NewsLocal News


Utah man from Ukraine helps his people at Polish border

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 19:50:35-04

A Ukrainian man and his wife are on their way back home to the Beehive State after volunteering at the Polish border, helping his own people cross to safety.

Vasil and Liz Osipenko have traveled across Europe for the past 12 days.

"Our whole trip was like one big drive," said Vasil.

The couple's focus was securing vans to help take supplies into Ukraine, but the two also spent time at the border crossing because they speak Russian and Ukrainian.

"It’s so much more efficient to have those who can communicate with them about the next steps," said Liz.

For Vasil, it was more than just helping them get through the border, but bringing hope.

"They felt all of this collective world support, so they wouldn’t feel alone and abandoned," said Vasil. "Hope was lit up again and they started to have some fire in their eyes."

Liz served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine. Vasil grew up in Ukraine and later served a mission in Russia.

The Osipenkos have been instrumental in helping Ukrainian refugees in Utah find housing.

WATCH: The joy of reunion: Ukrainians fleeing war arrive in Utah

Yet, Vasil still felt the need to head over to Poland.

"Those small acts of service are very unnoticeable to the world, but each soul deserves this," said Vasil.

While helping at the refugee camp, a group of Ukrainians arrived from where Vasil's cousin lived.

"They warned him before May 1 to get out with his family," said Vasil.

The Osipenkos saw in the news that Russians would mobilize Ukrainian natives to fight against their own people.

"My cousin will be one of them," said Vasil.

It's a heartbreaking reality for the Osipenkos.

Yet in the midst of immense struggle, the Osipenkos have found strength in Ukrainians crossing the border — they're not just fleeing to safety, they leave to help.

"They said if they were to stay at home, they would go crazy," said Liz. "Service is the healing of the soul, and it gives them a chance to help others and maintain their sanity."

All four vans secured by the Osipenkos now have Ukrainian drivers at the wheel.

"Those people received this with humility, crying often, and they were very humble," said Vasil.

The Osipenkos quickly noticed the resilience of the Ukrainians, along with the outpouring of support, everywhere they went.

"We saw Ukrainian flags everywhere," said Liz. "Even this last flight we took, the British airways was collecting donations."

The Osipenkos arrive back home in Utah Saturday evening.

Vasil’s niece, Svitlana Miller, who started the organization "To Ukraine With Love," is still there.

Miller has crossed the border into Ukraine, bringing military armor and humanitarian aid with her.