Maryna Baydyuk took the stage Sept. 21 at the National Archives and received the National Order of Merit, 3rd Degree.
“Shaking President’s Zelenskyy’s hand and telling him that ‘We are in this together — we will do everything for the victory’ — and him looking at me and saying ‘Thank you.’ I think that was definitely an important moment of my life,” Baydyuk told WTOP.
She was one of many diaspora leaders that received honors that day, including United Help Ukraine board member Yuri Deychakiwsky.
Baydyuk teaches neurobiology at Georgetown University but she is also the president of UHU.
The group was formed in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Its focus was mainly locally based, often holding protests at the Russian embassy and White House while raising funds for those fighting already in the Donbas, Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, support exploded.
“In the first couple of days, we raised millions of dollars,” Baydyuk said.
“Fifty-five suitcases full of tactical medicine that paramedics took with them were delivered in Ukraine within the first week. Within the first two weeks, 10,000 tourniquets were delivered, which are absolutely essential tactical medical components.”
Since then they have regularly supplied state-of-the-art U.S. Army first-aid kits to front line soldiers and have set up a training facility in Kyiv, Ukraine to train tactical medics “that can train up to 2,000 people a month.”
They also provide medical supplies and equipment to around 50 civilian hospitals around the country.
“In 2022, our organization provided over $45 million in humanitarian medical supplies to Ukraine. That’s a huge amount, considering (UHU) is a small, local organization,” said Baydyuk.
The Georgetown professor was born in Ukraine and grew up in Kyiv before her studies eventually brought her to the D.C. area first for a stint with the NIH and then to Georgetown.
She remembers walking into class on Feb. 24, 2022 just hours after the invasion began.
“I had to call my mom, my sister to go to a bomb shelter because the war started. It was really a moment that you would never forget,” she told WTOP. “I cannot cry because there is so much to do.”
She went to her home country last December and saw the devastation firsthand, getting the chance to speak with many Ukrainians that she has helped.
“’Thank you,’ and ‘please continue to support.’ Those are two messages from Ukrainian people,” she said.