JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Natalya Lototska, who fled Ukraine with her two daughters about a month ago, is staying with her cousin and her family in Jacksonville. She said ever since they left Kyiv, though, her younger daughter has asked her a question about her toys at least once a week.
"She cries and says, "what if my toys die at home,' Lototska said.
Lototska's husband, who works for the Ukrainian government, was forced to stay behind.
"I cannot believe that what is happening right now is happening with me, with my country. I usually read the news because reading is easier than watching," Lototska said through tears.
She said several of her friends stayed behind. Some of them stayed to fight.
"So many young men are ready to defend the territory and young women as well. I have many friends, women, who are there together with men, so, millions of people are going to fight," she said.
Lototska said she's extremely grateful that she and her daughters are safe at her cousin's home in Jacksonville, but she feels she must do something to help those still in Ukraine.
"Here, you don't hear the sirens. You can sleep for the whole night. You can drink your tea or coffee, not running underground and staying there for a day, for five hours. Sometimes people go underground to bomb shelters two, three times a day, two, three, four, five, six hours each time, so those people, it’s harder for them right now to collect money, to even get stuff because everything we had in Ukraine is already bought," she said.
"The medicine is already bought, so now we are looking for that stuff in other countries," she said.
Lototska, her cousin and her cousin's husband are working together to collect medical equipment and make first aid kits for civilian soldiers.
"My friends, they just text me, 'Oh, we need 10 kits here. We need 20 kits here. We need this, this, this,'" Lototska said.
"I believe we can save lives if people have medicine," she explained.
Her cousin's husband has already made two trips with a friend, dropping donations off at the Ukrainian border. He and Lototska will deliver the next batch next week.
"You cannot just enjoy this beautiful weather [in Jacksonville], just enjoy food, and not do nothing," she said.
They'll meet Lototska's husband at the Polish border. He'll then drive the donations into Ukraine and deliver them.
If you would like to donate, you can send money to Steve Croskey on Venmo, who is Lototska's cousin's husband. You can also buy something for the kit from their gift list on Amazon and it will be delivered to their door. Lototska said they also have a GoFundMe page.
Lototska said they'll continue to make trips with the kits as long as they're needed.
As far as her message for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lototska said it would be hard for her to communicate with him.
“I have no words because he’s not human. Humans cannot talk to not humans. There is no language to talk," Lototska said.
She said it's hard to plan for how long they'll stay in Jacksonville, but Lototska hopes they'll all head back home by August if the danger decreases by then.