Local leaders make historic trip to help Eastern Ukraine
Three leaders from two Connecticut communities just returned from a historic trip to Eastern Ukraine.
"It's more emotional now that we're back," said Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas.
Koskinas and Westport First Selectwoman Jen Tooker are back from travelling 3,000 kilometers in four days.
"To deliver humanitarian aid in a very personalized way," said Tooker.
The two Westport leaders were joined by Easton First Selectman David Bindleglass as the first delegation of U.S. officials to visit this specific location of Eastern Ukraine since the war began. They were close to the fighting.
"We could hear the artillery in the background about 10 kilometers away," said Tooker.
The visit was part of a sister city program launched by nonprofit Ukraine Aid International. The organization started in Westport. Ukrainian leaders were touched by the gesture.
"They couldn't believe that we took the time, we took the risk, we actually made the effort to stand with them," said Koskinas.
The more time local leaders spent in the war-torn country, the closer they were able to bond with their counterparts.
"I talk to the police chief just about every day and this was before our visit. We shared family photos. He has said that there's certain days that some of those texts, emails and conversations would get him through the day," said Koskinas.
"I cannot tell you how grateful I am for our community and the hundreds of thousands of dollars we've raised," said Tooker.
That money is giving that part of Ukraine the means to get back on its feet - for the 8% of the population that still lives there.
"Every single one of them is hopeful, they're determined. They are incredibly resilient. And there's no doubt in their mind they will bring this war to a conclusion," said Tooker.
Since this trip, other local towns are now reaching out to help.
If you want to donate to Ukraine Aid International, click here.