Ukrainians need bulletproof vests, helmets, medical supplies, rescue gear

Miami-Dade residents turn into activists to help Ukrainians under Russian attack for more than 2 months

Oksana Zamfira and her friend Camelia Catruc are among the Miami-Dade County residents who are doing everything they can to help Ukrainians.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Oksana Zamfira and her friend Camelia Catruc are among the Miami-Dade County residents who are doing everything they can to help Ukrainians.

Zamfira was born in Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine and Miami Beach’s new sister city. Catruc was born in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, Ukraine’s southwestern neighbor.

Zamfira’s brother is fighting in Ukraine as a civilian volunteer. She is helping his unit and nonprofit organizations that are offering relief.

Oksana Zamfira's brother Alex joined a Ukrainian unit as a civilian volunteer to defend Odessa. This is a photo from the time he served in the U.S. military. (Courtesy photo)

The war has been ongoing for more than two months.

“We have corroborated 7,061 civilian casualties, with 3,381 killed and 3,680 injured across the country since the beginning of the armed attack ... The actual figures are higher and we are working to corroborate every single incident,” Matilda Bogner, of the United Nations, told reporters on Tuesday.

On the web: Miami Beach’s resolution

Catruc, of Sunny Isles Beach, said there is a need for medical supplies and protective gear such as bulletproof vests and helmets.

“The guys over there that are protecting the city don’t have enough equipment,” Catruc said.

On the web: Contribute to the Odessa Peace Fund

Zamfira has made the 11-hour flight to Poland regularly with dozens of suitcases full of supplies. She has met with a Ukrainian friend who crosses the border and delivers it to Odessa.

“In two weeks, it will be one more time,” Zamfira said about her upcoming trip.

Smoke rises in the air after shelling in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday, April 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Amid the ongoing refugee crisis, they are also selling handmade crafts by Ukrainians such as embroidery and jewelry. Catruc and other volunteers set up a tent during the Lincoln Road market in South Beach.

The need is dire. The United Nations estimated on Thursday that more than 6 million people had fled Ukraine by May 11. More than 3.2 million are in Poland. Women and children account for 90% of the refugees. Ukrainian men who are age 60 or younger aren’t allowed to leave the country.

“A problem right now, it’s kids without parents if we can help them too,” Zamfira said.

On the web: Visit this page to shop online

People stay in a yard as smoke rises in the air in the background after shelling in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday, April 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce is fundraising to get firefighting equipment and first responder gear to Odessa. They are working with The Global Empowerment Mission, a Doral-based nonprofit organization founded by Michael Capponi, a member of the chamber.

Their fundraiser will be at 4 p.m., on June 12 at Mango’s Tropical Cafe, at 900 Ocean Dr., in South Beach. For more information or to buy a $50 ticket, visit the EventBrite page.

On the web: Contribute to GEM’s effort

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About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.