HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Hawaii resident, originally from Ukraine has launched a fundraising initiative to help his people impacted by Russia’s war

Oleksii Savenko is the CEO of Swim Lessons Hawaii. Prior to settling down in the islands, he was an elite swimmer and represented Ukraine in international swim competitions.

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“Being a part of the Ukrainian swim team, that was like very honorable for me and I got the scholarship by swimming,” Savenko said. 

Savenko’s hometown of Chernihiv, Ukraine is over 7,000 miles away from Honolulu. It’s a city that has been destroyed by the war

“All the infrastructure destroyed. Sixty percent of the city gone. People don’t bury dead people anymore,” Savenko said about Russia’s invasion in his city.

Many of his family and friends are still in Chernihiv because they feel leaving their bomb shelters is risky. 

“My mom was last communication with her she said she was seeing the railroad, which is in the other side of the city from her home because everything become flat,” Savenko said. 

Living so far away, Savenko is constantly feeling on edge, worried about his loved ones in Ukraine.  

He said it’s painful to watch the horrific destruction of his once beautiful city.

“I tell her we’re going to go there with my kids. I’m going to show you where I grew up and nothing is there anymore. It’s just death,” Savenko said about the videos he gets sent from his friends in Ukraine.

With the help from his wife, Xiao Yi, Savenko started the Invasion of Peace initiative. Its goal is to raise money for people fleeing and enduring the realities of war

“Actually it started because we started sending money to our friends and they just have so many people that needed help as well, and it just became overwhelming for us,” Xiao Yi explained about why she and her husband decided to start fundraising more money for the Ukrainian people. 

The Invasion of Peace was formed as a volunteer-run organization. Donations are are collected through Maitreya Institute, a registered 501(c)(3) organization. 100% of the money raised goes directly to volunteers on the ground in Ukraine and other small organizations that are working to provide evacuation and resettlement aid to people affected by the war.

“People got like food, they got clean water like also the biggest part is gas. The gas is like more than gold in Ukraine now, and then medicine like insulin for diabetes that’s where the money goes,” Savenko said.

Sasha Vashchenko is one of the volunteers on the receiving end of Savenko’s fundraising initiative. He helps deliver critical goods like food to Ukrainians in dire need of assistance.

He spoke to KHON2’s Lauren Day from a basement in Ukraine about the horror of what he sees every day now. 

“In the forest where I used to pick mushrooms, now lay pieces of people. Severed legs and arms. It’s horrible.”

Sasha Vashchenko, Volunteer

Like so many, they just want the war to end. Until then, they’re so grateful for all the aid they can get. 

“Whatever you can do for the people of Ukraine, because at the moment, they rely on the help, they need the help,” Savenko stated. 

In addition to his Invasion of Peace fundraising efforts, Savenko will be offering free, donation-based swim lessons for adults and kids on Saturday, April 16th at the Magic Island Lagoon in Honolulu.

Every penny raised will be going towards Savenko’s fundraising efforts and will directly help Ukrainians in need. Pre-registration for the swim lessons is required. 

“They just say thank you people from Hawaii. They couldn’t even believe people from here will send them help,” Savenko said about the reaction he’s getting from his connections in Ukraine.

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To donate to the Invasion of Peace initiative, click here.