Ukrainian UT student starts a movement to help her country | Community

Alona Matchenko is a law student, daughter and sister. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 20, it has taken on a new title.

“I felt like my DNA changed that day. I am not a militant by nature,” Matchenko said of February 20, the day Ukraine was attacked by Russia.

Matchenko led a March 3 rally at the University of Toledo where 380 people demonstrated. That day, his parents and siblings were evacuated from their home near the Russian border.

Matchenko is building an organization to help Ukrainians, many of whom are now refugees.

Matchenko is a second-year law student.

“My family managed to escape,” she said of her mother, stepfather and two younger siblings. “It was very stressful. They were shocked to have to leave everything they had.

Like many Ukrainians, they do not own a car.

“They couldn’t get to the border by car, but kind people, whom I consider a miracle from God, took them,” Matchenko said. “They were so paralyzed with fear. There are a lot of people out there who are dealing with the same feelings.

She still has extended family in Ukraine, including aunts, cousins ​​and her 80-year-old grandmother.

His organization is called Toledo Helps Ukraine. Its goals are to raise awareness of the human toll of the war with Russia, raise funds and supplies for Ukrainian citizens, and ease immigration and asylum restrictions for Ukrainian refugees.

“There are many people in countries bordering Ukraine, like my family, whose lives are in limbo. The government is doing what it can, but these people have no jobs, no money, no anything. They don’t just have the finances to move with their kids,” she said.

Matchenko addressed Perrysburg Council on March 1.

“My goal is to raise awareness and help in any way I can,” she said at the town hall meeting.

Councilman Tim McCarthy, an attorney with the Toledo law firm Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, said Mayor Tom Mackin approached him for help.

He helped facilitate the process of establishing Toledo Helps Ukraine as a non-profit organization with 501C3 status. The firm also advises Matchenko on best business practices.

“The money does not go directly to people. It’s very formalized. That’s why we’re working with the attorneys at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick,” Matchenko said.

“The bureaucratic aspect of this is going to take a long time, but we’ve seen a huge response from northwest Ohio. People are volunteering and looking for ways to help. It’s very inspiring. It makes me proud of the place I call home now,” she said.

Matchenko came to the United States almost six years ago as part of a US government cultural exchange program.

“I was trying to escape the pro-Russian government in 2015,” Matchenko said. “I was in Kyiv and my apartment was 20 minutes away from the violent actions that were taking place there. Also, my classmates were part of this protest and they were shot.

Kiev is the capital of Ukraine and the largest city. The population was 3 million before the current war with Russia.

The incident she refers to is called the Heavenly Hundred, when an estimated 128 people were killed in protests in 2013 and 2014.

“Ukrainians are not going to surrender and lose their freedoms to Russian-backed aggressors,” Matchenko said.

Today, she and her Napoleon-born husband operate a small business in Perrysburg Township. They also have a daughter. Matchenko is also in the process of applying for full citizenship.

Since the March 3 rally, the group has asked for 50 volunteers to sign up to help, but Matchenko says more are needed. There are now millions of refugees and their numbers continue to grow.

More information can be found on the Toledo Helps Ukraine Facebook page and emails can be sent to [email protected] A website is being created.

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