Assist Ukraine Director, Olga Shpak, Plays Critical Role in Dramatic Beluga Whale Rescue

In a remarkable feat of coordination and expertise, Dr. Olga Shpak, one of the world’s leading beluga whale experts, played a critical role in the rescue of two beluga whales from an aquarium in the war-ravaged city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. The whales were safely transported to their new home at Europe’s largest aquarium in Valencia, Spain. This complex rescue operation has been hailed by experts as one of the most intricate marine mammal rescues ever attempted.

The Challenge

The backdrop of this daring rescue was the city of Kharkiv, heavily battered by ongoing conflict. The extraction of the belugas required not only meticulous planning but also exceptional expertise. The success of this mission hinged on the involvement of Dr. Olga Shpak, whose unparalleled knowledge and dedication made this extraordinary rescue possible.

The Unsung Hero

Dr. Shpak, an esteemed marine biologist, has dedicated her life to the study and preservation of beluga whales. However, her life took a dramatic turn when Russia invaded Ukraine. Leaving behind her research, she moved to Kharkiv and devoted herself to humanitarian efforts, collaborating with Assist Ukraine, a charity focused on aiding soldiers and civilians at the frontline.

Despite the chaos and danger surrounding her, Dr. Shpak’s unwavering commitment to the whales never faltered. Her intimate knowledge of the belugas’ needs and behavior was crucial to the success of this rescue mission. Without her presence and expertise in Kharkiv, such an endeavor would have been deemed impossible.

The Rescue Operation

The rescue began early on Wednesday morning, involving a team of dedicated professionals and volunteers who navigated the perilous environment of Kharkiv. The logistics of transporting two large marine mammals over such a long distance, particularly from a conflict zone, required extraordinary measures. The team worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of the belugas throughout their journey.

After an arduous trek, the belugas finally arrived at their new home in Valencia. The transition to Europe’s largest aquarium marks the beginning of a new chapter for these magnificent creatures, who will now be able to live in a safe and nurturing environment, far removed from the dangers of war.

Read The New York Times article here

Crititally Needed First Aid Items Delivered

Crititally Needed First Aid Items Delivered

First aid materials for our friends of Sumy Volunteer Municipal Guard unit have been delivered. Yurii, a member of the unit, is an owner of a small company which produces the pouches for the IFAKs and squad kits Assist Ukraine is funding. On top of managing the company, Yurii is a member of a Volunteer Municipal Guard unit in Sumy, a city north of Kharkiv, some 30 kilometers from the border with Russia. With the Russian attack in the north of Kharkiv region, the units in Sumy are on high alert. And Volunteer Municipal Guard units are now doing shifts assisting the army in patrolling the area.

SAT Phones Save Lives: Report by Assist Ukraine Cofounder Art Davidson.

SAT phones provided by Assist Ukraine are saving hundreds of lives. In the attached video, Ukrainian Defenders explain how important secure communication devices are on the frontline. Assist Ukraine partnered with Zero Line to provide a significant number of these highly-secure phones to Ukrainian scouts going behind enemy lines. Not only did these phones save their lives, but the lives of hundreds of Defenders and civilians caught in the line of fire.

Ian Miller of Zero Line writes: “From our first conversation in 2022, Assist Ukraine understood more than most that better information sharing on the front lines had immense potential to save Ukrainian lives. Hence your generous donation for satellite phones for better reconnaissance. Phones that to this day are saving lives. Currently, no initiative is improving information sharing on the front lines more than the Program. It is informing a vast number of missions every week, disabling a truly exceptional amount of the Russian equipment that kills Ukrainians, and thus saving a truly exceptional number of lives, per dollar of aid invested. It could grow faster, positively transform the AFU, and meaningfully shorten the war. But like most units, it needs basic equipment. Unlike most units though, its growth helps all other units and improves military-wide awareness of the frontline environment.”

Davidson: “We appreciate our donors who helped Assist Ukraine get these SAT phones. They have saved a lot of lives. We are currently trying to raise an additional $40,000 for SAT phones and other secure frontline communication equipment.”

SAT Phones Save Countless Lives, Made Possible Thanks to Assist Ukraine. See Behind the Scenes Video Here

A Life Saved, May 5, 2024 — Report from Kateryna Pryshchepa, Assist Ukraine Logistics Director

A Life Saved, May 5, 2024 — Report from Kateryna Pryshchepa, Assist Ukraine Logistics Director

A Life Saved, May 5, 2024 report from Kateryna Pryshchepa, Assist Ukraine logistics director

I met with Oleksii, a combat medic serving at the First Tank Brigade, who recently saved an injured comrade using a HPMK hypothermia prevention kit provided by Assist Ukraine this past January. Oleksii reported that “The

soldier was injured by an explosive dropped by a Russian drone. The explosion tore into the soldiers’ leg, causing arterial bleeding. Evacuation time for the injured soldier was over 24 hours, which is a common occurrence at the part of the front where the First Tank Brigade is serving. Without the active heating, the soldier would not have survived. The injury he sustained led to leg amputation, but his life was saved thanks to the hypothermia prevention kit.”

Oleksii and his comrades believe that given the long evacuation time and the prevalence of explosive-caused injuries, hypothermia prevention materials will be needed throughout the summer.


“From the first days of the invasion, Anne Garrels, the other co-founders of Assist Ukraine, and I have been amazed at the courage and resiliency of Ukrainian people. We have been in awe of how they fight, not just for their country, but for the democratic values of free societies everywhere. They have shown us how to resist tyranny and the threat of nuclear attack.

Assist Ukraine has received a great deal of appreciation from Ukrainians for the assistance we are providing.  As thoughtfully expressed in this podcast by Timothy Snyder, there are also many things for which we can thank Ukrainians.  – Art Davidson, Assist Ukraine Co-Founder.