Marking every box with a "Kalashnikitty" sticker or label, Green Beret Dmitry, left, and his wife, Alena — both born and raised in Ukraine — have sent more than $300,000 worth of medical and humanitarian aid to Ukraine from their home in North Carolina. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Coffee or Die Magazine has obscured the faces and withheld the last names of active-duty Special Forces soldiers.
Dmitry, a Green Beret stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, never intended to work in Special Forces by day and run a charity by night.
“I was not planning to do a fund or a nonprofit organization at all,” Dmitry told Coffee or Die Magazine. “I just wanted to get the stuff to the Ukrainians because they need it.”
Since late February, Dmitry figures he’s sent roughly 10 huge shipments of medical supplies and other aid to Ukraine. He estimated the value of the gear so far was probably close to $300,000, ranging from IV kits and surgical tools to crates of baby formula.
The medical equipment is almost all donated, collected, and packaged by Dmitry and his Special Forces colleagues at Fort Bragg. But he's had to raise money to buy some gear and — the more costly part — to ship it all.
To do that, Dmitry and his wife, Alena, founded Ukrainian Efforts Humanitarian Fund out of their home in Fayetteville. The Ukrainian couple grew up together in Ukraine. Alena's parents immigrated to the US in 2000 as religious refugees, while Dmitry's mother won a spot in the US immigration green card lottery. He joined the Army in 2009.
Dmitry’s Special Forces colleagues have chipped in hours to help package supplies. Photo via Ukrainian Efforts/Facebook.
“We both have a lot of family still in Ukraine,” Alena said.
Since the Russian invasion, they have spent much of their spare time raising funds, arranging shipments, and coordinating the 20-odd volunteers who help out, including several of Dmitry's Green Beret teammates.
Along with the work of collecting, packaging, and shipping supplies, the two attend gatherings like farmers' markets and sporting events to collect cash donations.
“I like to think of us as force multipliers just because that’s what I do in Special Forces,” Dmitry said. “When people give us cash, even though it’s not a lot — I mean, so far, we got close to about $20,000 in donations — we’re able to take that $20,000 and basically multiply that by three times, if not more. Ten times, I would say.”
The group uses donations to purchase some supplies and pay for shipping costs. All who work on the shipments are volunteers — even if the hours can feel like full time, Dmitry said.
Boxes of medical supplies headed to Ukraine, tagged with Ukraine Effort’s “Kalishnikitty” logo. Photo via Ukraine Efforts/Facebook.
“It is a second job, a little bit more than I thought I was going to do, but it is what it is,” Dmitry said. “We just started, you know, us two and some soldiers from my unit.”
They even created a logo: a Ukraine-colored, Punisher-shirt-wearing "Kalashnikitty." The group puts the logo on all their shipments and sends stickers. Ukrainians have sent back pictures of the stickers on vehicles and gear in combat zones.
Dmitry and Alena started shipping supplies shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. At the time, Dmitry was an instructor in the Special Forces Qualification Course, or Q Course, the grueling 18-month pipeline that all would-be Green Berets must pass.
When the invasion began, Dmitry said, a few Ukrainians were attending the Q Course.
“When the war started, obviously, [the Ukrainian soldiers] decided they wanted to go back and fight in their homeland,” Dmitry said. “I wish I would be able to go, but obviously I can’t — I’m still active [duty]. So, I figured, you know what? Let me see what I can do.”
Dmitry did not want the two going home empty-handed.
Ukrainian Efforts raises money at local events such as farmers' markets. Photo via Ukrainian Efforts/Facebook.
“We decided to fill up [the Ukrainian soldiers’] carry-on bags and checked luggage basically full of tourniquets and blood transfusion kits and all high-value items that people are really just donating because they had that laying in the garage,” Dmitry said.
Many of the supplies were older, nearing their expiration dates, but they were still usable. With some help, Dmitry packed the supplies into duffel bags and paid for the Ukrainians to take the extra bags on their flight home.
“We ended up with roughly 20 duffel bags of additional items [the soldiers] were not able to take with them because it was just too much,” Dmitry said.
With that, he hit up teammates to help pay to ship what the Ukrainians could not carry.
“If you have some money, give it to me, basically,” Dmitry said.
Friends and co-workers regularly gather at Dmitry’s Fayetteville home to pack supplies. Photo via Ukrainian Efforts/Facebook.
And they did.
Dmitry and a friend drove the extra bags to New Jersey and paid a few thousand dollars to ship them to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine.
“I was happy about it, but, we figured, I wanted to feel that I’m doing something, and that’s probably helped me dealing with all of our issues because obviously we were all struggling because we have family there,” Dmitry said.
While Ukrainian Efforts waits for the IRS to approve its nonprofit status, Dmitry said, the group has been sending aid under the umbrella of the Special Forces Foundation, a nonprofit serving Green Berets and their families.
Four of Dmitry and Alena’s family members live with them in North Carolina, and seven more are on their way, but Dmitry said his brother-in-law and nephew are fighting in the war.
“Obviously, this is all close to my heart,” Dmitry said.
READ NEXT: There’s No McPeace, But McDonald’s Reopens Some Ukraine Restaurants
Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.
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