How Australians raised money to help elderly Ukrainian woman escape war

How Australians raised money to help elderly Ukrainian woman escape war

When war broke out in Ukraine, Svetlana Ward felt helpless watching from the other side of the world in her small town on the NSW Mid North Coast.

She was terrified for her elderly mother, who refused to leave her home in a village on the outskirts of Kyiv.

The eighty-year-old Valentina -- half Russian, half Ukrainian -- who lived through the fall of the Soviet Union could not accept that Russia had unleashed a full-scale invasion of her home.

Like a lot of older people, she did not believe that Russia could attack like this, Svetlana said.

Valentina, recently widowed and with both daughters living overseas, did not have the means or desire to leave on her own.

We were begging her to go, Svetlana said.

She told us who would be interested in a tiny village with only a few people and no infrastructure? But then they started bombing everything. Valentina decided it was time to leave, but all routes to Kyiv had already been cut off due to attacks on homes, hospitals and schools.

With Svetlana in Australia and other family spread across Europe, it seemed there was no hope for Valentina to escape.

In a happy accident, Svetlana found a young man working for the Territorial Defence Forces who planned to evacuate his mother from the same village.

She said that she asked him to take our mum too. He agreed.

All mum took was her passport, medication, money, and a few clothes.

Svetlana and her family managed to find several other volunteers to drive Valentina to Lviv and then to the Polish border, where Svetlana's sister and niece were waiting.

When mum arrived at the Polish border, it was still a 300 m queue and a long wait it was very hard for her, Svetlana said.

She nearly fell unconscious a number of times, but she did it.

To stay or to go.

Valentina's family took her from Poland to Luxembourg and finally to Cyprus where she is living with her daughter.

We can breathe now because mum is safe, but there are still so many people left there, Svetlana said.

The stress of leaving is too much for a lot of people my daughter's friend and two-year-old child escaped to stay with her in Berlin.

When she arrived, her friend had a stroke, and is now in the hospital and my daughter is looking after the child, Svetlana said.

Svetlana is raising funds to support her mother escapes danger in Ukraine, with immense gratitude for the volunteers who helped her mother escape from danger.

Her small community of Rollands Plains, located 20 km west of Port Macquarie, came together to raise money and show their support.

Around 40 people came to our fundraiser, Svetlana said.

They did a raffle, some donated eggs, one girl made 50 bottles of kombucha, some brought plants and cakes to sell. It was just unbelievable. Some people were even in tears when they felt they did it from the heart. They are so far away from what is happening but they still feel it. It brings together people from all over the world. They raised $2,500 which will go straight to the Territorial Defence Forces through a bank account set up by Svetlana and her husband to send money to Ukraine.

She said I feel so blessed to live here in this community that cares so much.