Recently arrived Ukrainians in Minneapolis head to Mississippi to help tornado victims

Twisted metal after a tornado
Debris covers a damaged structure in Rolling Fork, Miss,. on Saturday. Powerful tornadoes tore through the Deep South on Friday night, killing several people in Mississippi, obliterating dozens of buildings.
Rogelio Solis | AP

Answering the call from small relief organizations in northern Mississippi after a series of tornadoes swept through the area, seven Ukrainians who recently arrived in Minneapolis are heading south.

At least 26 people died Friday evening during the storms which left many others without homes.

The nonprofit American Service based in Minneapolis, along with seven Ukrainian refugees, none who have been in the U.S. for longer than three months, gathered in a caravan Monday before hitting the road for the 2,000-mile roundtrip journey to help render aid. 

The American Service’s Director of Operations, Sofiia Rudenko, is a Ukrainian who herself has only been in the U.S. since around Christmas. She said when she heard about the destruction in Mississippi she knew she had to act.  

“Here in America a lot of people helped me to establish here and we have this kind of culture that we want not only to take but also to give back and to help the others,” Rudenko said. “I found a group of people, Ukrainian, that are not working today and willing to go immediately and now we’re packing and going. It’s so exciting, I hope we can do something great for this world.” 

The nonprofit’s executive director, Aswar Rahman, said he expected to reach Rolling Fork, Miss. on Tuesday evening. It is where 13 people were reportedly killed as a result of a EF4 tornado with wind gusts as high as 166 mph.  

“We're planning on doing multiple shipments from nearby cities into the disaster zone,” Rahman said, “and the first one will be exclusively water and the second one will be based on what's requested on the ground once we do our first delivery.” 

Rahman said many of the volunteers also have full-time jobs, so they plan to be back up north by the end of the week. 

The American Service has helped over 80 Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war with Russia find jobs and housing in Minneapolis.