Local woman reconnects with father in Ukraine and shares what she saw during her trip
IDAHO FALLS – Until just a few weeks ago, Svitlana Miller had no idea if her father was dead or alive. The Idaho Falls woman grew up in Kyiv and has spent many sleepless nights worrying about her family members in war-torn Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. Miller and her dad lost touch about a week into the conflict when a town 18 miles from Kyiv — the place her dad was living — was wiped out in an attack. “It was really strange because I didn’t know if I should mourn (his death) or — we were just in limbo,” Miller tells EastIdahoNews. Miller’s parents divorced when she was a kid and Miller and her dad have never been really close. She explains that her dad doesn’t use email or social media but enjoys writing letters. Miller just returned from her third visit to Ukraine in the last four months and she was relieved to learn, after all this time, that her father is still alive. Apparently, his phone was disconnected shortly after the attack and he was staying at Miller’s late grandmother’s house. Many of Miller’s cousins and extended family members remain in hiding as the conflict rages on. But many of them would rather die than give up their property and freedom, says Miller. Though she still worries about them, Miller feels much better knowing all her family members are accounted for. After visiting Ukraine several times and witnessing the situation firsthand, Miller compares some of what’s happening to the initial panic that occurred in eastern Idaho at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when people were hoarding toilet paper and store shelves were empty. “COVID was good preparation for my trip to Ukraine,” she says. Many have been displaced from their homes, leaving them without food or water. A displaced Ukrainian family that Miller’s son, Chase, is raising money for.
Though there are similarities, Miller says the comparison to COVID still doesn’t do it justice. “Take all the chaos from the pandemic and imagine rockets dropping everywhere you see,” Miller describes. The death toll since the conflict began is unclear but many cities have been destroyed. Along the southern and eastern border, the front lines are more than 1,300 miles long. “In and around the capital, Russian troops have been kicked out. For many women and children, that price came in the form of rape and slaughter by invading Russian soldiers, according to Craig Chandler, a 68-year-old man from St. “It’s just horrific some of the texts and emails I’m getting from these guys,” Chandler says. Miller crossed paths with Chandler during her second trip to Ukraine and learned he’d come there at his own expense with no stake in the game out of a genuine desire to help. “The whole world’s watching this play out like a movie and no one’s really doing anything. But with no internet access, Chandler had no GPS and was navigating streets on his own. Chandler spent a month in Ukraine doing what he could and returned home in May. RELATED | Local woman desperate to help family in Ukraine receives outpouring of support from community Touched by Chandler’s efforts and seeing people all around her who needed help, Miller felt compelled to do something about it. Svitlana Miller and her husband, Darin, with a Ukrainian battalion after delivering a donation of solar generators. Miller and her husband recently formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit called To Ukraine with Love.
Chase has gone door-to-door in his neighborhood gathering funds and has a table set up at Broulim’s in Ammon this week. There are many people in eastern Idaho who want to help, but don’t know what to do. “I got a Venmo transfer of $1,009 from a preschool teacher in Arizona. Both Miller and Chandler say the Ukrainians are so grateful for the support they’ve received from people across the country. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Miller would’ve never guessed it would still be happening four months later. After witnessing the carnage and destruction, she says it shows no signs of slowing down. “They’re making $1 billion a day (selling oil to the U. Though the Ukrainians recognize and appreciate all the support they’ve received from people all over the world, Chandler says many of them are concerned that the U. A volunteer with a Ukrainian family after delivering a box of donations to them. “If they could spend a month with them like I have, no one would ever abandon or leave them. Despite America’s efforts in sending tanks and cannons to help the Ukrainians win the war, Chandler says it’s not enough, and much more needs to be done to ensure Ukraine emerges victorious. “They keep saying, ‘We gotta make sure they win the war. For those who want to help, Chandler offers this suggestion from his own experience. “Lots of prayers and lots of donations is what will help those people,” says Chandler. A volunteer with a wounded Ukrainian at the hospital in Kyiv.
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