Ukrainian scouting organization in Hartford makes medical kits to send to Ukraine

Justin and Julia Nascimento’s grandparents fled Soviet Ukraine after World War II. They ended up in a displaced persons camp in Germany, then emigrated to the United States.

On Saturday afternoon, the teenage siblings of Glastonbury came together with other members of the Hartford-area Ukrainian American community to help a new generation of beleaguered Ukrainians.

The young people are members of Plast, a world Ukrainian scouting organization. They gathered at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church at 135 Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford to make emergency medical kits for soldiers, volunteers and security personnel resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s important to do your part to help the people you care about when you have the chance,” Julia said.

His brother said making the kits was part of maintaining Ukrainian heritage, which is one of Plast’s daily goals. “In America, there is a lot of assimilation. It is important to keep one’s roots, to keep the culture alive. If Russia wants Ukraine to be part of Russia, I have the impression that we contribute to [keep the culture alive],” he said.

Plast is an international non-profit organization whose members learn Ukrainian language, history, culture, geography and traditions. At this time of year, the traditional lesson is how to make pysanky or Ukrainian Easter eggs.

Since the start of hostilities in February, Plast has been on the front line helping Ukrainians with medical supplies and other humanitarian relief efforts.

On Saturday, Plast members collected 500 shrink-wrapped EMKs along with vinyl gloves, surgical dressings, butterfly wraps, bandages, gauze pads, antibiotic ointment and self-adhesive bandage rolls. All medical supplies were donated by Eastern Connecticut Health Network.

“It’s the bare minimum they need. It’s about preventing any further progression of an injury until they can get into intensive care,” said Marie Briggs, who led the EMK project.

The kits were made with instructions from trauma surgeon Dan Olesnicky, who posted a video on his YouTube page explaining how to make them. Olesnicky stressed that EMKs should contain essentials but be as flat as possible — to make them portable by anyone — and shrink-wrapped to protect them from rain.

Volunteers aged 5 to 18 made EMKs assembly line style, chatting in Ukrainian as they worked. One of the adults was Alexandra Naumenko from Wallingford. Naumenko’s son, who speaks fluent Ukrainian, is in the US Army, stationed in Germany.

“He is supporting the troops in Poland in case reinforcements are needed later,” Naumenko said.

Some volunteers still have family and friends in Ukraine.

“Most of my family members who live there live in western Ukraine, in the Lviv region. They don’t want to leave. They said, ‘This is our house. We want to stay here,” Briggs said.

She said a friend lives on food left behind by neighbors who evacuated.

“He’s a translator for the BBC. So he works, when he’s not in an air-raid shelter,” she said.

Some volunteers cited the tragedy of Ukraine’s plight, given its suffering in the 1940s. About 7 million Ukrainians, civilian and military, died during World War II, and about 200,000 fled through the following.

“It’s like people are reliving the horror of Stalin,” Naumenko said.

Lydia Nascimento, Justin and Julia’s mother, agreed. “It’s hard to believe that in my mother’s life, a similar situation would have happened twice,” she said.

To donate to Plast, visit plastusa.org/scoutsforukraine.

Susan Dunne can be contacted at [email protected].

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