Perspective: How You Can Help the People of Ukraine


My name is Holly Lynn. Although I grew up in Indiana, my family had a house in Ellison Bay. I went to theater camp at Third Avenue Playworks as a middle schooler and learned to love Culver’s. I went to undergrad at St. Norbert College, and in the summers, I lived with my grandmother. 

During these seasons, I worked at Northern Sky Theater (then American Folklore Theater) and the Northern Door YMCA day camp – the start of my love of camping as a career. I love Door County and Wisconsin as a second home, but the place I most often tell people is my second home is Ukraine. 

I lived in Ukraine for almost three years as a Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer (PCV). I served there from September 2017 until March 2020, when I was evacuated due to COVID-19 with all other PCVs around the world. 

Peace Corps was something that I had always dreamed of doing for myriad reasons, but Ukraine was at the top of my list for countries of service. My great-grandmother’s family is from Novy Bug, Mykolaiv, Ukraine, and I grew up hearing stories and eating recipes that made me long to immerse myself further. 

Many of you will have read, heard or seen stories of the terror that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his army are inflicting on the Ukrainian people, shelling civilian sites such as maternity hospitals, schools, apartment buildings and evacuation routes. 

I hope that you have also been exposed to the stories of strength, bravery, creativity, tenacity, kindness and love that the Ukrainian people have. These are traits that I witnessed while I served beside them in schools, camps and English lessons, but all of those pale in comparison to what has happened during the past three weeks. Here are just a few examples: 

• Maria – one of my counterparts, host mothers and best friends in the country – has converted her family’s second apartment (my home for almost a year) into a care center in their town. They live in Western Ukraine, which had not yet seen any bombing when I was writing this earlier this week, but it has seen thousands of refugees fleeing other areas of the country. 

She is committed to serving her country by bringing in humanitarian-aid supplies from their contacts in Poland, just as her husband and her son are. The men have not been drafted yet, but Maria says that if the situation gets worse, all three will sign up for the army. 

• Boris, one of my campers, chats with me nightly about how he feels guilty that he’s not in Kyiv, where he was in the university. He had been visiting his girlfriend’s family right before the war broke out and has not been able to return to his friends there. His family is also from the East, and Boris does not always have contact with them. His fear and guilt come through in every message. 

• Lera – a young university student who once felt shy about her English language skills, yet taught PCVs about anti-corruption and how to inspire Ukrainians to work in political spheres – remains in Kyiv. She now works on the ground, gathering information and creating social-media posts that can be shared around the country and the world to combat Russian fake news. 

She served as a camp counselor with me for a Model UN camp, and we joked that her nickname was President-ka. I have no doubt that she will one day be just that, but I hate that she is getting experience like this to grow her skills. 

These stories are just a few that have been flooding my inboxes for the past week. Ukrainians are not giving up because they can’t. I’m writing this column because we, the international world beyond Ukraine’s border, also cannot give up. There are several ways you can support Ukraine, and all will make a difference. 

Call your elected officials and plead with them to take the following actions:

• Close the Ukrainian skies.

• Provide all requested defense assistance to the Ukrainian government.

• Cut Russia and Putin completely off from SWIFT.

• Hold a vote on the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act 2022.