Heyman.
    She shared her desire to help with her husband, Jeff Heyman, who used to be a United Nations Peacekeeper.
    “I feel like I want to go,” she told him.
    Her husband said, “You should.”
    After researching online, she fortuitously found the Multicultural Center in Krakow, noting their desperate need for volunteers and funds. After she chatted with neighbors, the GoFundMe page was up and running and donations began to pour in.
    “Our neighbors down the street set it off. They were the first donors. They suggested I write to our [other] neighbors,” she said. “So, some of the most significant donors were our neighbors, and then their community of connections – and then it became like six degrees of separation.”
    “I think I was all the more surprised by how much our neighbors supported this effort because we were relatively new here, but it didn’t seem to matter to anyone,” added Heyman.
    Armed with the funds, Sari spent two weeks in Poland helping.
    While there, Heyman volunteered with aforementioned Multicultural Center in Krakow, which runs Szafa Dobra (Good Wardrobe) and other centers that dispense clothing, medicines and home supplies to refugees.
    “They’re really amazing, and they work in concert with the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Krakow which was also doing amazing work. The funds that we raised also went to the JCC, which has a food and medicine distribution point,” said Heyman.
    When she asked the clothing distribution center’s coordinator what they needed the most, she said their response was surprising yet practical – underwear.
    “Most of their clothes are donated, but they don’t accept donated underwear,” said Heyman. “So, I said if someone can take me shopping, I would love to, you know, buy underwear.”
    The coordinator immediately put her in touch with two local volunteers, and they set out to a store.
    “We went and literally cleaned them out of underwear!” she said.
    Heyman also shopped to help the center stock up on food and toiletries for the refugees and also went to pharmacies to get medicine.
    She explained these organizations in Poland are individual efforts and, despite the help from governments, organizations and individual volunteers from across the world, they desperately need more support.
    “They really, really need our help,” said Heyman. “We have to step up. We can’t expect them to shoulder this burden by themselves.”
    For more information, visit Heyman’s GoFundMe page at http://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ukrainian-refugees-in-krakow.

David Fonseca can be reached at davef52@gmail.com.

(Sari Heyman, Photographer)
Polish volunteers (L-R) Paulina Zatorska and Katarzyna Pracuch helped Orinda resident Sari Heyman (not in photo) stock up on underwear urgently needed by Ukrainian refugees. The ladies dubbed the loaded car “the bra mobile.” Heyman traveled to Poland to aid the refugees last month. Her family left Ukraine two generations ago, so her effort, which was partially funded by her Orinda neighbors, is especially personal.

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