“Ukraine Forward” ~ Bedford Resident Works to Publicize the Plight of her Native Land

May 13, 2022

Bedford resident Natalya Wood is trying to help Ukraine survive and repel the Russian invasion.

It’s personal – Wood was born and grew up in Ukraine, and close family members reside there.

“I felt like people are so brave there and I’m just doing a small part – but it can save lives,” Wood said. She is spreading the word about a new charitable organization, Ukraine Forward, an initiative of the Ukrainian-American Educational Center headquartered in Massachusetts.

Wood, mother of two grown sons and a nursing student at Middlesex Community College, lived in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union; she came to the U.S. in 1999. She speaks often to her mother in Ternopil, in western Ukraine, and her brother in Kyiv.

“We are fortunate to have Internet and phone connections,” she said, adding that she reads Ukrainian newspapers and watches television broadcasts from the country.

“Nobody’s safe, but they are OK for now,” she said. Thanks to the country’s “wonderful neighbors on the west,” her relatives aren’t experiencing shortages. She said her brother evacuated Kyiv when bombing began but recently returned and reopened his business.

However, the country is suffering from shortages in medical supplies. “That’s where Ukraine Forward comes in,” she explained. “They don’t need food, clothing, or diapers. They need first-aid, vests, helmets for the soldiers and the volunteer battalions – the hunters, athletes, people who are good at this kind of stuff.”

“Half of the country is fighting and the other half is volunteering,” Woods asserted. Volunteers who deliver the medical supplies and whatever they need on the front lines are just regular citizens.”

“They know the back roads through the fields and woods, and they use their own vehicles to deliver these things to the front lines. The volunteers also need to be protected because the Russians don’t care – – we’ve lost a lot of volunteers.”

Wood’s professional background is teaching English as a second language. She and her husband Robert have lived in Bedford since 2016. “We think it’s a wonderful town, great people, a welcoming school system, great neighbors.”

Her family has a legacy of suffering instigated by Russia. In the years before and immediately after World War II, she said, some great uncles in the Ukrainian resistance were shot, another sent to a gulag in Siberia.

“When this whole thing started, my friends were contacting me and asking how they could help,” she related. “There was no place to which I could direct people.” Her husband, who works in Concord, spotted blue and yellow Ukraine Forward lawn signs, and Wood quickly found the source: Ukraine Forward (UkraineForward.org).

“They shared everything they are doing with me,” Wood said. Ukraine Forward is operating out of a Catholic church in Jamaica Plain. “A group of young people from the church in literally three days put this website together and started collecting donations.” Organizers are recent college students in North America and Ukraine, many with relatives in the country. They are accepting donations as well as Amazon gift cards, she said.

Using personal funds, Wood purchased 25 “Bedford Supports Ukraine” blue-and-yellow lawn signs and found receptive residents by driving around searching for Ukrainian flags on display. She said she didn’t just ask residents to post a sign; she took time to explain Ukraine Forward and its work. “People were happy to put up a sign,” she said, and her supply is exhausted.

She said she has reached out to school officials for programming possibilities and exposure to Ukraine Forward in newsletters. Her family’s church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, is planning a June drive to benefit Ukraine Forward, she said.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, “surprised us all,” Wood said. “He is outstanding. People would have fought but morale wouldn’t have been so strong. And we would have been squashed if we didn’t have the support from the West. The soldiers are so brave and so professional and so well trained.”

Wood can be reached at [email protected] for more information. “We would like to expand if people have ideas and can share their talents.”

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