Return to Ukraine: This feature is part of an original Milwaukee Independent editorial series that recorded news from areas across Ukraine, including Milwaukee's sister city of Irpin, from June to July of 2023. It was the second time in the span of a year that the award-winning Wisconsin news organization traveled to the country during the war. The purpose of this journalism project was to document a humanitarian aid mission by the Milwaukee-based nonprofit, Friends of Be an Angel, and report about conditions 17 months after Russia's brutal full-scale invasion.

Friends of Be an Angel, a Milwaukee-based charity, spent several weeks in Ukraine between June and July. One of the organization’s objectives was to bring humanitarian aid from Wisconsin to people who were forced to flee their homes because of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

One part of the initiative aimed to provide essential support to displaced individuals and families who lost their clothing during evacuations, and extend assistance to vulnerable children affected by trauma from the ongoing war.

Earlier in June, Friends of Be an Angel arranged a “sort and pack” of vital supplies, in cooperation with Dr. Douglas Davis and the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA). Those medical items were loaded from Milwaukee into cargo containers for shipping to the organization’s secure warehouse in Lviv.

For the trip to Ukraine, members of the charitable nonprofit brought 10 cargo bags of highly valuable and urgently need items. Because all airspace over Ukraine is closed to commercial traffic, travelers must fly to Poland and cross the border into Ukraine by vehicle. As Friends of Be an Angel made that journey from Krakow, the delegation picked up additional supplies donated by Polish aid organizations.

The humanitarian aid consisted predominantly of medical supplies for hospitals, but also included a wide range of items for displaced people like clothing, hygiene kits, toys, and educational materials for children.

Food security has also been a problem for a war-weary population under occupation by an enemy invader. Faith communities are among the organizations inside Ukraine donating their time and materials to make sure people who are hungry get fed.

A congregation in the rural city of Volodymyr is one example of how members of the faith community are working to provide nourishment to those facing hunger.

Volodymyr’s faith community is focused on supporting both refugees and their courageous soldiers stationed on the frontlines. By preparing and delivering meals, the congregation hopes to alleviate some of the burdens faced by those individuals, in addition to sending them a message of hope.

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Series: Return to Ukraine

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Milwaukee Independent has reported on Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine since it began on February 24, 2022. In May of 2022, Milwaukee Independent was the first news organization from Wisconsin to report from Milwaukee’s Sister City of Irpin after its liberation. That work has since been recognized with several awards for journalistic excellence. Between late June and early July of 2023, Milwaukee Independent staff returned to Ukraine for a second assignment to report on war after almost a year. The editorial team was embedded with a Milwaukee-based nonprofit, Friends of Be an Angel, on a humanitarian aid mission across Ukraine. For several weeks, Milwaukee Independent documented the delivery of medical supplies to military and civilian hospitals, and was a witness to historic events of the war as they unfolded.

Return to Ukraine: Reports about a humanitarian mission from Milwaukee after a year of war