This article appeared in the July 18, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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In war, the call to help never ends

Courtesy of Anastasia Chukovskaya/
Ukrainian refugees who have been supported by gift certificates for food share pictures of what they have purchased. Many refugees have struggled to maintain a steady food supply.

Anastasia Chukovskaya understands the challenges that Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion face. As you may recall from a piece I wrote in April, she and her husband, Russians who live in Budapest, Hungary, leaped into action to help refugees arriving in their city with little idea what to do next. 

I checked in with her over the weekend, and it's clear they’ve stayed busy. Ms. Chukovskaya’s persistence has helped many families find shelter and resulted in the Learning Without Borders school that supports 60 Ukrainian students, 15 Ukrainian teachers, and 10 Hungarian staff members. Now, she’s tackling a new challenge: providing food to struggling refugees.

“It makes me so stunned that there are food-deprived people,” she says. “I can’t believe food can be such an issue in such a time.”

Thus her new effort: Refugee applications speak to the need – the family in Mariupol who lived with their baby in a basement for a month after their apartment was burned down, the older couple who fled a town occupied by Russians. One woman wants to work, but can’t leave her adult son, who has a disability, alone.

Ms. Chukovskaya works with whomever she can – small nongovernmental organizations, large aid groups, businesses whose employees run donation drives. Hurdles loom large: minimal state aid, bureaucratic restrictions, overwhelming demand, even public perceptions about favoring foreigners over poor Hungarians. “There is a shop which gives us supplies in several cities, but they are not public about it,” she says.

Yet as of this week, her organization has fed 1,000 people. “I would love it to be 10,000 to 20,000,” she says. 

Indeed, as she looks to the winter, her focus is on scaling up – and she’s persisting in keeping refugees’ needs in the public eye as the war grinds on. So she and her colleagues crowdfund and cajole, tapping any contacts she can think of, anywhere. “I am a network builder,” she says. “My friends say, ‘This is how social capital works.’ I am very fortunate in that sense.”

She worries the war feels like “old news” to many people now. “But I also have had messages asking, ‘Is it too late to help?’ Every day brings a lot of disappointment, but also brings a lot of support.

“I see I should go where the need is urgent.”

This article appeared in the July 18, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 07/18 edition
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