Svitlana Elsbernd, wife of Jake Elsbernd, PharmD, a UNAC/UHCP Staff Rep based in Hawaii, recently shared her personal story to highlight why it’s important to support refugees fleeing the conflict zone in Ukraine. Svitalana is Ukrainian-American and a licensed nurse who will be graduating from the University of Hawaii-Manoa in May. Her home city of Kharviv has been heavily bombed.

“All my memories, prior to moving to the U.S. at 21 years old, are from Ukraine. My best friends back at school — we’re still in touch, now daily, because we’re just checking to see if people are still alive. Everything that I see coming out of Ukraine,I cannot fathom how these images are real. I lost eight pounds in the past 12 days. The whole invasion happened so quickly. My father didn’t want to leave. His take on it was, “My home, my castle. I’m not going to leave my apartment.” When the war happened at 4:50 a.m. on February 24, 2022 people who lived in the cities were asleep. My dad, who is 66, woke up in the morning to the sound of explosions. Day after day, it got worse and worse. Here in Hawaii, we started seeing videos of residential areas and Freedom Square, a park in my home city., that had been bombed

Just a couple of days ago, my dad was lucky enough to escape from the county; however, while leaving the city, he dodged a few explosions. He is now safe in Poland. On my two video calls was him, he couldn’t stop crying. And just for reference, I have seen my dad cry one time in my entire life and that was when Jake was asking for my hand in marriage. My dad couldn’t catch his breath because he was crying so hard. I know that all he is thinking about is that his home is destroyed and about his coworkers and his friends – some people are no longer responding to messaging chats. Now we’re just wondering: Did they run out of electricity or are they dead?

My dad was lucky. He has an active US visa from when he visited for our son’s first birthday. My grandparents went through World War II with German Nazis ruining their homes. My grandma used to say, “If things are not well yet, and it’s not the end, just keep fighting.” My dad was able to escape. It took him three days to travel across the country, and 15 hours of standing on the border. He is safe. Thinking of all the people who I know are still there and can’t get out, it just breaks my heart.”

Svitlana’s dad, Viktor, was reunited with his family on Tuesday, March 8. Thank you to the Elsberd family for sharing their story. If you would like to support the Ukrainian refugees, here are some links to organizations working to help Ukrainians. #HumansOfUNACUHCP #aid #standwithukraine #Ucrania #solidaritywithukraine💙💛 #SolidarityWithUkraine #peace #love #refugeewelcome #nowar

Links to organizations working to help Ukrainians:

International Union of Trade Confederation (@iutc_global): Ukrainian trade unions FPU and KVPU are providing support to families who desperately need assistance with food and water, essential supplies, & medical items.

Razom for Ukraine (@Razom.for.ukraine) focuses on providing critical medical supplies

People in Need (@peopleinneedcz) an NGO/nonprofit founded on ideas of humanism, freedom, equality, and solidarity.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) (@ifrc) is the world’s largest humanitarian network. All funds will be used to help those in need, affected by armed conflict, blood collection, mobilization of volunteers and resources, and emergency activities.

Caritas.Ukraine has worked in Ukraine since 1992, providing humanitarian assistance: clothing, footwear, winter assistance, and fuel

Nova Poshta provides humanitarian goods across Ukraine and abroad to support the army and territorial defense.