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Tiburon woman, a Ukraine expat, fights to help casualties of war

Paradise Cay resident Nataliya Añon, seen in her Corte Madera office earlier this month, was born in Ukraine and still has family there amid the nation’s ongoing invasion by Russia. Añon in 2017 founded the nonprofit Hromada, which publishes a monthly Ukrainian-language newspaper and raises money to send to the families of soldiers and of those caught in the war zones. (Elliot Karlan photo / For The Ark)

Though she has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, the heartstrings connecting Paradise Cay resident Nataliya Grekh Añon to her homeland are stretched taut as she sees images of a devastated Ukraine, its cities turned to rubble and ash amid relentless strikes since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion in February.

The classmate who taught her to ride a bike when she was 6 years old is now on the front lines of the combat in Mykolaiv, in the south on the Black Sea, she says. Seven of the Ukraine-based colleagues of the company she heads are directly in the war zone.

“The attacks were completely unprovoked and cruel, with such massive atrocities because they’ve been targeting civilian facilities for bombing,” says Añon, founder and CEO of software developer and testing firm Svitla Systems, which has about 900 employees on three continents. She still has uncles, cousins and 400 colleagues elsewhere in Ukraine.

“It was very scary, the first two months of the attacks,” she says. “The months March through April were the worst of my life. I was feeling enormous shock, pain and despair. Every day, I heard about someone I knew who had been killed.”

While in software by profession, Añon turns much of her energy these days toward Hromada — Ukrainian for “community” — the nonprofit she started in 2017 to publish a monthly Ukrainian-language newspaper now distributed in print, by email and on Facebook to some 5,000-10,000 readers. She says she was seeking to publicize the Russian seizure of Ukrainian Crimea in 2014 and to give the local Ukrainian diaspora a voice amid the ensuing destabilization, as well as to create a platform to get financial support to the families of Ukraine’s fallen soldiers and those on the front lines of resistance.

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