Minneapolis-based Alight sending more people and humanitarian aid to Ukraine-Poland border
It’s the start of a long journey.
At noon on Saturday— two members of Alight, the global humanitarian aid organization based in Minneapolis— started their trip to the Ukraine-Poland border.
“It’s such a chaotic time, such a chaotic situation,” says Alissa Jordan.
She and co-worker Andezu Orionzi arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with bags packed full of medicine and emergency supplies.
“This is a very, very tragic situation,” Orionzi declares. “The scale is something that we haven’t seen in recent times.”
Their destination, after a ten-hour flight to Warsaw— then five hours of driving, is at a border crossing in the town of Medyka, the busiest in Poland.
“It is absolutely very cold right now, as people are crossing the border into Poland,” Orionzi notes. “About two-and-a-half million people have left Ukraine, fleeing their homes, and they’re carrying very little.”
The two aid workers heading to Poland will join an eight-member Alight team already at the border.
This week, the group has passed out 2000 blankets and clothing items, and set up warming tents with heaters.
But some supplies are running low.
“That’s why we’re traveling with some many things today, bringing first aid kits, tourniquets, even medicines that are needed,” Jordan explains. “Some of these supplies will actually go into Ukraine, for folks who are in bomb shelters right now, or hospitals that need resupplying.”
The Alight outreach, taking place as Russian troops are approaching Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital— while the port city of Mariupol continues to be under attack from missiles, bombs and artillery.
Alight says Medyka is a staging ground for hundreds of thousands of refugees.
The group says families, including young children— wait as long as twenty hours to be processed.
Some are here— forced to flee because of the fighting.
“Yeah, I came from Kharkiv with my parents,” says Olga Prohoda, 27. “There was so many explosions and there was bombing every time. So we had no choice but to leave Kharkiv and to travel.”
Aid workers say some refugees are joining family and friends elsewhere in Europe.
Warsaw, a key destination, is quickly becoming overwhelmed with new arrivals.
The Torwar Sports Center— is now a massive refugee center, admitting 1,300 people so far, each with their own story.
“The tanks started to fire from the bridge at 10 a.m.,” recalls Konstantin Puppo. “So we packed out stuff and got away as far as we can, because we were very afraid that someone or something can shoot us.”
In Medyka, amid the crowds— you’ll find small acts of kindness.
A man giving candy to a child waiting in line.
Another, walking alongside, with a shopping cart full of bread for the hungry.
Aid workers could be seen rolling seniors in wheelchairs across the border.
“One of the biggest gaps in a situation like this is information,” Jordan says. “Our team is there to meet people as they first cross the border, to be their first point of contact, and help them figure out where do they go from here.”
Meanwhile— My-talk radio is raising money for Ukrainian refugees, working with Alight.
The fundraiser, called ‘My Talkers for Ukraine,’ has already raised over $100,000— and organizers are hoping to raise more next week.
Alight isn’t sure how long its team members will remain at the border.
Team members say this exodus of refugees is the largest they’ve ever seen.
“So, with temperatures well below freezing, it’s incredibly important that we can keep people as warm and as safe as possible,” Orionzi says. “They are on a new journey in their lives.”
“This is our job, this is what we do as humanitarians,” Jordan adds. “We’re just going to be there, doing the doable, doing what we can, as long as we can.”
You can find more about the My-talk fundraiser here.