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Iowa sends helmets, bulletproof vests to Ukraine

taras slyvka speaks at a news conference
Katarina Sostaric
Ukrainian Iowan Taras Slyvka speaks at a news conference at Camp Dodge as Iowa prepared to ship helmets and vests to Ukraine.

Iowa is shipping 714 bulletproof vests and 146 helmets to Ukrainians who are defending their country against the Russian invasion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds held a news conference Wednesday before the supplies were loaded onto a truck to be transported to the Ukrainian Consulate in Chicago.

“While this donation may seem small when compared with the enormity of the situation, it’s not insignificant,” Reynolds said. “The items were specifically requested by our sister state to help them defend their territory and protect their citizens.”

Ukrainian Iowan Taras Slyvka of Dubuque brought a group of Ukrainians to the Statehouse when the Russian invasion started. He helped connect the state with the Ukrainian Consulate in Chicago to make the shipment of supplies possible.

“In 2015, I lost two of my good friends,” Slyvka said. “They were fighting for Ukraine in eastern Ukraine. Right now, I have two more close friends who are fighting for Ukraine. They need help. Some of them, they don’t even have vests.”

Slyvka said everyone has to work together to end the Russian attack.

The vests and helmets were donated by Iowa law enforcement agencies. They’re not being used by officers in the state because they’re outdated, according to manufacturers’ recommendations.

Law enforcement officials said the vests and helmets are still effective.

“If it says that a ballistic vest’s recommended service life is five years, it’s not like at five years and one day it’s suddenly ineffective,” said Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens. “But by the same token…we prioritize our people. And we place them first. And we are all committed uniformly to providing them the best equipment possible to ensure that they get to go home every night.”

Reynolds also said she has notified the Biden administration that Iowa will welcome refugees from Ukraine. She said the federal government will determine when and how many refugees will arrive.

“I want you to know that this is just the beginning of our partnership with you, and the consulate and our support of the Ukrainian people as they defend and they rebuild their nation,” Reynolds said to Slyvka.

She said the state is working on a shipment of meals to Ukraine. Iowans can donate to help ship basic supplies to Ukrainians at iowasisterstates.org.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter