Miss Ukraine International reflects on war while living in Palm Beach County

Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 11:01 AM EDT
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Miss Ukraine International Elena Dunder came to Palm Beach County to work and raise money for her charity. Now, she can’t return to family and the country she loves as Ukraine is being attacked by Russian forces.

Dunder works in the glamorous fields of fashion, modeling and television, but right now her heart is heavy with concern for her family and friends back home.

“It’s been horrific to be honest,” she said.

If you ask, Dunder knows the exact number of days and hours it’s been since the Russian attacks began.

“This is a very bright example of barbarism, of unreasonable cruelty and aggression,” she said.

Dunder arrived in West Palm Beach in the fall of 2021 to work and raise money for her charity, "The Soul's Beauty." It had focused entirely on children struggling with disease and displacement. Now, she wants to extend help to all Ukranians who are without bare basics, and are racing to safety. She is planning a fundraiser that is likely to be held in May 2022.

She was raised in Odessa, Ukraine, which cradles the coastline of the Black Sea. It’s a major seaport, transportation hub, and now a Russian target.

“Very, very hard and stressful time even for me to realize I have no more home, I have no more place to go to,” she explained.

The Russian siege has crept across the country for weeks, now bearing down on her home city.

“A couple of days ago, I got a call from my family that the bombs, that they heard the sound of bombs in Odessa,” she said.

Almost every day, Dunder uses FaceTime to connect with her parents, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. She’s concerned the communication could be disconnected at some point. At this time, her family refuses to leave their home.

“They will just get the weapons and stay and protect their houses, everything they’ve been working for their whole life, they don’t want to leave it for somebody to rope, to steal and to destroy, they want to protect it,” she said.

Dunder says her best focus for now will be on charity, and standing more proudly in her title as Miss Ukraine International than ever before.

“Ukrainians are shoulder to shoulder like never before, we have never been as united as we are right now,” she said.

To learn more about Dunder's charity, click here.

To learn other ways to help the people of Ukraine, click here.

Scripps Only Content 2022