KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ukrainians and their metro neighbors closed out their Independence Day at The National World War I Museum and Memorial, where two nonprofits brought people together to learn about the country that’s fighting off the Russian invasion, but also to raise money for that fight.

The Independence Day holiday took on a special meaning this year while a battle rages in eastern Europe to preserve that independence.

Irina Smirnova is back in Kansas City just two weeks after venturing back to Ukraine to get her mom out.

“[I’ve] been through hearing the air raid sirens and I’ve seen people’s reactions and seen horror of the war on the TV,” Smirnova said.

Both are staying in the United States until it’s safe to go back. Until then, she says the support in the United States means so much.

“People who have never been involved with Ukrainians in the past, and maybe never knew much about Ukraine, they are so supportive with small things,” Smirnova said.

It’s that support, through kind words but also through donations, that’s making the Russian and Ukrainian War seem very familiar to Museum President and CEO Dr. Matthew Naylor.

“This is a profound example of the global assault on democracy and that’s part of the World War I story,” Naylor said.

The reason for the fighting isn’t the only common threat. So is how that fight is funded.

Governments around the world have spent billions of dollars on equipment, money, and other resources but individual people are sending that they can too, similar to how World War I efforts inspired many people around the globe to sacrifice for the fight.

“Perhaps it is a bigger contrast to more contemporary war than it is to World War I because what we know about World War I was it was an all-in effort,” Naylor said, who pointed out that more modern conflicts haven’t made rationing or wartime production habits necessary.

Gofundme said campaigns on it’s site have raised more than $50 million. Online donations directly to the Ukrainian Government have raised more than $174 million. When the Ukrainian government started asked for cryptocurrency donations, it got more than $54 million for rifles, armor, vehicles, drones, and much more.

“The Ukrainian war, in many ways, is being fought, in addition to armor, is being fought by regular people just like you and I,” said Stand with Ukraine KC’s Volodymyr Polishchuk. “Literally, I had friends who volunteered to go to war who were software engineers last week and a week later, they’re trying to figure out how to use rifles.”

That’s why he helped start the non-profit out of the Ukrainian Club of Kansas City, giving well-intentioned people around the metro a place to help out. Their donations go to vetted organizations in Ukraine focusing on the humanitarian crisis the war has created.

“For Ukraine, it has a special meaning because we are standing up to oppression, we are standing up to the Russian Army, we are fighting for our freedom,” Polishchuck said.

It’s a freedom that’s remembered on Independence Day, and for Yaroslav Varshavsky, a freedom that got brushed over in the past.

“Before, people knew about Ukraine, ‘Oh it’s Russia,” said Varshavsky. “Nowadays, people know Ukraine is Ukraine, an independent state,”

If you want to help, you can visit Stand With Ukraine KC here.