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USC Lancaster students, professors donate suitcases full of supplies for Ukrainian refugees, soldiers

The students gathered enough donations to fill 28 large suitcases.
USC Lancaster students and professors donated suitcases full of supplies for Ukrainian refugees and soldiers.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, creating a crisis for many that has already lasted more than three months.

Ukrainians are still trying to leave. Many fleeing with the clothes on their backs. One local university says it is time to give back and help Ukrainians who so desperately need it.

University of South Carolina Lancaster students recently took a 12-day trip to eastern Europe after it was canceled twice because of the pandemic. But after hearing about the Ukrainian people who needed help in the exact countries where they planned to visit, they said it was time to act.

Rising sophomore Rio Shadow traveled all over the world but never got the opportunity to go to Europe. A class trip changed that.

”Finding out I had a chance to go to Europe, a place I’ve never been before and couldn’t dream of, I immediately jumped for it,” Shadow said.

The trip was to Eastern Europe—countries like Poland and Hungry, places where Ukrainian refugees have fled to seek shelter from their war-torn country.

”It is the 21st century and we’re still dealing with issues in the world like this,” Shadow said. “It’s just like wow.”

Shadow’s professor, Dr. Susan Cruise, knew if they were going to Europe they need to do something to help.

”Hearing all of the news about the Ukranian refugees and how they were suffering and leaving with no notice and nothing,” Cruise said. “You know, leaving with hardly any of their belongings. We thought we’d do a donation drive on our campus.”

That drive turned into something much bigger than either could imagine. What they thought would be a few suitcases full of supplies turned into 28 large suitcases of relief.

All of the donations came from the community. Members donated the same suitcases the students filled. The students also raised almost $2,500 as well.

”The cabinet was so full I could barely close it sometimes,” Shadow said. “Floor to ceiling, completely packed.”

Donations of medical supplies, diapers, clothes and so much more poured in from the community. Every single piece going to help refugees or those still fighting in Ukraine was donated.

”This just touched a personal soft spot for me because of my grandparents,” Cruise said.

Dr. Cruise is from Canada, but said her grandparents emigrated from Ukraine. She remembers singing Ukrainian Christmas carols, eating the food and hearing her grandparents speak Ukrainian to each other.

The USC-Lancaster students helped unpack all their efforts, even meeting some of the people it would help.

”The need is just so great,” Cruise said. “There’s just so much more they need and how much more I wish we could have done.”

What they have done though made a difference. In their lives, in the refugees’ lives, and Shadow hopes in others’ lives who see this and are inspired to help as well.

”Obviously, there will always be evil in this world,” Shadow said. “There will always be bad things. But we should always do what we can to fight that. There will always be darkness, but candles can eventually light up a room.”

If anyone would like to get involved, Cruise said the organization they used is called the Slavic Mission in Europe. You can find out more and donate here.

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