At a secure location far from the frontlines, but still within striking distance of Russian hypersonic missiles and suicide drones, a warehouse complex in Lviv receives, stores, and ships vital humanitarian supplies to ease the suffering from Putin’s war of genocide. Most of those provisions originated in Milwaukee before starting their long journey to Ukraine.
A handful of volunteers at the Lviv warehouse hub, working with Milwaukee-based Friends of Be an Angel, has been responsible for the distribution of well over 10,000 tons of materials across the war-torn country since early 2022.
“It means so much to be working around the clock, under extremely difficult and stressful circumstances, to know that our team is full of so many dedicated individuals. We came together to help the people of Ukraine, and the ability to support each other makes our efforts sustainable,” said Anya Verkhoskaya, director of Friends of Be an Angel. “But I think the most difficult part for many of us is making decisions about how to distribute the aid.”
It is a daily job, with little sleep and even less public recognition due to security. While the facility has escaped damage, it was hit by a Russian missile strike earlier this year.
Managing the monument task of logistics was born out of necessity to ensure that food, medicine, and daily necessities for thousands of women, children, and the most vulnerable across Ukraine reached the areas of need – often in occupied territories.
Ivanka, Valentina, and Misha are responsible for tracking incoming shipments, organizing volunteers to pack palettes, documenting outgoing deliveries, and keeping communications open at every step of the process – until goods are received at their final destination. That pipeline of aid usually begins in Milwaukee.
One of the warehouse partnerships also includes the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA). The Chicago chapter has already successfully taken two cargo flights with 100 tons of medical equipment to Ukraine, through the pipeline in Poland for distribution from the Lviv hub.
That included $2 million dollars worth of portable power generators to help Ukrainian families and hospitals survive the winter months, after Russia weaponized the cold to terrorize and inflict hardships across the nation.
In early 2022, Russian forces destroyed nearly 85% of the buildings in Moshchun, about 20 miles from the capital of Kyiv. The nearby city of Irpin, Milwaukee’s Sister City, was left in even greater ruin after its liberation. Rotary districts around the world have donated more than 60 prefabricated homes to Moshchun and other Ukrainian communities. The “tiny homes” are just 20 feet by 23 feet, small enough to be hoisted into place by a crane. They have refrigerators, beds, and bathrooms with toilets and showers. They are also fully insulated and have electric heating panels.
Verkhovskaya hopes the Lviv warehouse can become a critical hub for the expansion of that program, as the housing needs of displaced families across Ukraine grow every night that Russia randomly targets a residential building.
“We envision a program where Rotarians adopt a city block, a village, a school, or a hospital,” said Verkhovskaya, who is also a member of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee. “Help from all over is going to where it is most needed, and that will continue because every time we put out a fire in one community Russia drops bombs on another. But when Ukraine is able to reallocate resources for rebuilding, a concentrated focus will be required. An ‘adopt a block’ program that focuses on one area at a time will accelerate that process, and Rotary Clubs are already leading the way.”
Series: Return to Ukraine
- Return to Ukraine: A trauma loop of travel from Milwaukee to a country still at war a year later
- From Weddings to War: How Kostiantyn and Vlada Liberov photograph Ukraine's daily horrors
- Being Friends of Angels: The Milwaukee nonprofit saving lives and offering hope in Ukraine
- Mayors of Milwaukee and Irpin expand Sister City cooperation after visit by nonprofit delegation
- Interview with Tom Barrett: U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg reflects on forging ties with Irpin
- Wisconsin Ukrainians host annual fundraising picnic to support homeland on 500th day of war
- Advanced Wireless to donate 840 access points to rebuild Irpin's citywide Wi-Fi network
- Children of Irpin begin planning mural for Mitchell Airport to showcase Sister City friendship
- Irpin is not forgotten: Residents thank Milwaukee Independent for reporting on their "Hero City"
- Milwaukee photojournalist on assignment in Kyiv during July 2 Russian drone strike targeting civilians
- Russian cruise missile attack kills residents far from front lines in Western Ukraine city of Lviv
- Ukraine arrests man accused of directing Russian ballistic missile strike on Kramatorsk pizza parlor
- Milwaukee offers Ukrainian refugee family life-saving treatment for son's genetic condition
- Nikita Pirnach: Irpin student hopes to help his country after finishing education in Milwaukee
- Sick children wait for overseas medical treatments as a new generation is born in Ukraine during war
- Iryna Suslova: The superwoman saving Ukrainian children abducted by Russia
- How a group of Ukrainian mothers, wives, and daughters are distributing vital humanitarian aid
- Freeing Freddie: Educational program aims to reduce PTSD for Ukraine's war-weary children
- The trauma of living: When being killed is the preferred choice to being disfigured from battle
- President Zelenskyy offers gratitude and awards to wounded soldiers while visiting Lviv Hospital
- Former Vice President Mike Pence visits Irpin during unannounced campaign trip to Kyiv
- Military Hospitals provide vital care for Ukrainian soldiers in need of hope and healing
- Combat surgeons pioneer advances in maxillofacial reconstruction of Ukraine's injured heroes
- Milwaukee donors cover cost of reconstructive surgery for American volunteer wounded in battle
- In their own words: Listening to the Voices of Children talk about their experiences from war
- Traumatized by War: Children of Ukraine carry on after losing parents, homes, and innocence
- Widespread Torture: U.N. report documents Russia's systematic executions of Ukrainian civilians
- Wisconsin volunteers sort and pack donated medical supplies for use in Ukraine's hospitals
- Lviv warehouse serves as vital link in medical supply chain from Milwaukee to frontlines
- Aid from Milwaukee is providing internally displaced people in Ukraine with food and clothing
- Iryna Pletnyova: How the city of Uman transformed into a hub for refugees fleeing war
- Bombs in the night: Why children in Uman are still traumatized by Russia's missile attack
- School Bunkers: When a national flag becomes a memorial to dead Ukrainian students
- Hasidic life in Uman: A journey across Ukraine to the Tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
- Tetiana Storozhko: Being a witness to the history of Roma culture in Ukraine
- Remembering Oskar Schindler: A photojournalist’s diary from the streets of Jewish Kraków
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.