POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) – Over the past few months, Lena Contor has been raising money to secure a visa for her mother from Ukraine to the United States.
When two friends told her they had to go to Poland to help refugees, she thought she could use the money in another way.
“They didn’t speak Polish or Ukrainian or Russian, and I speak Russian and Ukrainian and I’m learning Polish,” Contor said. “So they asked me to go with them and be the interpreter.”
Contor says many of the refugees are women and children who fear being arrested for sex trafficking.
Ultimately, she wanted to use her translation skills to help in any way she could.
“We were always driving around with a van full of something,” Contor said. “Usually suitcases, bags, water, raincoats and we would deliver them to the border and then bring a van full of people back to town. We did that every day for about three weeks.”
She says she has heard first-hand accounts of the horrors her people have experienced.
“She said they hadn’t showered for 16 days,” Contor said. “They couldn’t even take their shoes off just to feel a little better because everyone would die from the smell.”
“She said a family in front of them died because of the bomb and the family behind them,” Contor said. “They had to step over their bodies. They saw parts flying around and body parts, and they had to keep moving.”
With only two days left until she was to return home, Contor had the chance to see her mother in person.
“It was a fun reunion,” Contor said. “It was really nice to see her.”
But Contor says she will never forget the heartbreak of the trip.
“They’re so traumatized,” Contor said. “That was the hardest part for me being there is hearing their stories and what they went through. It’s even worse than what they show.”
As for bringing his mother to the United States, Contor says it’s still a complicated process that will require multiple trips abroad to bring her home.
You can help Lena in her efforts by contacting her at (208) 237-2290 or donating through Venmo @lenacontor.