As the war in Ukraine intensifies, a Wyoming husband and wife team with deep ties to the besieged country is assisting humanitarian efforts there.
Nick Piazza and his wife Yulia have left their home in Cody to do what they can for employees of Nick’s Ukrainian company who are in the midst of the devastation inflicted by Russia’s invasion of Yulia’s home country.
Piazza, whose business, SP Capital Management, is based in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv, told Cowboy State Daily that he and his wife are doing their best to respond to the needs of their family and friends.
“I kind of grew up there,” Piazza noted, “but you know, my wife is from there. Most of these people are people we know personally, their friends, their acquaintances, their neighbors. So when we get these personal requests, we try to help with everything we can.
“But you know, the number one goal is to win this war,” he continued. “Everything we’re doing right now is to make sure that Ukraine still exists as a free country with all of its territory.”
Piazza said he and his wife left Cody on March 9 to do what they can for those in war-torn Europe – and in the ensuing week, things have already been looking up.
“Family, employees, friends, staff are all either in lower intensity areas where they’ve chosen to be or they’ve left the country,” he said. “We feel better than we did before. You probably saw on the news that the Ukrainian army has mounted a bit of an offensive and is taking back a lot of territory around Kyiv. So, some good things are happening.”
However, Piazza noted that the need for humanitarian aid is increasing dramatically.
“Because they don’t have the ability to fight like a modern army, Russia is just flattening things, and that is causing massive humanitarian problems,” he said. “So they’ve been targeting farming, storage areas, food factories, to try to basically starve out Ukrainians and kill their will to fight.”
Piazza said he and his wife are working with several agriculture companies and food producers to provide food to the troops and to civilians.
“Fuel and medical supplies are all in very high demand, and we see this demand growing, especially in the areas where fighting has been more intense,” he pointed out. “We see how it’s basically collapsing supply chains. And this is going to be the fight we have going forward – getting food, getting supplies to people.”
Help From Wyo Neighbors
But Piazza said they’ve already received some support from their Wyoming neighbors.
“Cody Regional Health has been in touch with my wife to try to help get medical supplies and different medicines over to Ukraine,” Piazza said. “Also, Livingston (Elementary) School (in Cody) has reached out and done some fundraisers, which has been very helpful.”
And Wyoming residents have offered help in other, more direct ways, according to Piazza. When the invasion began, Piazza offered to organize Americans who were interested in actually fighting on behalf of the Ukraine people.
“Our Cody project is successfully operating,” he said. “We’ve had more demand than we expected, and we expected pretty high demand. So, we’re operating, and that’s pretty much all we can say about that, or all they’ll let me say. We are very thankful to those guys and gals and what they’re doing.”
Piazza expressed his hope that the U.S. will step up and provide more assistance to the refugees fleeing Ukraine, similar to what some European countries are doing.
“All other countries in Europe are providing these streamlined ways for Ukrainian immigrants, people fleeing the war, to get work visas, to get into school with their kids,” he said. “They’re even posting job listings where they can get started working – and we’re talking Italy, Poland, a lot of countries across Europe.
“The U.S. has not announced anything yet and that’s somewhat disappointing,” he continued. “They’ve done a great job of providing arms and things like that, but It’s kind of frustrating that the U.S. isn’t doing more on this front, and hopefully they’ll start soon.”
However, Piazza said that the people of Ukraine are optimistic that they will emerge victorious – sooner rather than later.
“Our home in Kyiv, the security alarm went off, and we assumed it probably had been bombed,” he explained. “So we called the building administrator and he said actually, it’s been kind of quiet. And he went up to take a look, and he said, ‘You know what it probably was, there’s a guy below you remodeling his apartment.’ And he said, ‘I went in there and I said, Hey, what are you guys doing?’ And they said, ‘Well, the owner said we should just continue remodeling this apartment. So that’s what we are doing.’ So, this is one of the world’s greatest optimists, and as soon as we get back, I want to meet him.”
Piazza’s wife, Yulia, has the same sort of optimism.
“The other day, we were talking about our summer plans, because usually, our plan is to be in Cody for the school year and then go to Europe for the summer,” he said. “And I broached the subject yesterday, like what are we going to do? And she very candidly, and with a few choice words, told me that she had a plane ticket for the day after school gets out to go to Kyiv, and she’s not changing that ticket and she doesn’t plan on it. So, her position is pretty clear.”
And until that time, Piazza said they will keep doing all they can for their employees, family and friends.
“We’re currently in the process of setting up an office for staff in Poland, and seeing where that goes,” he said. “But the U.S. isn’t being particularly flexible, in terms of letting even our own people in, so we’ll see where it goes.
“We’re doing a lot of things that I never honestly thought we’d be doing, but we’re trying to do them the best we can, and we’re hopeful that by May we’ll have a better understanding of where we’re going, what we’re doing and what the world is going to look like,” he added.