Olympic athletes from Ukraine made a trip to Athens to thank local volunteers and pay respects

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB/Report for America) — Ukrainian Olympic athletes joined local volunteers Sunday in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church to commemorate an international partnership delivering supplies to war-torn parts of Ukraine.

The partnership began when Athens resident Holly Dallman, the founder of Little Wing Relief  Works, started collecting donations for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion in 2022. She needed someone to help distribute the goods and eventually reached out to the marketing manager for the U.S. luge team, Ukrainian immigrant Dimitri Feld.

“I said, ‘This is not a prank call. We’d like to ship a 40-foot container to Ukraine,’” Dallman recalled.

Feld was eager to help and got in touch with Ukrainian skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych, who made international headlines at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing when he held up a sign saying “No war in Ukraine.” Heraskevych and his father were already delivering supplies to Ukraine’s war-torn cities and were happy to receive what Dallman had collected.

Members of the Ukrainian Olympic skeleton racing team pose with Holly Dallman and her husband Tom.
From left: Ukrainian skeleton racer Yaroslav Lavreniuk; his father Serhii; Holly Dallman of Little Wing Relief; Ukrainian skeleton racer Vladislav Heraskevych; Dallman’s husband Tom; and Heraskevych’s father Mykhailo. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB Public Media/Report for America]
“It would not have been possible without Dimitri,” Dallman said.

Over the next two years, Little Wing volunteers collected three shipping containers’ worth of food, medical and military supplies and sent them to Ukraine. Much of this comprised products readily available to American consumers.

“Farm boots are wonderful for people in tanks whose feet are getting wet,” Dallman said.

Dallman said the most impactful donations were trauma kits that halt bleeding.

“The reason that most people die on the battlefield is from loss of blood,” she said.

Dallman said she’s currently working on a fourth container and encouraged anyone interested to contact her via Little Wing Relief.

Heraskevych planned this trip to Athens to thank Dallman, Feld and the other volunteers. Then, in late December, Feld took ill. He died in January at the age of 68 due to complications resulting from leukemia, according to an obituary in the Lake Placid News.

A display honoring the memory of US Luge marketing director and Ukrainian activist Dimitri Feld. The display includes supplies Little Wing Relief has sent to Ukraine.
Examples of helpful donations were on display next to a sign honoring Dimitri Feld. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB Public Media/Report for America]
Although the circumstances were more somber, Heraskevych made the journey anyway. Joining him was 16-year-old skeleton racer Yaroslav Lavreniuk, who recently won silver at the Youth Olympics in South Korea. The two athletes’ fathers came along, as well.

At the event, Heraskevych showed photos from his time delivering supplies and organizing youth athletics programs with victims of the war. Many of the photos showed buildings destroyed by Russian bombs.

Heraskevych said he was moved by the resilience of the people he met.

“They lose their home, they lose everything, they’re cooking food on a fire, but they still have a hope. So we shouldn’t lose it, too,” he said.

He thinks that’s what Dimitri Feld would have wanted.