Law enforcement agencies donate tactical gear to Ukraine
Local law enforcement agencies around the nation are shipping tactical gear to Ukraine to defend against Russian forces.
A Ukrainian baker based in Texas who has raised more than $150,000 to help Ukrainian war efforts has also been able to help her family flee to safety.
Anna Afanasieva, 28, is originally from Odesa, Ukraine, and currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She’s been in the U.S. for eight years.
Her family was in Odesa when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, but recently they’ve been able to leave the country, first for Moldova, then Romania. They’re right now settling in Turkey until they can return home to Ukraine, Afanasieva told Fox News Digital in an interview.
“It was really hard,” Afanasieva said of when her family was still in Ukraine. “I mean, it still is. But at least I know that now they’re safe.”
Anna Afanasieva, left, opened Laika Cheesecakes and Espresso in San Antonio, Texas, in December 2020. She’s pictured here with her team at work. She said of her Ukrainian family, "At least I know that now they’re safe."
(Anna Afanasieva/Viktor Krizma)
She added, “Watching the news every day, it’s pretty intense. I still have a lot of friends living there, even in Kyiv. Some of them — they’re unreachable. There’s no reception. We don’t really get in touch with them.”
‘The hardest part’
Afanasieva spoke to Fox News Digital from Istanbul, where she was helping her loved ones settle into their temporary home.
“The hardest part was to convince them to [leave Ukraine], because everybody wanted to stay there,” Afanasieva said.
“But I realized, it’s just not very safe at the moment.”
Afanasieva’s parents (pictured here) were in Odesa when Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, but recently they left the country — first for Moldova, then Romania. They’re currently settling in Turkey and expect to return to Ukraine one day.
Afanasieva said that many people she knows aren’t “realizing what’s actually going on.”
“Until it’s actually happening to you, if it’s happening somewhere else, even in a neighboring city, you still don’t really — you can’t comprehend it,” Afanasieva said.
“The hardest part was to convince them to [leave], because everybody wanted to stay there. But I realized, it’s just not very safe at the moment.”
When she reunited with her family this past Monday, Afanasieva said it was the first time she’d seen them in three years.
That’s because the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years prevented her from traveling to Ukraine.
“I’m really happy, first of all that they’re safe,” Afanasieva said. “And finally we were able to see each other. It’s been a long time.”
‘The least we can do’
Afanasieva runs Laika Cheesecake and Espresso, a bakery she opened in San Antonio in December 2020.
Right after Russia invaded Ukraine, Afanasieva announced on Facebook that her shop would donate all of its sales from Friday, Feb. 25, to Sunday, Feb. 27, to help the Ukrainian army.
Laika Cheesecake and Espresso held a fundraiser last month to support the Ukrainian army after Russia invaded the country.
(Anna Afanasieva )
Afanasieva told Fox News Digital that the idea for the fundraiser “came very naturally.”
“This is the least we can do,” she said.
In another Facebook post after the fundraiser, the bakery announced it had sold more than 4,500 pieces of cheesecake and that some 3,000 people had visited the bakery over the weekend.
Many people waited up to three-and-a-half hours to purchase items and make donations.
Even after the bakery was sold out for “hours,” people still waited in line to donate, the post said.
Afanasieva told Fox News Digital that she didn’t expect the community to respond in such a huge way.
“It seemed like the whole city showed up,” she said.
Afanasieva told Fox News Digital that the idea for the fundraiser "came very naturally." The line outside Laika during the fundraiser is shown here.
(Anna Afanasieva )
“We obviously didn’t expect anything like that. I thought it might get a little bit busier than usual, but then suddenly, we get to the shop on Friday and there’s a line outside the door — around the whole block, basically,” she said.
Afanasieva told Fox News Digital that Laika is still accepting donations to help the Ukrainian army and that so far, the bakery has raised about $150,000.
During the fundraiser weekend, Laika Cheesecake and Espresso sold more than 4,500 pieces of cheesecake and had approximately 3,000 people visit the bakery.
(Anna Afanasieva )
“The amount is increasing every day,” Afanasieva said. “We literally receive checks in the mailbox and even cash. People are sending cash from all over the states.”
She added, “We were really surprised to discover so many people were actually willing to help.” Afanasieva said she’s “really grateful” to the San Antonio community.
“We didn’t expect that much reaction from the American people,” she said.
“We were really surprised to discover so many people were actually willing to help.”
Afanasieva is planning to use the money to buy supplies for the Ukrainian army and get them to Ukraine, though the planning and logistics are challenging, she said.
‘Really proud to be a Ukrainian’
Today, more than two weeks after the fundraiser, Afanasieva said business is booming for Laika Cheesecakes and Espresso.
“We’re still selling out every day by 3 o’clock,” Afanasieva said. “Normally we open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.”
Afanasieva told Fox News Digital that Laika is still accepting donations to help the Ukrainian army and so far, the bakery has raised about $150,000.
(Anna Afanasieva )
Though it’s been difficult for her to follow the news about the attacks on her native land, Afanasieva said she’s also experiencing pride in her country for “probably the first time in my life,” she said.
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“I’m really proud to be a Ukrainian,” Afanasieva said. “I’m really happy to be a part of this country.” (She is a permanent resident of the U.S.)
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“I really hope all of that will be over soon for my people, for my country,” she added.
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