For most Americans the Ukrainian-Russian war remains a distant event, but 14-year-old Easton resident Annie Gnidula is determined to make a difference. She has started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for Ukrainians seeking refuge in Poland after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.
Gnidula said she started the page after speaking with her 79-year-old grandmother who lives in Poland near a refugee camp where Ukrainian women and children have been arriving empty-handed.
“It’s so sad. All these mothers coming into the camp with their children after walking miles in the snow to cross the border into Poland,” said the ninth-grader who attends Hopkins School in New Haven.
The teenager initially thought of starting a fund drive with her mother to collect hygiene products for the refugees. But after she got in touch with a local Polish newspaper “Echo Dnia” – and with her grandmother’s help – she decided to raise money for Polish organizations and shelters to buy supplies like food, medication, clothing, and essential hygiene items. This fundraising approach will avoid extensive shipping delays and get refugees the supplies and support they need now.
“Sometimes it’s so hard to read the news. It’s sad that this is happening to these people,” Gnidula said. “The United Nations estimates about 2 million refugees will relocate to Poland.”
Her initiative has been applauded by contributors like Daniel Schwartz, who donated to Gnidula’s GoFundMe page. “[Annie] should be very proud, at such a young age, getting involved in these causes,” Schwartz wrote.
Gnidula’s father, Peter Gnidula said it’s heartbreaking for his daughter to know that thousands of war refugees are flooding into Poland, a country she’s visited every year with her family before the pandemic. Her last visit to Poland was last year in November when her mother’s father passed away.
“We are so proud of her for coming up with this fundraiser, for doing a small part. She came to us after seeing the news and talked to my wife’s mother in Poland. She asked us, what can we do to help these moms and children leaving everything behind?” Peter Gnidula said.
Annie has already raised $4,340 of her $5,000 goal. To support her initiative, please visit her page by clicking here.