Dade City twins reunited one year after war began in Ukraine

Twin sisters from Dade City who had a cross-continent mission to help Ukrainian refugees have been reunited after the war began.

Rachael Woodard and her twin sister Becky Petersen own the Quilted Twins shop, with Woodard living locally and Petersen living in Poland.

"We felt like we were in Poland at a perfect time to help," said Petersen.

Last spring, the sisters stitched together a plan helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war. Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago Friday.

"Altogether we raised around $170,000 last year for the Ukrainians for food, plus sent about 12,000 pounds, six tons of quilts to Ukraine," said Woodard. "We have people weekly coming in, thanking us still for the part that we had in raising the funds that we did and the quilts because they got to be a part of it."

FOX 13 was there to capture those moments in March 2022 as they gathered quilts and donations to send to Petersen in Poland. It was a one-time effort that the sisters organized. Petersen also made about 120 quilts for charity and gave those out throughout the year. Working as missionaries, she and her husband Mike worked to buy supplies in Poland to send to Ukraine or distribute to refugees in Poland.

"It was everything from flashlights, headlamps batteries to flour and sugar to make ketchup and pasta. We had the contacts in the states that people knew they could give us money. We were already set up as a nonprofit, and nothing would come out," said Petersen. "We were able to help also because my husband has taught in Ukraine for 20-something years teaching bible courses, so he knew people. So it has a lot more meaning to someone like us and his friends."

They have seen firsthand the toll of the war.

"Your heart goes out because I had asked the lady who ran the refugee center, had any of the ladies here lost a loved one in the war and at that point one person had lost a brother. But now this one had lost a son as a soldier," said Petersen.

The stories are difficult, and on the one-year anniversary Petersen said relief efforts continue in Poland.

"I think like all of the people in Ukraine and Poland, we wish it were over," she said. "We wish that there was no war going on, and we’re praying for a speedy resolution and that the Ukrainians can have the peace that they seek and desire."

But through those harsh realities of war shined moments of comfort.

"As I reflect, I think there have been a lot of stories of how people, for example the quilts. People have written me on Viber and sent me pictures of their children with the quilts," said Petersen, of the people appreciative of the generosity.

Gathering the quilts and other donations was worthwhile, and a lot of work that came to an end.

"It is very meaningful to them and on a personal level very encouraging for them to know that someone cares," said Petersen.

For the remaining time the sisters are together, they are focusing on spending time with each other. 

"I’m just grateful she could come. Between the war, between COVID, between everything, the fact that it’s winter, snow, you just don’t know. So I’m just grateful for whatever time we can get," said Woodard.

Petersen said she expects to return to Poland sometime in March.