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Former ESU student, VladyslavRemeniak, currently living in Ukraine, Facetimes with Jennifer Baldwin, administrative assistant at ESU’s Teacher’s Hall of Fame. Baldwin started a fundraiser on behalf of Remeniak, providing medical supplies to Ukrainians during the ongoing war.

Vladyslav “Vlad” Remeniak, 27, was awoken in his Kyiv apartment by a frantic neighbor at 5 a.m. on Feb. 24. The neighbor had three words for Remeniak: “It has started.” 

Minutes later, an explosion was heard outside. Russia had begun to invade Ukraine.  

After spending the next two days and three nights in the subway hiding from air alarms, Remeniak decided to flee to Lviv, where he is currently staying with four adults and three children in an apartment. Remeniak says he considers himself a lucky one.  

“I originate from Dnipro City which is in the east and it wasn’t targeted,” Remeniak said. “I lived in Kyiv where I rented an apartment, but fortunately our house wasn’t hit.” 

Five thousand miles away in Emporia, Jennifer Baldwin read the news and desperately tried to reach out to Remeniak to see if he was still alive.  

Baldwin, an administrative assistant in Emporia State’s Teacher’s Hall of Fame, had been in contact with Remeniak for roughly eight years. Baldwin met Remeniak through the international program at ESU. Remeniak, 20 at the time, was one of the nine Ukrainians who were selected to go abroad and study at the university.  

Like most study abroad students, Remeniak lived in the residential halls on campus. During winter and summer breaks, the dorms are closed and international students are left without a place to stay.  

“The international program puts out a call to Emporia citizens because they need people to put people up while the dorms are closed during breaks. I had a big house,” said Baldwin. “So I said, ‘I have room for three.’ It was like the UN (United Nations) meetings at my house. We had Japanese, Ukrainian and French students in my home during the break. Vlad just kind of became part of our family.” 

Remeniak attended ESU for the 2014-2015 school year, his final year of college, where he continued his studies in law. Remeniak fondly remembers his time at ESU and recalls a particular business class taught by associate professor of business administration, Steven Lovett. 

When thinking about his time at ESU, Remeniak says he comes back to those memories often.  

“The hospitality, the weather, I don’t know, everything. It was just beautiful and built wonderful memories,” said Remeniak. “This experience was life changing for me. It changed my attitude; it changed the way I view things.” 

Within the past few weeks of the ongoing war in his home country, Remeniak has used his car to distribute medical equipment, clothes and food to those in need near him.  

“I go around the city looking for things like sleeping bags, coats, blankets, stuff like that,” said Remeniak. “Volunteers with cars are much more valued right now because we can provide transportation services.” 

Ukrainians are heavily relying on their internet connections in order to communicate their needs via messaging apps and chats with volunteers, according to Remeniak. 

After contacting Remeniak and checking in with him daily, Baldwin said she wanted to do more. 

“I’m in America and I’m watching a world do nothing but sending thoughts and prayers to a country where I’m watching children’s hospitals and maternity suites be blown up,” said Baldwin.  

With the banks being shut down in Ukraine and after donating all of his money to aid Ukrainian military forces, Remeniak was left with nothing but his car. After hearing about his efforts to supply medical aid to citizens, Baldwin jumped at the opportunity to help.   

“He needed access to money. Well, I can access money,” Baldwin said. “But I’m not in Poland or in Europe in any way, shape or form. So he can order (the items), I can pay, he can get the stuff to Ukraine and get them distributed.” 

Baldwin and Remeniak are now purchasing medic first aid kits, tourniquets, bulletproof vests and drones to spot oncoming tanks. Prices range depending on the item in question; the tourniquets are roughly 55 euros a piece, the first aid kits are around 115 euros apiece, bulletproof vests range around 400 euros each and drones can cost anywhere from 10 to 50 euros, depending on the size and quality of the camera attached.  

Roughly a million citizens have fled Ukraine in the wake of this war, but many are choosing to stay. Not only are people staying, but some are coming back. More than half a million deliberately come back from abroad to fight, according to Remeniak. 

“You can try to escape, but nowhere is safe completely here,” said Remeniak. “The only reason we still stand is how our nation is united. Everybody I know and everybody I meet is trying to do their best.” 

Baldwin said her one requirement for the fundraiser was that she not supply any weapons in any way, shape or form. Both Baldwin and Remeniak stated that their efforts are concentrated solely on purchasing and distributing items to protect and save lives. Additionally, Baldwin stated she would provide receipts to those wanting proof of purchases.  

Baldwin would also like to clarify that none of this money goes directly to herself or Remeniak. 

“We have no administration costs that we’re taking,” Baldwin said. “Nothing goes to Vlad, nothing goes to me. Everything, every penny that we raise goes to these health needs.” 

If you are interested in donating, Baldwin says she accepts cash and checks personally in her office, 114 Visser Hall or by donating at: www.gofundme.com/f/vladyslav-remeniak-ukrainian-medical-relief-fund. 

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