The global network is sending Ukrainian civilians supplies, battling Russian propaganda.
Russian Five (2018) filmmaker Jenny Feterovich, a Soviet Jewish immigrant, is on the phone day and night organizing supplies and medical care for Ukrainian civilians stuck in the middle of war. One hour, she’s working on finding shelter for nearly two dozen orphans. Another, she’s assembling what she calls a “laundry list” of first-aid items, like bandages and tourniquets, for Ukrainian soldiers and civilians injured in attacks by the Russian forces. “I’m getting phone calls from various groups,” Feterovich says, “and they’re saying, ‘I need x, y and z.’ Through our channels, we’re getting things delivered.”
The Bloomfield-based filmmaker, who immigrated to Metro Detroit from Moscow in 1989, has strong ties to Ukraine. Her wife was born in Crimea and lived in Kyiv for most of her life.
“This is highly personal to me,” Feterovich, 46, says. “We have friends, family and people who work for us [in Ukraine].”
As part of an entrepreneur network of people assisting Ukraine in its fight against Russia, Feterovich works with contacts in Germany, Poland the Netherlands and more to get people to safety. “In real time, I’m helping people either get out, get situated once they cross the border or helping people inside the country,” she explains. “It’s all-hands-on-deck.
The Situation Is ‘Minute-By-Minute’
In the city of Kherson, which became the first major city in Ukraine to fall to Russian forces, there is only one man left baking bread for a population of nearly 300,000.
“He’s baking 24/7,” Feterovich describes. “We’re on a mission to support him so he can continue to feed the people. Unfortunately, there’s not enough Red Cross on the ground. It’s regular people that are trying to accomplish these things.”
The global network that Feterovich belongs to was assembled on a whim, she explains, going up in a matter of days ready to assist millions of Ukrainians trapped without food, shelter, water, heat or means of escape. They work together through WhatsApp, Telegram and other cell phone apps, while raising money to help support various projects.
“It’s a minute-by-minute type of situation,” Feterovich says.
Currently, the network assists all areas of Ukraine: Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson and regions in western Ukraine where many civilians are escaping to get away from the fighting. The biggest needs, Feterovich says, are medical supplies and squaring away logistics for those who need a place to live once they safely cross the Ukrainian border.
“Food is also becoming a need very fast,” Feterovich says. “Where is the world? Why is it the private citizens that are left to do this? What is happening?”
In Ukraine, the concept of private property has gone out the window. Civilians share vehicles, homes, clothing and food with strangers, with the hopes of staying alive. It’s what Feterovich calls “one united nation,” where everyone is ready to protect their country and even more importantly, its people.
However, many Ukrainians have family members in Russia who struggle to believe that the war is real.
“As the Russian propaganda machine ramps up, the number one thing that people need to understand is that it’s on a whole other level,” Feterovich explains.
According to her contacts in Kherson, a Russian film crew was recently on the ground filming a fake film. “They’re pretending that the Ukrainians are meeting them with flowers,” Feterovich says, “and they’re distributing them to citizens. People need to understand this reality.
“Russian people that are in Russia, they don’t even know what’s happening,” she continues. “This is not a war of the Russian people. This is a war of the regime. There’s not a single independent person reporting in Russia right now. Everything has been shut down. Everything.”
As they battle the propaganda, Feterovich continues to keep her focus on Ukraine. So far, she estimates her network has helped thousands of people — and plans to help thousands more.
“Communication is hard,” she says. “Everything changes by the minute.”
In recent phone calls begging for help, Feterovich has heard horrible stories: One city has 30,000 people trapped under rubble in basements; another has 3,000 children who can’t get through the proposed green corridor to receive humanitarian aid. A third city has just one priest, with one car, driving civilians out of city limits to safety.
For the Soviet Jewish immigrant, who escaped religious persecution in the former USSR, where Jews had limited opportunity for career and educational advancement, Feterovich never thought something like this could happen.
“It’s absolutely surreal to me,” she says. “They can’t get help fast enough.”