When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Lana Nicole Niland was at her home in Kyiv, listening to the wail of air raid sirens. Five days later the Saskatchewan-born woman began Ukrainian Patriot, an organization working to provide badly needed supplies to the war-torn country.
Now, Niland relays information about Ukraine's needs to her two co-founders who are raising funds in Saskatchewan while she and other co-founders in Ukraine work to put those resources to use.
"When we come together as people of the world, we can be very strong," Niland said. "It was for this reason that I needed to do something for Ukraine.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues to cut deeper into the country. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called their military actions a form of genocide. Kyiv police said Friday that 900 civilian bodies had been found in the capital, nearly all with gunshot wounds.
"I don't know how many people in the Western world have experienced air raid sirens or bombings … it's very scary," Niland said, a resident of Kyiv for nearly two decades.
"No matter how much you want to resist, no matter how strong you want to be, you don't know what's going to happen —not just from day-to-day but hour-to-hour."
Niland says the Patriot is based on five pillars: protecting volunteers, providing medical supplies, humanitarian aid, rebuilding Ukraine and helping people deal with trauma.
We want to be able to do something. We can't stop the fighting ourselves. - Daria Malin, co-founder of Ukrainian Patriot
She listed off different situations the Patriot has helped, such as giving protective vests to people who join volunteer battalions with improper equipment or fuel to people trying to rescue animals.
That includes providing aid to cities such as Mariupol, which has been bombarded by Russian troops for weeks. Niland wouldn't elaborate on how, but said people are risking their lives to provide support to cities under siege.
"It's humbling for me to be standing alongside Ukrainians as we fight for freedom and democracy," Niland said.
Daria Malin, one of the two co-founders located in Saskatchewan, says Ukrainians and Saskatchewan residents stepped up to help once people understood what was happening in the country.
"It's horrific and you can't be completely disconnected from it because it means more than just what's happening to Ukrainians specifically," she said. "It's about what's happening to a free people."
"We want to be able to do something; we can't stop the fighting ourselves … so what can we do?"
Like Niland, Malin was born in Saskatoon, and says the people have been supporting the organizations because the team in Ukraine is reporting back on what they've been doing — and showing people where their money and support is going.
She says the Patriot works as a connection to groups on the ground in Ukraine asking for things such as two-way radios, food or other supplies.
Malin says the organization is registered as a non-profit in Ukraine and in Canada, and is working on obtaining charitable status.