February will mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Current estimates say 7,000 civilians have been killed in the year since, including about 400 children.
Rogers City resident Boyd Byelich has made it his mission over the last year to help Ukrainians, from starting One Box for Ukraine – which collects clothing items for Ukrainians – to going overseas three times to help.
Byelich says his most recent trip was the most eye-opening.
“The group I was with targeted smaller villages because it seemed no relief had gotten to these smaller places. It all went to the big cities,” Byelich says.
Byelich spent the holiday season distributing clothing, toys and food to Ukrainians who no longer have a place to call home.
“One of them in particular, Kupiańsk, was 80% destroyed. Nine out of ten homes were destroyed. The school was blown up, and all kinds of destroyed military equipment were lying around. You couldn’t step off the road or the sidewalk because of landmines,” explained Byelich.
One of Byelich’s other stops was Kherson, a town that’s been a frequent target of Russian forces.
“The people in these villages acted like nobody had been there before. They just couldn’t believe that we were there,” says Byelich. “They’re all older people, the young people are gone, and they just endure, they’re just determined to keep on. They’ve almost learned to live with all of the shelling and the missiles.”
Byelich said the biggest difference between visiting in the summer and now is how much stronger the will of the Ukrainian people has become.
“They keep restoring their electrical grid, gas lines and running water. Two days later, they get hit with a missile, and they just go back out and fix it again,” explained Byelich. “So, in my mind, in a sense, they’ve already been victorious because the Russians are not. They cannot kill the will of the people.”
Byelich plans on going back to Ukraine in six weeks.
He has sent 220 boxes of clothing but says Ukrainians are still in need.
If you want to donate clothes or money to ship boxes .
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