Encinitas resident helps raise awareness, support for her hometown in Ukraine

Kateryna Sonderegger
(Kateryna Sonderegger)

Encinitas resident Kateryna Sonderegger has helped raise about $90,000 in aid for the port city of Kherson, Ukraine, where she is originally from.

“When the war started, I was trying to make some money for my hometown,” said Sonderegger, who left Ukraine six years ago after meeting her husband Kurt, who was in the country on a business trip. “I couldn’t just pull it from my family, I needed to do something more.”

Sonderegger partnered with Michael Harth, a founder of Laz Parking, in organizing a series of events in their community to raise awareness of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

Kherson is part of the Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia. The Associated Press reported on the latest round of sanctions against Russia that came from European countries to restrict Russian trade activity that helps the country’s war effort. International discussion about Ukraine joining NATO is also ongoing.

It has been about a year and a half since Russia invaded Ukraine. Sonderegger’s immediate family, including parents, grandmother and sister, were able to find safety.

“I’m living in two worlds, I’m living here with my husband and kids,” Sonderegger said. “My hometown and my past, my childhood was in Ukraine. Every day, I see how the people of Ukraine struggle and are in pain and it’s hard for me to be happy.”

She added, “I’m a big believer in humanitarian aid for my hometown and those who need it.”

Some of the grim milestones include June 1, which is Children’s Day in Ukraine, when a United Nations official expressed sympathy for the families of “over 1,500 children killed and injured in Ukraine” since the war began.

Through a website she is launching, Help Kherson, Sonderegger is promoting ways to provide food, medicine and other necessities for the citizens of Ukraine.

Sonderegger said she’s been overwhelmed by the positive response that her efforts have received so far in the local community.

“I still don’t believe it’s true, it’s kind of a miracle for me because I’ve never done anything like this,” she said.

Sonderegger was among the women recognized by Encinitas Mayor Tony Kranz and City Council members for Women’s History Month in March. She added that she wants “to be really respectful where we are right now.”

“We are in an amazing place, especially here in Encinitas,” she said.