“Close the sky over Ukraine. That’s our biggest hope right now,” Ellie Titarenko, a nurse practitioner at Arvada West Family Medicine said.
Titarenko — who founded Arvada West Family Medicine on Ralston Road less than a year ago — is Ukrainian herself, and her co-workers — Halyna Kandyuk, also Ukranian, and Svetlana Sinsheimer, who has Russian heritage — have been similarly impacted by the war.
“My nephew is an officer in the war right now,” Kandyuk said. “I call him every day. His mom is my sister; it’s very hard. My mom’s still in Ukraine, my sister’s still in Ukraine. My younger sister is a nurse.”
The trio decided to take action, launching a supply drive ranging from backpacks to toothpaste to medical supplies. The donations, kept in a storage room at Arvada West Family Medicine, began to mount quickly, so Titarenko said she plans to make weekly shipments.
Project C.U.R.E., a nonprofit based in Centennial that distributes medical supplies to resource-limited communities across the globe, is handling the shipment and distribution of the donated items. Titarenko said that their first shipment went out on March 4 and that she plans on making one shipment per week until the war is over.
Project C.U.R.E. will ship the donations to Poland, where they will then be dispersed to people on the ground in Ukraine.
Sinsheimer said that the donations have been coming from community members of all backgrounds.
“The community just supports. We are so thankful about this. This is stuff from Russian people, Ukrainian people, American people. All different nationalities,” Sinsheimer said, gesturing to the assemblage of boxes, backpacks and Enfamil infant formula.
Sinsheimer makes it clear from the jump that although she’s Russian, she does not support the Russian government — “I think it’s crazy — it’s why we need to change our president every four years,” she said, adding that she feels thankful for the outpouring of generosity from the local community.
“We have patients who would bring their unused medications. I have a lady, she brought every single pill bottle. She was like, ‘I’m good, I’m in America. I hope my medication can help some people in Ukraine,’” Sinsheimer said.
“It’s why we love America. Because people just donate and support. They don’t care what country — Ukrainian, Honduras, South Africa — American people every time support for difficult time. And right now, we’re (thinking of) Ukraine,” Sinsheimer continued.
Titarenko said that the Eastern European community in Arvada has come together in support of Ukraine, regardless of nationality.
“At first I was thinking it would divide us. Like you’d probably hear Halyna and I are from Ukraine and Svetlana is from Russia, and it could have made us enemies. But I think it’s vice-versa. People that don’t watch Russian TV and actually see what’s going on over there, kind of united them even more,” Titarenko said.
The donations have been varied and many. An Arvadan that lives close to Arvada West Family Medicine dropped off a backpack after seeing Titarenko’s post on the Arvada Neighbors Facebook group. When her parents, who live in Des Moines, Iowa, posted about the drive on Facebook, a friend of theirs shipped Titarenko donations through Amazon.
Titarenko herself emptied her stock of extra medical gear when the first shipment went out.
“We can get more. And they can’t,” Titarenko said.
Despite the hardships and mass casualties that have befallen Ukrainians in recent weeks, Titarenko maintained an unwavering conviction that her people would triumph through their perseverance and strength of character, likening the conflict to a sports team with home-field advantage.
“The spirit of Ukrainians is so strong and powerful. It’s not always about the weapons. It’s also about fighting with their heart. Ukrainians are fighting in their homeland. It’s like how sports teams usually have more wins when they’re at their home base, because even the wall and the air and the people, everything supports them. That’s why I strongly believe that we will win,” Titarenko said.
Titarenko said that she noticed the Olde Town Arvada Water Tower lit in Ukrainian colors on Feb. 26 and 27 and felt touched by the show of support from the city.
“It meant the world to me. A tiny place like Arvada, first of all it means that people know what’s happening, and the fact that our government and the mayor of Arvada supports Ukraine and is aware of what’s happening, and that I’m not in it by myself,” Titarenko said.