Two men sit on the back bumper of a van filled with packages

Meet Two Young Alums Doing Hands-On Relief Work in Ukraine

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By Lindsay Lennon

It was a Saturday morning in Kyiv in March 2023. Just days earlier, the Russian invasion had reached its grim one-year mark. Dillon Carroll ’20 and Mark Kreynovich ’20, BS ’19, were observing a different, though directly related milestone: the one-year anniversary of their arrival in Eastern Europe, in an impromptu effort to aid Ukrainians impacted by the conflict.

“There’s not one family that has been untouched by the war,” observes Kreynovich—stressing that in addition to the physical violence and infrastructure damage, people’s day-to-day lives have been enormously affected. “If you are not yourself actively involved in it or living in a population center that is directly impacted, then your cousin is fighting, or your uncle is fighting.”

Two men walking through Kharkiv, Ukraine among buildings damaged in war.
Among damaged buildings in Kharkiv.

Carroll and Kreynovich are best friends and former Cornell roommates; they were even born on the same day in February 1998. The aid organization they founded, originally known as Mission to Ukraine, is now called Mission For Ukraine.

Much of their past year has been spent in hands-on relief work—procuring, sorting, packing, and delivering medicine, food rations, and other crucial supplies across the country.

Among other accomplishments, they’ve secured housing for Ukrainian refugees in Poland; funded mobile medical units, ambulances, and warming centers in communities without reliable heat or electricity; and helped renew licenses for Ukrainian pharmaceutical manufacturers whose credentials lapsed during the invasion.

Since its launch, M2U has raised more than $600,000, which is being spent on projects that Carroll and Kreynovich personally oversee with trusted partners.

They’ve logged more than 27,000 miles, some of them perilous: during one medical supply delivery to Kharkiv, a rocket exploded less than half a mile away.

Ukrainians sort through humanitarian supply deliveries
Ukrainian colleagues distributing supplies.

“We operate on this quick feedback loop,” says Kreynovich, an ILR alum, “where we’re constantly talking to our partners and can actively allocate cash and other resources to projects that matter in the immediate moment.”

Recently, Carroll and Kreynovich have turned their attention to helping repair damaged infrastructure.

For their first major project, they installed windows in 14 apartments in Kharkiv that had been pummeled by artillery and ballistic missiles, whether through aftershocks or direct hits.

A group of men unloading supplies from a truck on a city road.
Much of the pair’s time is spent packing, transporting, and delivering essential items.

“If you’re living on the East Coast right now, turn off your heat, open half the windows in your house, and lower all the shades; that’s how hundreds of thousands of people are having to live every day,” explains Carroll, a New Jersey native who majored in history in Arts & Sciences.

“That’s not to mention the air raid sirens, the curfew, and the existential fear that comes with living in a place that’s targeted by the Russian army. And until help comes, they don’t have much of a choice.”

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There’s not one family that has been untouched by the war.

Mark Kreynovich ’20, BS ’19

For Kreynovich, who grew up in Baltimore, the mission is deeply personal: he was born in Kharkiv and returned every summer from childhood through college to visit his family. In 2018, Carroll joined him.

After Russia invaded, Kreynovich recalls, he constantly called to check on his grandfather; when they suddenly lost contact, he put out a desperate plea via Instagram.

A PhD student in Munich who was originally from Kharkiv offered to ask a friend to check on the older man—a risky move in an area encircled by Russian troops. Fortunately, the stranger found him safe in his apartment, and brought him a portable charger for his phone.

A man being interviewed by a TV journalist in front of a mobile medical van.
Kreynovich being interviewed about M2U’s work.

The effort to reconnect Kreynovich with his grandfather—via the bravery and kindness of everyday people—inspired him and Carroll. What could they accomplish for Ukraine if they went to Europe themselves?

The two landed in Vienna, Austria, in February 2022, with a plan to raise $5,000 and stay for a week. When their SpotFund garnered double that amount in 24 hours, they headed to Krakow to assist refugee families who’d crossed the border into Poland—and soon realized that help was needed on the ground inside Ukraine.

Setting aside their careers in technology (Carroll) and finance (Kreynovich), they decided to stay indefinitely.

Large white sandbags spell the word help on a sidewalk in Kyiv, Ukraine
A plea to the world, spelled out in a square in Kyiv.

“They chose to make their own path,” says Dillon’s mother, Kathleen Dillon Carroll ’85, MBA ’86. “It has great uncertainty, but you can see how happy, sincere, and motivated they are. That’s what life is about: to know love and to serve others. I take my nervous energy and put it into their dream.”

Now that M2U is an established organization based in Kyiv, Carroll and Kreynovich have no plans to leave—aside from the occasional break to recharge with their families in the U.S.

“It would have been incredibly difficult to clean our hands and go home and say, ‘Good luck,’” says Kreynovich. “So we did not do that. We will continue working, as long as the need is there.”

Top: Kreynovich (left) and Carroll on a supply run. All photos provided.

Published March 16, 2023


  1. James Morrisey

    Your selflessness and dedication brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for helping all those in need. Amazing work guys!

  2. Michele Leavitt, Class of 1985

    Sending many blessings to you for you to share – you are so good at unselfish goodness!

  3. Ella Andresen Brovitz, Class of 1963

    I am so proud of these young men. Thank you for you for giving of yourselves-boots on the ground work to help others.

    • Martin Wolf , DVM

      So sorry to hear about John-he was a friend and classmate in the veterinary college.We very often sat together in lecture classes

  4. Virginia Schein, Class of 1965

    Thank you for the work that you are doing in Ukraine to help others. Sending blessings and deep gratitude to you both.

  5. Vince Vitkowsky, Class of 1980

    Nothing can properly express the admiration and gratitude you deserve. Please be careful. Stay safe. Slava Ukraini

  6. Marian K Rippy, Class of 1979

    Wow! What a story! So unselfish and so compassionate! Stay safe and keep up the most excellent work.

  7. Pam Anderson, Class of 1988

    Great work helping others in need to rebuild their lives and their homes

  8. Peter Saderholm, Class of 1960

    At age 83, I no longer travel very far from home, especially by plane. But I have in the past been very active in domestic relief work and supporting the needy in Mexico and Liberia. In my heart I would like to be by your side. Please keep up all the good work and keep us informed about what you have accomplished. Pete

    • Kathleen Dillon Carroll, Class of 1985

      Wow! You made my husband’s & my night reading this! We’re Dillon’s parents. My hubby remarked he would love to hear your stories! Stay in good health!

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