Russia-Ukraine War: How are donations shipped to refugees, soldiers?

FILE - Medical supplies to be shipped to Ukraine (Photo: FOX 26 Houston)

With the Russian invasion continuing on in Ukraine, residents across the U.S. are stepping up efforts to spread awareness and ship donations overseas to the military and refugees. 

However, a lot goes into play when it comes to international shipping that some might be unaware of. 


According to Charita Shteynberg, founder of World of Connections, an organization that donates supplies from across the U.S. to Ukraine, these factors are especially vital when it comes to expediting supplies.  

"We are providing two different types of shipments, the items that are considered to be urgent and need right away, they are being airlifted - mostly it’s medical supplies and triage items that are extremely needed on the front lines," she said. "So we ship them by air. And that's usually very expensive, but very quick. They do arrive within, I'd say about two, three days into Poland, and from Poland have been transported on the trucks into Ukraine." 

"And the second way of shipping is through sea containers," Shteynberg continued. "It's a longer time, but less expensive. It takes about 30 days to get to Polish ports."

As the invasion continues, Shteynberg explained how the shipping process has gotten more complex as well. 

"The ports are closed, the airports are closed, there is no other way to get into Ukraine besides by going through borders of other countries, and unfortunately, not every country has reacted as quickly," she said. "We do have some of the cargo that arrived in Romania and we have not been able to get it out of borders quickly - they're smaller, and the regulations are high." 

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"So you have to prepare much more documents to get them out of port, so everything became faster, and at the same time more difficult," Shteynberg added. "You have to make more steps than you would if you shipped directly to Ukraine."

And of course, all these efforts cost money and the price of shipping is contingent on where you are in the U.S. but places like Houston are in a more ideal location to send items overseas. 

"It all depends on the location of where the cargo is being picked up in Houston, fortunately enough, you have your own ports, so it is faster to get the cargo out of Houston than let's say somewhere in the middle of the United States like Alabama, Mississippi, all of those have more of traveling to the water," Shteynberg said.

Currently, there is a great need for medical supplies and food, but Shteynberg says anything is welcomed including monetary donations. 

"I have about four containers of food ready to go with no money to ship," she said. "So we are capable of getting larger quantities of needed supplies, it’s the money that needs to be paid for the shipping of those items." 

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"I would rather have people fundraise or collect very specific items - there are items that are desperately needed, like medicine, like tourniquets, like any kind of bandage materials, these items are desperately needed, and they're scarce," Shteynberg continued. "You can survive without having an extra pair of shoes, you cannot survive if you have nothing to eat, or medicine, to treat your elderly and your children when they're sick." 

There is a silver lining in that so many organizations and groups have been increasing efforts to help send aid to Ukraine. 

"Everybody wants to help Ukraine, so we got a huge response," Shteynberg said. "It's probably so unbelievable that in the 21st century, we have a war in the middle of Europe and in two civilized countries, no less - it's really something that most people do not understand how it happens, so everybody wants to help."

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For example, there has been some help from organizations to help with shipping. 

"There are a couple organizations that do nonprofit shipping, and they provide either free shipping or discounted rates for shipping, but they're very scarce," Shteynberg said. "And there's a lot of us, and everybody's trying to apply and get that flow."

And despite all the work that goes into making these shipments happen, Shteynberg said it’s a labor of love. 

"I am just extremely lucky that they have such wonderful people working with me and donating so much of their time to help Ukraine that I'm just humbled by the whole experience," she concluded. "I mean, not that it's a good thing that there is a war, but it did give me a huge lesson of how many wonderful people there are here in the United States."

To learn more about World of Connections, visit their website. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter