Sequim neighbors team up to help Ukraine families, army

Although not a strictly religious man, Jay Sakas said he does believe in fate.

Perhaps that was what drew the two together.

“I’m Lithuanian, she’s Ukrainian,” Sakas said, sharing stories with Sequim neighbor Kate Orz one February afternoon.

“Like second cousins.”

It was a chance encounter — Orz spotted Sakas’ dog in the neighborhood near the bluffs in Dungeness, and conversation ensued, which led to talk of war, of family, of loss.

The friendship that grew inspired Sakas to mobilize his fellow retired Northwest Airlines pilot group to help raise funds in October to buy warm-weather clothes and generators for a military branch of Ukraine’s national army, through Orz’s in-country connections.

“They are the eyes of the artillery group,” she said.

One of Orz’s sons, a film student in New York, created a fundraiser for the generators. The goal was to raise enough money to buy eight to 10, and instead enough dollars came through to buy 12.

“I was amazed by the support,” Orz said. “They were ecstatic.”

And it wasn’t all large donations. Even with $10 and $20 donations, “everything helps,” she said.

“So we looked at, what else do we need?” Orz said.

Then came requests for winter weather gear: mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and socks.

“People started sending stuff to my house,” Orz said. Boxes began piling up in her home, covering her floors.

“The other problem we had was, how do we ship this?” she said. They ended up raising more money and shipping it through the mail and Amazon.

As fate would have it, her other son works for Amazon, who doubled the donations made through the company, Orz said.

Sakas even donated a green camouflage jacket to a Ukrainian commander, Orz said.

“For them it meant tons,” she said. “It was from an American pilot.”

“I aim to please,” Sakas joked.

The funds added up to something north of $10,000, Sakas said.

Now the pair are looking to raise more funds for the Ukrainian army. The outfit is looking to purchase drones, costing about $2,500-$3,000 apiece, that have long-range capabilities and can take good footage to assist the artillery divisions.

“The government is helping,” Orz said. “The problem is, there is so much going on. By the time it gets to them (the reconnaissance group, resources are) very depleted. We’re trying to do what we can.”

Orz, who still has close childhood friends in Ukraine and connects with several families on an almost daily basis, covers the transfer fees through her Paypal, and said each dollar goes to the families or the reconnaissance group.

Sakas said his pilot group surprised him with several donations.

“It’s like the spigot went on,” he said.

“The pilots, they get it,” Orz said.

She said she won’t use a nonprofit organization because of the overhead, and that she’d rather see every dollar go to its purpose.

“The more drones you have, the quicker it will end,” Orz said.

“I’m happy to send [people] stories and information,” she said.

Contact Orz at

Changed by war

Orz, a self-described Ukrainian Jew, left her home country in 1994, following the rise of anti-Semitism in the country.

“It was a constant struggle; a lot of people were worried about pogrom (organized massacre of an ethnic group),” she said. “It was awful. Things were falling apart. So we left.”

Orz returned briefly some years later, and a couple of times after that, but the United States become her home away from home.

She had planned a return to Ukraine in April 2022 to settle some family business, but in late February Russia invaded and occupied eastern sections of the country.

“We were just in such a shock when it happened,” Orz said. “I spent days bawling. It was just so hard to watch.”

She wound up flying instead to Poland and spent a month helping refugees.

Sakas, 80, can relate to parts of Orz’s story. As an 18-month-old, his family was swept up in the mayhem of World War II as Russians began pushing the occupying Germans out of Lithuania in the summer of 1944. Captured by the retreating German army, he and his mother, a nurse, were sent along with other medical personnel to Berlin to work in hospitals. The hospital his mother worked in had an orphanage, where he spent most of the months of the war’s end.

Orz said she deeply feels the effect of the war even across the Atlantic. Though she speaks English cleanly she retains a Russian accent, but because she doesn’t want anyone to mistake her for Russian she wears plenty of yellow and blue, donning a shirt with the Ukrainian flag for this interview.

A huge movement began in her country after the invasion, she said, as hundreds of countrymen and women who only spoke Russian began learning Ukrainian.

“No one wants to speak the language of the occupiers,” Orz said. “We woke up on Feb. 24 speaking Ukrainian.”

For more information, contact Orz at