As refugees flee Ukraine, aid groups step up

The mass exodus of refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries of the European Union has shown no signs of slowing down. On Monday, the U.N. estimated more than 520,000 people have already escaped Ukraine. Volunteers from near and far are doing everything they can to provide aid.

"We're just trying to do whatever we can to help them and to make their lives a little bit easier and to give them some hope and a little bit of optimism," said native New Yorker Jonathan Ornstein, who is the executive director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, Poland.

The JCC, about 150 miles from the western border of Ukraine, is doing everything it can to help the more than 115,000 refugees who have already come into Poland.

"We've bought mattresses and if we have to turn the building into, to have people sleeping in here, we will," Ornstein said. "As of now, we're helping them with a place to stay, food, helping them with translation, we have partner institutions here, NGOs on the ground that we're working with to provide them with legal services, with psychological counseling."

For Ornstein and Jewish communities across the globe, this crisis reminds them all too well of the Holocaust, which wasn't so long ago.

"We have [a] collective memory of being persecuted and being refugees," Ornstein said. "And I think that as the Jewish community, we feel a special responsibility to help anyone else who's ever in that position."

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Project Dynamo based in Tampa, Florida, is among the countless organizations providing aid overseas and helping refugees escape Ukraine. So far, the organization has helped about two dozen people escape the country and is planning to pack at least three more vans in the coming days, all headed to neighboring countries.

Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania are among some other countries where long lines of cars and buses have been backed up at checkpoints at the borders. So many other refugees have escaped on foot.

The U.N. expects the total number of refugees leaving Ukraine to reach four million in the coming weeks.

NYC protest against Russian invasion of Ukraine