When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special operation” on the night of February 24, one of Ukraine’s biggest showmen, Serhiy Prytula, was on a train heading to Lviv, the furthest city in Western Ukraine, where he was studying for a master’s of public administration at the Ukrainian Catholic University, a prestigious private university.
It was early morning, when his phone went off. “My wife called, she said the war has started,” recalls Prytula speaking from his office in Kyiv. Appalled, like millions of Ukrainians, Prytula ordered a taxi back to Kyiv, where his 15-year-old son Dmytro was waiting for him. On his way to the capital, Prytula spoke to his team members, and it was during that six-hour drive that first outlines of an action plan emerged in the fog of uncertainty.
A Ukrainian flag waves in a residential area heavily damaged in the village of Dolyna in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, after the withdrawal of Russian troops on September 24. Ukrainian troops have made gains as Russian troops have retreated in some areas of the east. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.)
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Two years earlier, a prominent TV presenter and highly requested showman, he had established a charity foundation called the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, which supported Ukrainians in need, from autistic children to cancer patients. Now his country was being invaded by a superpower. His reaction was to start fundraising for the Ukrainian army. Today, his foundation employs 100 people along with dozens of volunteers.
“The Facebook page just reminded me that in December, 2021 we had a meeting with our donors. I told them our foundation has raised about $250,000. That was a success story at the moment, but today, we crossed the line – 3.9 billion Ukrainian Hryvnias (roughly $100 million). It feels way better”, Prytula tells Fox News.
Over the last 11 months, the foundation has donated more than 11 thousand communication devices, almost four thousand drones and over 900 cars to the Ukrainian army, as well as over 13,000 individual first aid kits, and it has arranged combat medicine training for six thousand individuals.
On top of assisting the armed forces, the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation has delivered about 15 tons of food to more than 250,000 citizens in war-affected areas.
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Ukrainian servicemen ride atop an armored fighting vehicle Tuesday as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues at an unknown location in Eastern Ukraine. (Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS)
Individual initiatives like those by Prytula Foundation are the very reason Ukrainians call themselves “a nation of volunteers,” adviser to the Defense Ministry Yuriy Sak tells Fox News, recalling how Ukrainians came together in the face of the annexation, and thousands enlisted to volunteer for the armed forces.
“Even though we knew we had a dangerous enemy, who sooner or later was going to attack us, the ministry of defense wasn’t able to immediately provide for the newly arrived hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This is why during the first month or two of this war, when new soldiers were arriving, they were unequipped,” Sak noted.
A Ukrainian flag waves in a residential area heavily damaged in the village of Dolyna in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, after the withdrawal of Russian troops on September 24. Ukrainian troops have made gains as Russian troops have retreated in some areas of the east. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
According to Sak, the original mission of “a nation of volunteers” was to ensure that soldiers were well equipped: “So volunteer engagement was dedicated mostly to providing things like bulletproof vests, helmets, tourniquets, medical kits, because we knew the enemy was ruthless”.
Eleven months since Russia launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine, Western allies are pledging a massive weapons package for Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s aggression and repel its troops from occupied territories.
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Every other military package Ukraine has received for the last 11 months has gradually increased, from lightweight anti-tank Javelins to the Patriot air defense battery.
In total, the United States alone has committed more than $29.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion almost a year ago.
Associate Producer based out of Washington, D.C. Bureau