Ukrainian Humanity Center

by | Apr 20, 2023 | Other News

The moms and kids in July that inspired the group to form the non-profit.

In the summer of 2022, I took a Holocaust study trip to Poland, which I spoke about at Ohef Sholom and wrote about in the Jewish News. That article closed with the fact that I was working with some of my fellow travelers to “do something” for the Ukrainian mothers and children whose escape and survival stories we were lucky enough to hear in person on our trip. So, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s, “the rest of the story.”

By September, five of us knew we must help these families. Of course, we could give money, as many of you have through United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and other organizations doing great things for Ukraine and its war-weary citizens. But we wanted to do something more personal. After much discussion, we decided to start a non-profit that would assist these women and those like them with their many needs, as they continued to live in a foreign land, not speaking the language, without their husbands and fathers who were back home fighting the invading Russian army, and not even knowing if they would even have a home to return to. My partners in this venture include Joanna Millick, our Polish American tour guide, Breeze Dahlberg and Rachel Barrett, two sisters whose grandmother survived Birkenau, and Alyse Young, an ER nurse.
 After much discussion, the Ukrainian Humanity Center was born, and our first mission was to show the moms and their kids how much we cared. As everyone except me was in the Seattle area, we applied for our business license in the state of Washington. Even as we awaited approvals from the state and our 501(c)3 designation from the IRS, we began fundraising. A generous San Francisco nonprofit that shares our values, the Step Forward Initiative, let our donors give to them, as they were already established with the IRS, and they passed the donations directly to us. This allowed us to plan and host two special holiday events in December. We raised funds and went about purchasing and col-lecting toys, Ukrainian language children’s books, and holiday treats. In addition, one donor provided dozens of packets of freeze-dried homemade soups to be delivered to the soldiers that our families had left behind in Ukraine.
Millick, our Polish American partner, took eight suitcases full of items, and Tetiana, our Polish director in Warsaw, planned and hosted a holiday party for the families. With decorations, delicious foods, a photographer to give them visual reminders of a much-needed happy memory, and even a live bunny for the children to play with, we saw the first smiles in many months for some of these children. (Photos are on our Facebook page.)
UHC has been growing organically since it was a mere idea, so when a chance encounter in Warsaw connected Millick to an American couple there doing similar aid and rescue work, we mined the connections. We learned of Angelika, a blind and disabled Ukrainian teenage escapee, whose mother was pushing her in a baby stroller because she could not afford an appropriate wheelchair. After initially pledging to provide funds to purchase her a wheelchair, we learned that there was a surgery that could enable her to walk again. UHC sponsored the surgery, and it was a success. When she comes out of bilateral casts, she will have physical therapy to walk again!
Our sources at a foundation in Lodz told us of a Ukrainian orphan named Veronika, whose parents had been killed in the bombing that injured her. She was pulled from the rubble, and needed extensive physical therapy, which a German foundation had offered to provide if she could be transported there. UHC looked to help provide funds for her travel.
Since it has now been over a year, and they have not been able to go back home, “our moms” are struggling to make ends meet in the country that welcomed them as they fled the war. Many are professional women caring for their children, and sometimes aging parents who crossed the border with them, and they are working as manicurists and hotel maids because they do not speak Polish. In February we began providing language lessons over Zoom to many of these moms and teenagers to boost their Polish and English language skills, enabling them to find better paying work. When they still cannot meet all their expenses, we attempt to provide supplemental rent assistance.
In the last few weeks, Ukrainian Humanity Center has also joined forces with a nonprofit based in Nashville that has direct contact with soldiers in Kharkiv, and as well as the forces fighting to hold Bakhmut. We are deploying some of the funds we raise to send badly needed medical supplies, like field tourniquets and bandages, to these soldiers literally at the front line, trying to save their democratic country.
In a community that does so much for others, working with Ukrainian Humanity Center is an honor and a privilege. Please find us and share the news about our efforts at
-Elena Barr Baum