Haydenville woman raises funds for those fleeing violence in Ukraine

Published: 03/12/2022 10:03:31

Modified: 03/12/2022 10:03:18

WILLIAMSBURG — Tracy Magdalene is a recently retired public defender who lives in Haydenville with her husband David Farnham and their dog Scout. It is a world apart from Ukraine, which is currently suffering from war and has seen more than 2 million people flee the country.

Yet, through her personal and family connections to Eastern Europe, Madeleine has become a source of money for those seeking to flee violence, as well as for those who have chosen to stay.

Magdalene lived in Poland in the late 1990s and like many people who grew up in the Hilltowns, she is of Polish descent.

“These are people who will do whatever they can for you,” said Magdalene, recalling her time in Poland.

Magdalene was inspired to help people in Ukraine after coming into contact – through her sister, Renee Berrian – with a Ukrainian named Sasha, who runs a non-profit football association. Sasha uses her networks, many of which are in the world of football, to help find host families outside Ukraine for those fleeing the country.

“We only find families with open hearts,” Sasha said.

He does this yeoman job from Poland, where he fled with his wife and two children after Russia invaded Ukraine last month.

“His wife and two children had to go to the border alone,” Magdalene said. “It took them two days to get there… which should have been a three hour drive.”

For security reasons, only Sasha’s nickname is used. In addition to his non-profit work, he has also worked for the United Nations. His ties to western Massachusetts run through Berrian, who recently retired from Project Harmony, which runs exchange programs between former Soviet bloc countries and the United States. Berrian met Sasha during his travels for this job.

Sasha said he helped more than 70 families cross the border and provided housing outside Ukraine through this effort.

Magdalene asked for donations for Sasha’s work on Facebook and has already sent her $4,700. However, most of this money comes from Madeleine herself.

Sasha expressed her gratitude for the funds.

“Ukrainians are really grateful for all this support,” he said.

He said the money provided hot meals for people and food for the first month in a host family was paid for. He also said he pays for buses and taxis.

“There are people who are in need,” Magdalene said. “If we can help, we should.”

Those wishing to send money to Ukrainians through Madeleine can contact her at 413-320-9036.

Bera Dunau can be reached at [email protected]