When conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine, what was meant to be one young woman’s 17-hour journey to Poland turned into 5 days.
“In the morning we woke up and [my] mother says, come on… I [packed our] luggage and we’ll go [to] the west of Ukraine, maybe… But we didn’t know [to] which city we will go [or] when we will arrive,” Oksana Kononets described.
This uncertainty was coupled with the fact that Oksana is wheelchair-bound. The 29-year-old proudly tells us that, despite her disability, she’s been modeling since 2015. “I’m the first Ukrainian tetra model; a model who [has] some problems with [the] neck and also she is weak,” she explained in English.
Given her disability, the trip was a difficult one for her and her mother, with whom she was able to arrive safely in California, where they met Tzu Chi volunteers. Connected by her longtime friend & Tzu Chi volunteer Jonathan Chueng, she visited the Tzu Chi Health Center in Alhambra, CA, where she was seen by Dr. Stephen Denq for free. He explained Tzu Chi’s commitment to making healthcare accessible particularly to those without the means to pay for it:
“She’s a so-called refugee, but to a doctor, patients are just patients… In Tzu Chi’s philosophy, it’s all about serving the community… even if you’re not able to pay the bill we’re doing our best to serve all patients.”
Experiencing Tzu Chi’s warm welcome and learning about the humanitarian efforts it is currently doing in Ukraine, Oksana tells us that she is excited to work together to help her fellow Ukrainians overcome their difficulties through this time:
“I’m really happy that I can help. Ukrainian people are very strong. We have a lot of power. We are friendly, we are together, we are united.”
See the video and support our efforts to send Love & Compassion to Ukraine: donate.tzuchi.us/cause/ukraine