Cook, 60, a Ukrainian American, has family and friends in the country. Her parents came from Ukraine to Canada, then to the United States, where her father enlisted in the U.S. Army in World War II and saw combat in Germany.

She is a first-generation Ukrainian American, born in California.

She wears a paracord bracelet in Ukrainian flag colors of blue and yellow. Blue represents the sky and yellow, the wheat, she said. She also has a tattoo of a Ukrainian patriotic symbol on the underside of her right wrist.

“It’s my family and my people,” she said Friday. “It broke my heart and I wanted to be there.” 

Ukrainian people of all ages participated in the Euromaidan uprising when then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych changed his mind about signing an agreement with the European Union, Cook said.

“Ukrainian people are so strong,” she said. “They remember Soviet Union times.”

As she watched the Euromaidan rallies, she saw police attacking protesters.

“They shot them,” she said. “They beat them with their iron bars.”

Not long after the protests forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia in February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the annexation of the Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea. That was quickly followed by a separatist uprising in the eastern part of the country supported by Russian troops, special forces, and heavy weapons, according to William Ehart, a volunteer with the Ukraine War Amps.

“The Ukrainian military, aided by thousands of nationalist volunteers, fought back,” he wrote in an email. 

The conflict is now frozen by a European-brokered cease-fire with separatists still controlling parts of the East. But soldiers and civilians are still dying as the cease-fire is violated daily, Ehart wrote.

“The Ukrainians have been independent since 1991 and they want to keep it that way and want to be part of the European Union,” Cook said.

“You saw such bravery,” she said. “Berkut (police) were beating a young man and then you saw an elderly woman kneeling before police telling them to kill her instead. This is what these people are like.”

Cook joined fundraisers to help the soldiers because the majority of them are volunteers who just packed up and went to the front, she said.

She found Toronto-based Ukraine War Amps and its Adopt-a-Soldier program. When Ukrainian soldiers are injured and in the hospital, they have nothing, she said.

“They have to pay for medicine and provide their own food, so if there is no family local, they have to depend on volunteers,” Cook said.

She adopted Leonid Moroshan, 32, of the Ivano-Frankivsk region, who was wounded during the Euromaidan protest and more severely in the war. 

“I have been helping him for just over a year,” she said.

Gene Berezovski co-founder of Ukraine War Amps service, started a visit-a-soldier program. Cook met many Ukrainians by staying with soldiers and their families.

“They have become my family,” she said.

The first time she visited was March 2015. She went again in November 2015 and this past May.

“My suitcase is always full with medical supplies,” she said. “I know a paramedic who is on the frontline and I send and deliver them to her. I send a package every month. They don’t have the stuff they need.”

She also sends surplus military uniforms she buys at Army surplus stores.

Cook buys the medical supplies and gives monetary donations. She uses her vacation time from her nursing job at the Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center in Augusta to make her visits to soldiers at Kyiv Central Military Hospital in Ukraine. The latter is a military hospital built in the 17th century.

One piece of equipment she sent, a portable suction unit, helped a friend save the life of a commander.

She has another friend who visits the soldiers everyday at the hospital and brings them food and clothes.

“When I go with her, they are so pleased not only to get a visitor but one from America,” Cook said. “It touches them.” 

“These soldiers fight in sneakers,” she said. “They don’t have boots.” 

The Ukrainian diaspora around the world has rallied to support the victims of the war, Ehart said. Citizens of other former Soviet countries help.

Cook met Leonid for the first time in May in Kiev.

“He is doing well,” she said. “He is a strong boy. He really is. It was so emotional, the first meeting.”

She considers him a son and he told her that she is like another mother to him.

Though she has her own biological family, she considers the people and soldiers in Ukraine her family as well and wants to help them.

“We share the same blood and I have so much admiration for those soldiers,” she said. “It humbles me that they are so grateful when I come… They give me so much more than I can ever give them. They are such generous people.”

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William Ehart, a volunteer with Ukraine War Amps, translated a June 13 Facebook conversation with wounded Ukrainian soldier Leonid Moroshon. Kathryn Anna Olga Cook of Livermore adopted the soldier. Below is the conversation. 

 “I live in Ivano-Frankivsk Region in a picturesque village of Nyvochyn,” Moroshon wrote on Facebook. “I have been a patriot from childhood.

“During Euromaidan, I was working on weekdays, and on weekends I would go to Maidan in Ivano-Frankivsk to support local students,” he wrote. “But when Berkut brutally dispersed the students on Maidan in (Kiev) (Nov. 30, 2013), I immediately got on the train to (Kiev) — to do with Berkut what they have done with students and journalists; so these “animals” wouldn’t forget that there were still men in Ukraine who will fight any injustice.

“In close combat with Berkut, we always won. My face was ripped by a grenade during battles in the street of Grushevskogo, which began Jan. 19, 2014. At the same time, I got shrapnel in my left leg. Then, I got a ricochet bullet in the neck in the street of Instytutska, in February 2014.

“I stayed at Maidan until February 27, and after all went home to a regional hospital for treatment,” Moroshon wrote. “I had no problems with the wounds on my face, as doctors on Maidan did a good job stitching them. I was treated for contusion and problems with eardrums.

“After treatment, in July 2014, I volunteered and got enlisted in military service and was assigned to the 128th Infantry Brigade. After less than a month of training, in August 2014, our team has been sent to the zone of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO).

(Note: This is what Ukrainians call the part of eastern Ukraine where they are fighting Russian troops and separatists.)

“In the ATO zone, I fought for seven months and in February 2015, a year after Maidan, I was wounded again, this time in my left leg. It happened in Debaltseve,” he wrote. “It was an enemy shell from the RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). We got surrounded and called for artillery fire, giving our location coordinates.

“Thank God, we made it alive, only lost three brothers. The rest of our platoon were alive but wounded. Trying to get out of the blockade, we have lost a third of our brigade.

“Then came the surgeries and rehabilitation,” Moroshon stated. “Kathryn found me via internet and helped through Gene (Berezovski, of Ukraine War Amps). This year, Kathryn visited (Kiev) and I went to meet her and to thank her for the help she has given me, not even knowing me personally.

“I feel like she is a mother to me and I am very grateful for everything,” he stated. “Because, if not for volunteers, we would be forgotten and disabled, but volunteers help us get back on our feet and continue to live on.

“There is very little help from Ukrainian government. We have to constantly prove that we fought and lost our health because of the war.

“Now, I have to undergo my last surgery for shrapnel in my leg; the fragment stuck in my chest will not be removed. 

“I live with my mother, brother, and sister,” he wrote. “We begin to change Ukraine from the village, from the very smallest.

“In life, I hope to become successful and wealthy in order to help all those in need. It hurts to look at my “brothers,” people, children who need help, knowing that I cannot help because I have no money and my health is not great, but I really want to help. It is painful to watch fertile endless forests and people living in poverty, I want to change everything but money is needed.”

Ehart wrote that Leonid has since had that surgery and it went well.


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