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EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area Red Cross volunteer helps Ukrainian refugees on frontline of war

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The Bay Area is supporting Ukraine, and a volunteer is taking it to another level.

“Every time I turned on ABC7 News and saw what was going on, I got angry and felt like I had to do something other than wave a flag at rallies,” Dennis Otoshi said. Otoshi is an American Red Cross volunteer, who is not on the ground in Ukraine, but he was determined to make it happen and did so at his own expense.

“I contacted my friends from the Ukrainian Red Cross and said ‘do you need my help’ and they said yes of course, and so I immediately flew to Warsaw,” said Otoshi, who finally managed to get to Ukraine. “It took me a week and I finally caught a refugee train coming back the other way.”

And he’s been putting his nursing skills to good use ever since. “As soon as I hit the ground I responded with the emergency response team. We drove off in a large ambulance to one of the buildings – it was last Tuesday which was hit by a cruise missile.”

VIDEO: Romanian family helps 600 Ukrainian refugees find shelter and food

He remained at the scene for hours and is now holding a bulletin taken from the ruins, still unsure if the girl is alive.

“We were rounding up all the survivors and also talking to relatives. They would come and ask us questions and we would try to calm them down,” Otoshi said, noting that staying calm can be difficult.

“You sometimes hear what sounds like the Blue Angels, but all of a sudden there’s a boom and that means the air defenses have knocked it out successfully.”

Otoshi is no stranger to a crisis having served in the United States and around the world.

“The wildfires we’ve had. The floods in Nebraska, Louisiana, Texas. The hurricanes. The tornadoes,” he said, but nothing really compares to being in the center of… ‘a war.

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“What we’re doing here in Ukraine is kind of on a larger scale and of course during the wildfires nobody shot me,” said Otoshi, who credits his wit to his upbringing in the Bay Area. .

“I think it’s just the nature of being a San Franciscan, you know, where people who need help reach out to you,” Otoshi said, explaining that his deep desire to help in Ukraine is also linked to the house.

“I grew up with the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian community on Geary Blvd, so that was part of my upbringing.”

When it comes to the dangers of the mission, Otoshi is completely at peace with the risk.

“Now that I’m in Ukraine, I can sleep well even with the noise and the possibility of being blown up, because I’m doing something directly to help the Ukrainian people.”

TAKE ACTION: Local and national support for Ukrainians

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