US reporter makes Wisconsin connection with Ukrainian woman searching for her family

Kat Lonsdorf is a producer for NPR, and she is originally from Verona, Wisconsin.
Amid destruction and devastation 5,000 miles away in Ukraine, sometimes it feels easier to look away.
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 9:43 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Amid destruction and devastation 5,000 miles away in Ukraine, sometimes it feels easier to look away. But Kat Lonsdorf leans in, working on the front lines as a producer for National Public Radio.

“Buildings are completely shelled burned. Everything’s destroyed, everything’s destroyed,” describes Kat.

Destruction in Ukraine
Destruction in Ukraine(Kat Lonsdorf)

Kat is from Verona, Wisconsin, 5,040 miles away from her current workspace in Ukraine. Sleeping in bomb shelters, exposed to once thriving European towns now with little sign of life, Kat’s been telling the stories of the Ukrainian people since before the Russian invasion, a far cry from what she calls home.

Ukrainian bomb shelter
Ukrainian bomb shelter(Kat Lonsdorf)

“They were sifting through the rubble, and we were watching them pull bodies out that had been trapped in the rubble for a month,” remembers Kat.

But it was at one of those rubble sights where the world seemed to shrink and an unexpected connection was made.

“When I went there today, there was this woman we were interviewing randomly. We were watching workers sort through this rubble. It’s terrible. But she was watching to see if her nephew and sister would be pulled out of the rubble because they were killed in a shelling there. We were talking to her, and she mentioned Wisconsin. She was talking about how she is grateful for America and how she’s come to Wisconsin before, and I was like, actually, I am from Wisconsin,” says Kat.

From there, the connections continued, not only a connection in the proximity of hundreds of miles within a US state, the stranger feet away from Kat were connected by a single US street.

“I mentioned my friend’s name, and she said, ‘I know her!’ She says I went to Wisconsin with her, I went to Verona! And I mentioned a couple of my neighbors names and she said, ‘yes, Phil and Kathy, I stayed with them! And then she gave me this huge hug,” says Kat.

Amid the destruction and devastation, two strangers choose not to look away. They lean in on each other.

An unexpected connection in Ukraine
An unexpected connection in Ukraine(Kat Lonsdorf)

“She started crying, and I started crying. It was an emotional day. She turned to me and said this is the first time I’ve been happy in a month. It was really nice, a small world.”

If you would like to help Ukraine, visit the Jewish Federation of Madison’s website here. For more places to donate, click here.

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