For Yana and Vlad Khorenko, the images of war in their home country evoke a frightening sense of deja vu.
The Khorenkos were living in the Poltava region of Ukraine when Russian troops invaded Crimea back in 2014. At the time, they had a 9-month-old baby and were expecting a second one.
“I knew I had to take care of my family, and I knew that in a day, the military — 80,000 of them — can be in our city any moment,” Vlad said on Wednesday.
As many families are doing now, the Khorenkos fled their home country for safety. But they didn’t forget those who stayed behind. Almost immediately after their arrival in San Diego, they started looking for ways to help those back home.
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“I grew up in Ukraine," Yana said. "My husband grew up in Ukraine. We know what it's like to wake up hungry, go to sleep hungry."
The couple would send a few hundred dollars every month to help those who needed it most, and about two years ago they founded I Care Ministries, a nonprofit that raises money to support charitable projects in Ukraine.
Now with the war raging once again, the Khorenkos are stepping up their efforts.
“Right now, every single penny at this point counts because you can save a life just by donating a little bit,” Yana said.
The couple has been working with partners in neighboring countries to send truckloads of supplies across the border.
“We had this family — single mom with 10 kids — and they hadn't eaten in four days,” Yana said.
The Khorenkos have given up their free time to help their people but say none of it would be possible without the support of the San Diego community.
“It's amazing how the community helps here in America even when they don't know the people,” Vlad said.
The Khorenkos said it's proof that even in the darkest times, human kindness shines through.