In 1991, when actor Mila Kunis moved to the United States, her family left their home in what was then the Soviet Union. She was seven and a half; she spoke Russian and says she thought of herself as Russian.
“If I said the word Ukraine, no one would know where that country was on the map, and so I was like, ‘that’s exhausting.’ Let’s just stick to the big red dot over there, and so I would say I’m from Russia for many, many years,” Kunis told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
Last February, when Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Kunis said she found a new sense of pride in the country where she was born. She made it clear: “I am Ukrainian who speaks Russian, and I found myself correcting myself and my friends who are also from Ukraine.”
Since the invasion, roughly one-third of Ukraine’s citizens have been forced to abandon their homes and more than five million have sought refuge in other countries.
Watching news of the war impacted Kunis deeply. She told Burnett, “As a mother, any time you see children in any facet of harm, it is indescribable pain because all you want to do is help a child. That’s all; that’s literally all I want to do.”
So, Kunis and her husband Ashton Kutcher decided to “reverse engineer that desire and try to figure out the most productive way of helping,” she said.
Together, they looked for ways to have an immediate impact on the people who are suffering. They decided to raise money and help provide housing and supplies for refugees.
They partnered with GoFundMe.org, which set up the technical structure to accept donations within hours
According to their fundraiser, donations directly benefit Flexport.org and Airbnb.org, two organizations actively on the ground providing immediate help to those who need it most. Flexport.org is organizing shipments of relief supplies to refugee sites, and Airbnb.org is providing free, short-term housing.
Kunis and Kutcher named their campaign Stand With Ukraine and launched it in early March with the goal of raising $30 million. The couple donated $3 million in matching funds. Just two weeks later, they exceeded their goal, and in a video said 65,000 people contributed.
To date, Stand with Ukraine has raised more than $36 million, and more than 75,000 people have donated. Kunis says the campaign not only helps the people of Ukraine but allows supporters around the world to be involved.
Programming Note: Mila Kunis, Sean Penn, Chef José Andrés and Glenn Close will be among the celebrities recognized during “CNN Heroes Salutes,” hosted by Erin Burnett Saturday, June 25th at 10 p.m. ET.