Less than a month into Russia’s savage invasion of Ukraine, Alina and Scott Stubbs still sit in disbelief as they watch the news from their cozy living room in Milford.
Scott’s mother, Bobbi, sums up the feeling in the room succinctly. “We just feel helpless,” she says.
Alina, who grew up in the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine, tries to contact her family and friends regularly. Her mother and sister, who live in Kharkiv, were able to evacuate on a train to Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, but they aren’t sure where they’ll go from there.
“They told me how scary the train station was––so many people pushing and trying to get on what could have been the last train,” Alina says.
Other family members are too scared to leave or feel unable to travel.
“My great-aunt cannot walk, so she feels trapped in her fifth-floor apartment,” Alina shares. Another family member is staying with her.
“My friends are all trying to decide what to do. It is scary to stay, but it is also scary to leave and not know where you will end up,” she says.
As of March 10, nearly 2 million refugees fleeing Ukraine had escaped to neighboring countries. According to the United Nations, Poland has taken in 1.4 million refugees, with another million people scattered across other countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova and Belarus. Volunteers and aid organizations are working at the borders to help as people arrive, often with only what they could carry.
Alina spent most of her childhood living in Kharkiv, which she remembers as a bustling university city with green parks, the Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, and beautiful cathedrals. Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine, with an estimated population of 1.4 million people in 2021, according to Ukraine state statistics.
It is not far from the Russian border and was one of the first major cities targeted by Russian advances. According to BBC News as of March 10, hundreds of injuries and dozens of civilian deaths have been reported in Kharkiv as Russians shell the city. The video reports show a city that has turned into a ghost town as many residents have fled.
Alina first traveled to southern Delaware on a J-1 work visa in the summer of 2009, landing at Cold Stone Creamery (closed in 2019) and Lewes Fishhouse. In 2010, she decided to return to Rehoboth and found work in a deli, where she met Scott Stubbs.
“We clicked right away,” Scott recalls. “Then she went back to Ukraine at the end of the summer, and I was pretty upset.”
He later visited Alina in Ukraine, staying for three months and proposing. When he returned home, he began the paperwork. They were married in 2011.
When the phone rang at 4 a.m. on February 24, they knew the news couldn’t be good.
“My sister called, and she says, ‘It happened. Russia has invaded,’” Alina recalls. “My heart just stopped.”
Scott, Alina and Bobbi say they knew it was a possibility, but they never expected this.
“I don’t think anyone really thought it would happen or people would have evacuated sooner,” Scott says. “Ever since that call, we have been consumed by it. The news is always on now.”
Encouraged by her employers and co-workers at Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s in Rehoboth Beach, Alina launched a fundraiser for Razom for Ukraine, a nonprofit human rights organization that supports Ukraine’s pursuit of a democratic society.
“My employers, Kathleen Schell and Justin Healy, have been so supportive and offered to match the donations made by Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s [group]. We are all trying to do what we can to help Ukraine,” she says.
She set her goal at $1,000 but quickly surpassed it. She later upped the goal to $10,000 and recently topped that as well.
“It has been encouraging to see the response and see how Americans want to help Ukraine, but there is still more that needs to be done to help the Ukrainian people,” she says.
She encourages people to donate to reputable organizations on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries to help relocate as many people as possible. She also suggests people call their U.S. senators and representatives to express support for sending additional aid to Ukraine.
“My hope is that somehow this war is stopped quickly,” Alina says. “I do not know what the future holds, but I am hopeful. I am proud of the spirit of Ukrainians. Now people know where Ukraine is on the map, and I hope the support lasts even after the war.”
To contribute to her fundraiser, go to facebook.com/donate and search for “Alina’s fundraiser for Razom for Ukraine.”
To learn more about Razom for Ukraine’s emergency response, visit razomforukraine.org.