Karen Walker and husband Mikhail Gherman urge Kiwis to help Ukraine

The NZ Herald is joining forces with World Vision to help as more than two million Ukrainian women and children flee their country in the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian emergency since WWII.

“These are real humans, it’s not a TV show.”

Those are the words from fashion mogul Karen Walker who, with her husband and business partner Mikhail Gherman, is urging Kiwis to do more to support those suffering in Ukraine.

Gherman came to New Zealand from Ukraine as a refugee when he was only 12 and said it was disturbing to see dystopian images emerging from the city he grew up in, Odessa.

“It actually is a whole lot of people, mums and dads and kids and teenagers skateboarding, somebody’s learning how to play cello, somebody’s learning how to become an architect or a doctor, somebody’s working on a shop selling books.

“You actually do feel powerless, you ring your relatives, do you need anything, whatever, but the reality of it is all we can do at the moment is give money and make sure the vulnerable are being taken care of.”

For him, news of the invasion had felt as though someone had simply decided to take away the future of Ukrainians.

Walker said, “Forty-four million real people, with real stories and real futures that have been taken from them.

“Their aspirations, their plans, their careers, their children. I think about it from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep and in my dreams.”

She told the Herald that while the writing had been on the wall for some time, when news of the invasion was announced she was in shock for a “good four or five days”.

“Every scrap of normal life is gone, it’s just about how do I get water? How do I get my grandma to the bunker or what do I do with my dead?”

Gherman, who still has family in Ukraine, said at times it could feel like they were powerless to help being in New Zealand.

Right now, he said all they could do was donate money.

“In the long term we need to start accepting more refugees into this country, we’ve got lots of room.”

Each night, the pair said they donated more money to those in Ukraine, and even their young daughter had emptied out her piggy bank to help.

“She actually came downstairs and put her money on the table because we were donating anyway and she said, ‘take this money’,” Gherman said.

When Gherman left Ukraine, Walker said there was “nobody firing shells” at him, whereas now there were two million people fleeing because they were being bombed.

“Don’t look away.

“Think, do you really need that $7.50 coffee tomorrow, maybe there’s somewhere else you can put that money.”

She asked people to reconsider whether they needed to go out for a drink or get a manicure and where else that money could be more useful.

“None of us are filling up a minivan and driving to Ukraine with toilet paper and bandages, because there are people on the grounddoing that really well for us.”

Your urgent donation will provide vital essentials for children and families affected by the crisis in Ukraine. Please click here to donate now at worldvision.org.nz

Ukraine Crisis Appeal: Where your money goes

Your support will help children and families affected by the crisis in Ukraine with

• Food and hygiene kits

• Child-friendly spaces and shelter

• Psychosocial support to help kids cope with trauma

Your urgent donation will provide vital essentials for children and families affected by the crisis in Ukraine. Please click here to donate now at worldvision.org.nz

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