‘Such a 180.’ Olga Litvinenko reflects on life focus since invasion of Ukraine
One year ago, when Russia invaded her native country of Ukraine, everything changed for former Miss Connecticut USA Olga Litvinenko.
“It's kind of crazy to think about it — that my life has taken such a 180,” Litvinenko said.
News 12 Connecticut first spoke with Litvinenko at this time last year. She had just evacuated her mother from Ukraine, but other friends and family remained in danger. They told her by phone about not being able to sleep and hearing missile strikes.
Today, all of them are safe, Litvinenko said, including her great aunt, whom she helped get to France. But her mission goes far beyond those she knows.
Litvinenko created the nonprofit USA for Ukraine, which provides critical help to those in need. They have delivered food, hygiene items and medical supplies to some of the hardest hit areas. The group also focuses on all the animals that were left behind there.
“We’ve helped a variety of abandoned animals, and we're working with animal shelters in Ukraine to cover costs of food and living,” she explained. Litvinenko even added two dogs from there to her family.
She has traveled to the war-torn nation more than 10 times over the past year.
“When I visit the frontlines of Ukraine, I’m still hearing the war happening -- gunshots, drones go off, and that was something that I never really thought I’d experience in my life,” she added.
Litvinenko moved with her family to the United States when she was 3 years old, but still visited loved ones there over the years. She said the country looks a lot different than in some of her favorite memories.
“Seeing how something can be so devastated so quickly was really painful,” Litvinenko recalled.
But despite that pain, Litvinenko's resolve has never wavered. She is more dedicated than ever to help Ukraine.