Mila Kunis responds to the war in Ukraine by raising millions of dollars to aid those who are suffering

By Gabriel Kinder, CNN

    (CNN) -- 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.

"Once I realized that this thing is not going to end anytime tomorrow, I could wrap my head around the refugee situation, and not just the refugee problem, but the getting supplies into the country. And I knew that my husband and I could facilitate that," she said.

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.

"If you feel like you donated $5, $2, $10, you have an invested interest in the outcome of your donation," she said.

Their effort caught the attention of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who connected with them on a video call.

"It was very, very smart," Kunis said. "There was no chitchat. It was literally, like, get down to business, like who do you know that can assist with this? ... Can you call this person?"

This was not the first time they spoke. Years earlier, Kunis and Kutcher sat down with Zelensky and his wife, a meeting Kunis said left her with very positive feelings.

"Sometimes you meet a magical unicorn, and you go, 'I hope that you succeed because you're a normal, nice human being who has the best intent.'"

For Kunis, the war in Ukraine is a fight for democracy, but she says the situation also offers a lesson for her children.

"We talked to them about war ... with the solution at hand instead of just being like everything is dire. ... Yes, there's problems in the world, and yes, you will have problems, but there's no problems you can't solve."

The-CNN-Wire
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