Local woman desperate to help family in Ukraine receives outpouring of support from community
IDAHO FALLS — Svitlana Miller cried herself to sleep Saturday night when she saw the overwhelming amount of people who responded to assist those in Ukraine.
The Idaho Falls woman was born in Ukraine and has lived in the U.S. for 21 years. She’s been worried sick about her family members in Kyiv since news of the Russian invasion last week.
“My grandma called this morning and there’s been a bomb really close by and her house is shaking,” Miller tells EastIdahoNews.com. “She said it felt like an earthquake.”
She tried convincing her cousins to escape to Poland when she learned the neighboring country was accepting refugees, but they described a scene in which cars were lined at the border for 25 miles. Most of the gas stations in the area are out of fuel and waiting around out in the open puts them at risk of being bombed.
“Russian missiles are flying and so to me, going to the border from the capital — Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, he just posted that you can’t really leave Kyiv right now. It’s surrounded. Those who are leaving … are really taking a leap of faith,” she says.
Worried about her family’s safety and feeling helpless, Miller asked her family members what their needs were.
The United States provided weapons, bulletproof vests, helmets and other equipment the week before, which ensured the Ukrainians were well-equipped to defend themselves as the invasion got underway. Now, the most requested thing among her family members and many others in their community was first aid kits and related items so they could care for their wounded.
“They also needed walkie-talkies and drones,” says Miller. “These drones have saved more lives than any bulletproof vest or weapon because they scout out the enemy and are able to see them coming. They’re so outnumbered. They use these drones that people from other countries have donated.”
Her husband, Darin, is a nuclear engineer at the Idaho National Laboratory and had access to a plane. Together, the couple started looking for ways to get these items to the Ukrainians. Svitlana put out a call on Facebook around 4 p.m. Saturday for humanitarian items and people responded in droves.
Melaleuca got wind of it and within a few hours, contributed ointment and antibacterial cream to the cause. Melaleuca contacted area hospitals, who donated trauma-type first aid and suture kits, Tylenol, Ibuprofen and other pain relief medication, combat-style knee pads and Instant Ice cold packs.
Other people and organizations provided several thousand dollars worth of drones.
By the end of the day, tens of thousands of dollars worth of aid had been donated from the community.
“I sent a message to the boys that are fighting and they said, ‘We are passing the pictures around of the drones and people coming in to donate and none of us could stop crying. We were so blown away that people across the ocean would do this for us. Just to see these pictures kept us going,'” Svitlana explains.
All the items were loaded onto the plane and around 4 p.m. Sunday, Darin took off to help deliver the items to Ukraine. He arrived in western Europe Monday afternoon. For security reasons, we are not disclosing specifics, but Darin and others are working to get these items to the Ukrainians.
“We support Ukraine in the fight for freedom! Melaleuca was honored to donate first aid supplies to support the brave men and women who are defending their homes,” Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said in a statement to EastIdahoNews.com. “We reached out to ask for support, and each one of them – Mountain View Hospital, Idaho Falls Community Hospital, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Intermountain Anesthesia, and Bingham Memorial – delivered lifesaving supplies within 90 minutes on a Saturday night. Their response was sincere, immediate, and generous. This is yet another example that demonstrates how our community comes together to do good where good is needed.”
As Svitlana has watched the response play out, she is overwhelmed. She feels inadequate in expressing her gratitude and remains concerned for her loved ones in Ukraine. She’s praying for the safe return of her husband.
“It’s hard to eat. I’m sweating. I’m changing shirts all the time because I’m so stressed. To watch your family go through this is devastating. The streets (I’ve) grown up on are lit on fire. It’s awful,” she says. “I’m blown away by people’s willingness to help and come together.”
If you’d like to make a contribution, Svitlana is still accepting donations through her Venmo account. You can send a payment to @Sveta-Miller.
Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: EastIdahoNews.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.