The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Millions have fled the ruthless Russian invasion, causing a humanitarian crisis Europe hasn’t seen the likes of since WWII.
This morning, I was again reminded of this when Janet shared a Facebook post from a guy named Steven Givot, from Evanston, Illinois. Here it is:
Today was my first day actually contributing to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Europe.
It has been impossible to sign up for work at World Central Kitchen. When I emailed, they said just show up, there’s plenty to do.
This morning I showed up. The nearest lodging I could book is about 90 minutes south of Przemsyl (Poland) in Sanok (Poland). It’s only about 45 miles, but the drive is across the Carpathian Mountains (2 passes) and through a countryside where most of the farmhouses have chimneys bellowing smoke from burning firewood. The road is about 20-30 miles from the Ukraine border.
When I arrived there were about 50 people working in about 25,000 sq ft (half the CBOE trading floor) that was a dirty warehouse three weeks ago. In a week, World Central Kitchen (WCK) paint everything from the floor up. There had been no plumbing other than a toilet. Now there is state of the art mass quantity cooking equipment, stainless steel sinks, 6 for diameter “paella pans” that hold about 950 GALLONS of food (up to the brim) on enormous propane burners. I think there are ten of these.
There is a walk in refrigeration room that is about 2000 sq ft that a Polish company put together in 24 hours with a garage door to enter and leave with enormous quantities of food on fork lifts.
Today, my little group from Ohio, Idaho, Portugal, Canada, and the UK peeled an enormous quantity of potatoes and cored/sliced an ungodly amount of apples (for baby food).
I won’t go into details, but we were told that we fed 7000 people in Przemsyl and at the border, and we prepped food to be cooked in Lviv, Ukraine for another 30,000 people. Not a typo: 30,000.
The volunteers are from everywhere in Europe, the US/Canada, and one from Japan. They show up, and they work. Some for a few days, some for longer.
After the 90 commute and 10 hours working, I’m tired but also wired. Sometime in the next few days, I’ll join trips to three places.
One trip will be to the train station in Przemsyl. I’m told there are 70 Polish volunteers greeting people as they leave the train and helping them sort out their next destination. Some know people in Europe and have a place to go. Far too many do not. They are being spread throughout Poland and beyond. I have been told that most homes and apartments in Warsaw and Krakow have a host family and one or two refugee families. The generosity of the Polish people is beyond comprehension.
A second trip will be to a local shopping mall that has just been built but is not yet occupied. There are many thousands of women and children sleeping on the floors as well as an enormous space used to store donations of clothing, baby goods, things to occupy kids, etc.
The third trip will be to the border. I will be serving people the first meal many have had in days. With the bombing near Lviv (not far across the border), many people who had traveled as far as Lviv are not coming to Poland — many on foot. They (many with children of all ages) are tired, hungry, and cold. The temperature at night is around freezing. The past two days have been warm (50s) and sunny. Still, when they reach the border, hot food is an immediate need.
I will update this daily. The last thing I’ll post is one ton of beef and 1000 pounds of apples for baby food — part of what was cooked today.
Here’s some food for thought.
Not everyone is able to do what Steve and his colleagues are accomplishing, on the ground — but each of us has the capacity to help the Ukrainian people in some fashion or other. Make a donation to a charity of your choice. Help keep people informed. Urge your political leaders to do more. Find ways of letting folks over there know you’re with them.
There are all kinds of things we can do to help.