– Harpswell woman raises funds to support friend in western Ukraine

Resident of Lviv and Marsel Dzharkas, 34 years old. Courtesy of Dzharkas

Marsel Dzharkas had just gotten married and was about to go on honeymoon. Two days later, Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into Ukraine, and Dzharkas’ world, like that of so many other Ukrainians, changed.

Dzharkas, 34, was born and lives in Lviv, a city about 370 miles west of the capital Kiev. So far Lviv has been spared Russian military bombardment, according to news reports, but the western city receives hundreds of thousands of refugees every day who only have their papers and a “desire to live”. Now an effort is underway in Midcoast Maine to help.

“I am part of the territorial self-defense unit, so every day for 4-6 hours we guard the entrance to our village Sokilnyky – which is located 3 kilometers from Lviv, checking cars entering our village and giving the looters no chance,” Dzharkas wrote in an email to The Times Record on Tuesday. “Some of my friends are on the front lines of combat with the Russian army, some of them have already been killed as as true heroes who protected their own country.”

Harpswell resident Bridget O’Brian – owner of North Atlantic Inflatables in Brunswick – said she met Dzharkas in 2014 while working for the international arm of an ed-tech company.

The two worked together for three years, O’Brian said, training students and teachers on software for learning English in schools across the United Arab Emirates. Since then, she said they have stayed in touch via email and social media.

“He has an energy and a spark, and I think the other element is that I think I always felt like he really cared about people,” O’Brian said. “He was in the edtech business because he was excited about schools, kids, and teachers.”

When O’Brian saw the wedding photos and read about the Russian invasion, she said she contacted Dzharkas to see how she could help. After the connection, O’Brian said she sent $600 to Dzharkas, who said he was volunteering to coordinate international humanitarian aid and fundraise for medical supplies at the city hospital. from Lutsk.

A March 9 letter from the Medical Association of the Territorial Community of the City of Lutsk provided to The Times Record by Dzharkas indicates the hospital’s demand for consumables and medical equipment to treat myocardial infarction and strokes cerebral.

Thanks to social media, O’Brian is now looking to raise more in hopes of covering the cost of a defibrillator — around $4,000.

“For me personally, it was having someone in that experience that I knew I could touch directly,” O’Brian said. “If there’s a way we can keep the hope and the energy of the Ukrainian people going for this to continue long enough to push Putin back, I think that will be such a statement to the world where we are.”

Over the past two weeks, Dzharkas said his life has completely changed. Every day the situation is getting worse, he said, and warnings of airstrike sirens and sheltering drills have become the norm.

“We are actively fighting with our whole country,” Dzharkas said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a gun in your hands, a cell phone with keypad or humanitarian aid from all over the world.”

In the end, Dzharkas believes Ukraine will win the war. He considers the invasion a failure, but describes Russian aggression as “unlimited”. Fear remains, he said, about the use of nuclear weapons and exactly how far the invasion will go.

O’Brian’s fundraiser is not the first show of support for Ukraine since the Midcoast.

Over the weekend, Bath Town Hall changed the lights shining on the cupola to blue and yellow – the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

In early March, a collection of Ukrainian artwork and images was also installed at the front entrance of the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick by a Richmond resident whose parents immigrated from Ukraine.

While the official death toll remains uncertain, the AP reported that thousands of civilians and soldiers are believed to have been killed in the past two weeks since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. More recently, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that a Russian airstrike hit a maternity ward in the city of Mariupol, injuring at least 17 people, according to Ukrainian officials.

For more information on his fundraiser, email O’Brian at [email protected] Other ways to support victims of war can be found through agencies such as New Ukraine (novaukraine.org), UNICEF (unicefusa.org), the International Committee of the Red Cross (icrc.org) and Doctors Without Borders (medecinssansfrontieres.org).

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