Originally aired/published on Action News Jax. Click image to watch full segment.
By Stephanie Bennett
Jacksonville, Fla. – As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, there are calls to action across the United States to do more to help Ukrainians. Voices are getting louder here in Jacksonville, too.
Every day gets harder for Olha Sokalska as Russia continues to invade her home country. Many of her friends and family are still overseas -- including her niece who is hiding with two small children.
“I hope to see her alive. They cannot go out. They’re afraid because all the time, shootings,” Sokalska told Action News Jax.
She shared a message her niece sent her yesterday:
“The town is surrounded by the Russian troops. We have a little food. We are cold. The tanks are roaming the town back and forth. There are corpses lined everywhere.”
People across the United States are protesting the violence, demanding the government do more to bring peace to Ukraine. “Even maybe some people from Ukraine can get a visa and come to the US,” Sokalska suggested.
While the Biden Administration has yet to announce the US will take in Ukrainian refugees, today congressional leaders agreed to provide $13.6 billion to help Ukraine and European allies. The administration has also granted temporary protection status to Ukrainians already in the US -- allowing them to work here for the next 18 months.
“We stand ready, and we are prepared as much as we can be,” Catholic Charities Jacksonville’s regional director Lori Weber said.
According to Weber, Catholic Charities in Jacksonville has settled 49 Ukrainian refugees since 2019. Now the organization is preparing up for at least 35 refugees in the coming weeks.
“It’s what we’re here for. I mean, this is our mission and has been for years. It’s being able to assist individuals in these crisis situations that none of us could ever imagine I think unless you’ve actually experienced it yourself,” Weber explained.
Sokalska’s heart goes out to everyone in Ukraine. “It’s like all of Ukraine right now becomes my relatives,” she said. Sokalska thanks God she and her family are safe.
Catholic Charities needs more donations for families including furniture, clothes, and toiletries. The organization says people are welcome to volunteer their time assembling furniture, organizing donations, and setting up homes, too. You can get involved at ccbjax.org.
Smaller pieces of furniture and other donations can be dropped off at 134 E. Church Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Donors can arrange for larger pieces of furniture to be picked up through Catholic Charities’ website.