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'They've lost everything': Couple returns from humanitarian trip to Ukraine

The city of Uzhhorod, Ukraine is a Corvallis sister city with a special place in a local couple's heart.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Randy and Sabra Killen know the city of Uzhhorod, Ukraine well. The former Corvallis residents have traveled there many times as part of the Corvallis Sister Cities Association. But nothing compared to their most recent trip, which they returned from on Sunday.

“You know it's hard, because you see what happens there and they're your friends," said Randy Killen.

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Those friends and so many others in Uzhhorod are now hosting thousands of Ukrainian refugees from war-ravaged areas like those around Kyiv. Uzhhorod, which is near Slovakia and Hungary, has been a safe place. Refugees have been resting there for several days before resettling in nearby countries.

“It's overcrowded, there's people everywhere,” said Sabra Killen. “We were immediately thinking about all the people we know there and what can we do to help them."

The Killens learned medicine was in short supply, as was medical equipment like stethoscopes. So they collected enough donations to fill ten suitcases and flew to Ukraine to deliver them. They said refugees were thankful and curious.

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“They were like, ‘Does America know what's happening to us?’” said Sabra.

“That was sad to hear them ask that question,” added Randy.

Credit: Sabra and Randy Killen

After sharing the medical supplies, the Killens spent 10 days buying and delivering things like refrigerators, microwaves, mattresses and food. They said the dorms where many refugees are staying are often empty.

“It's hard to hear their stories because they've lost everything that they have,” said Randy. “How do you recover from that?”

The Killens believe one answer is generosity from others. To pay for everything they bought and delivered, they used more than $200,000 in donations raised by the Corvallis Sister Cites Association and a Citizens Bank Fund. The Killens and other volunteers are planning more humanitarian trips to Uzhhorod in the near future and hope donations will continue to support those efforts.

“Maybe it gives them some hope,” said Sabra.

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