GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A Greensboro woman is helping hundreds of people leaving Ukraine for Hungary amid continued Russian attacks.
Alina Spaulding is serving as a Russian-speaking volunteer for The Jewish Federations of North America in Budapest, assisting families as they leave their homes and cross the border.
“People are kind of coming in seven at a time, 12 at a time. We’re told that next week there might be another substantial influx like there might be 1,000 people or something like that,” she said.
Spaulding has assisted in the consulate and a hotel housing refugees.
“The needs here are really, really complex, and there’s a lot of them. There are medical needs. There are people with special needs here like people are blind or deaf and need some assistance. There are people in wheelchairs that need to get around town or might need medical care. There are people running out of insulin…there are people traveling with pets, and they’re running out of cat food,” Spaulding explained.
She recalled connecting with a cancer patient who was making the grueling journey alone.
“I said ‘who have you left behind?’ And she said ‘I left behind my son and my daughter and my husband and my father. I came completely on my own, and I waited to get on the bus until I was done with my chemo, and I got on the bus with my one suitcase and a bag in case I should get sick on the bus,’” Spaulding said.
She decided to volunteer after seeing images of the devastation in Kharkiv, her hometown.
“I myself was a child refugee, and I was rescued from the former Soviet Union, from the city of Kharkiv in the 1970s,” she explained. “As soon as the war broke out my heart was kind of already back here.”
Spaulding is now volunteering with the same agency that helped her family through a seven-month emigration process.
“The other thing that makes this so emotional is that as you’ve probably heard there’s a lot of women with children, and there’s a lot of women with five and six and seven-year-old children, and so I came here as a volunteer, but I also keep reminding that I have to bring my five-year-old self to it and make that journey just a little bit less scary,” she said.
Volunteers are planning a Passover Seder for families unable to be at home for the holiday.
“Whether it’s the Jewish holiday of Passover or the Christian holiday of Easter or the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, all the messages there are messages of freedom, revelation, redemption, and I just feel like all those things are close in my heart right now,” Spaulding said.
She said more aid will be needed in the coming months along with additional Russian-speaking volunteers.
“We are hearing stories that just don’t feel like they should be happening in today’s day and age. They’re heart-wrenching. They’re powerful. Some are extremely hopeful about neighbors taking in elderly people and caring for them,” she said.
So far, The Jewish Federations of North America has raised more than $40 million for Ukrainian aid.