With less than a month to go until kids return to school, Nettie Cherniatenski is packing school bags for Ukrainian students at Baba’s Closet.
When the Russian invasion started in February, she says she heard a calling to help.
“I knew I had to answer it and I just went,” said Cherniatenski. “Whether anybody said no, I didn’t listen. I just kept going. I started in my garage, three (or) four days later it was moving and blossoming so fast. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew I had to get someplace bigger and better.”
Thanks to her organizational skills and the generosity of hundreds of locals, relocated Ukrainian families have been stopping in at Baba’s Closet to pick up necessities for their new homes and the upcoming school year.
From bedding to dishes, books and even games, families can get a little more settled in their new lives.
Two youngsters being hosted by Eugene Kucey have already been to school.
“They were actually fortunate enough to get into school at the end of June for about two weeks. So, they know where they’re going already,” said Kucey. “They’re going to Bishop Filevich. They’re enjoying the holidays yet, so we can’t talk about school too much yet.”
Kucey says the boys are making the most of the warm weather by staying active.
“Oh they love basketball,” said Kucey. “They’re good in basketball, and soccer. They call it football.”
For Cherniatenski, the stories of the families escaping war are heart-wrenching.
“I really felt sorry for a boy of 17 who spent two months at Warsaw at the camp with his mom escaping the war,” she said. “And I looked at him and I thought, I have a son, what would I do if I had to leave him behind to fight?”
Bringing smiles to their faces makes the effort worth it for Cherniatenski.
“We’re one big family. This isn’t just Ukrainian, it is one big family. We’re all God’s children,” she said.
Once the fall weather arrives, she hopes to start a winter clothing drive.