Mar. 7—EAST COBB — Inna Hanks never thought Russia would actually invade Ukraine.
“I was thinking what everybody’s thinking — no way would they go to war,” the east Cobb resident recalled. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had demanded the NATO military alliance pledge to never admit Ukraine as a member, would “flex some muscles, maybe he’ll get some conditions out of it,” she continued, “but there’s no way he will actually fire, right? There’s no way he’ll … literally start a war without any provocation.”
And then, one morning a week and a half ago, her friends and family in Kharkiv, her hometown and Ukraine’s second-largest city, woke up at 5 a.m. to news Russian troops had crossed the border.
More than a week into the war, many areas are running out of critical supplies. So, last week, she and her husband, Keith Hanks, residents of the Mulberry Farms subdivision, put out a call for the donation of medical supplies and other necessities, promising to forward them to Atlanta for Ukraine, a charitable organization founded after the invasion began.
The response has been overwhelming. Amazon packages ordered by strangers were arriving every 15 minutes, at one point. They had to commandeer the HOA clubhouse to store everything. Saturday afternoon, they stood outside the RockBox Fitness gym off Lower Roswell Road to accept in-person donations.
The gym is a little more than a dozen miles from Alpharetta. That is almost the same distance between Kharkiv and the Russian border, Keith Hanks said.
“To get from Russia to here, you just got to take a tank right down 400 and right up Johnson Ferry, and you’re here,” he said. “That’s it.”
Consequently, the city has been “a prime target of Russia’s assault,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The idea of the hometown that you grew up in, you’re watching it get shelled on TV — you’ve gone from, no one’s heard of this town that you’re from, to everyone, all of a sudden, knows about this town,” Keith Hanks said.
The Hanks have stopped accepting donations for the time being.
“We all have jobs on Monday, we’re not trying to become this nonprofit overnight,” Keith Hanks said. But they are encouraging metro Atlanta residents who want to help Ukraine to donate goods to Ukraine for Atlanta, which, in partnership with Meest, a company that specializes in “providing logistics solutions to Eastern Europe,” sends the items directly to Ukraine.
Kharkiv is a beautiful city, Inna Hanks said, “a young city, of students, of businesses, (a city) that’s vibrant.” Now, “they’re just trying to survive — things are starting to run out and cities like Kharkiv, the ones that have been, you know, surrounded since day one, that are being shelled nonstop … are in rubble.”
More than a million Ukrainians have fled the country, but most of her friends and family remain in Kharkiv.
“Every few days, we’ve been able to keep tabs on everybody as they come out of bomb shelters for a bit to get items,” she said. “Right now, (they need) medical supplies. We’re talking about everything from IV bags to gauze to Neosporin to Motrin.”
Of course, donating medical supplies won’t end the war. That will only happen when Russia decides — or is forced — to leave the country. And Inna Hanks said she understands that U.S. support for Ukraine is “complicated.” But, she continued, it is a mistake to assume Americans have no stake in the conflict.
“I hope people are also clear that … Ukraine is not the last,” she said. “This is going to get only worse.”