STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Just a few weeks ago, Pat Greco and Brian Krusz were planning a trip to Poland to hand-deliver donations and provide support to Ukrainian refugees in the midst of the Russian invasion. Now, back home in Strongsville, the two have delivered monetary donations and supplies while bringing home lasting memories and the desire to continue helping.
Greco and Krusz belong to the Strongsville Rotary Club and with the help of other members and the community, the two were able to raise around $66,000 to help provide medical and surgical supplies.
“We definitely had...five, six checked luggages full of medical trauma gear that we brought with us," Krusz said.
The two men set out in April for a 10-day trip, starting in Warsaw, Poland and making stops in Czestochowa, Kraków and Wadowice.
“We investigated all the Rotary Clubs, we found two that we really liked," Greco said. “The one in Czestochowa was buying medical supplies, surgical equipment and sending that into Ukraine. Kraków Rotary was taking care of refugees in Poland."
In addition to the medical supplies desperately needed, the money raised by the Strongsville Rotary Club was able to help provide one major piece of equipment needed by those helping in Poland.
“They had had a fundraiser previously in trying to raise enough money for a tactical ambulance, kind of a tactical vehicle to donate to the people of Ukraine and they fell short," Krusz said. “Two days later we get an email as they described 'American Pat and American Brian' giving them $12,500—just enough money to get them the tactical ambulance so it’s a blessing.”
During their trip, the two heard stories from the refugees, including one of a mother who walked 12 hours into Poland with her 3-year-old and 6-year-old children seeking safety. Many of the stories echoed the same hope and perseverance—a message that resonated deeply with the two men.
“They came from wherever their current life was in Ukraine, completely displaced, and now their lives are in two or three bags that they get to carry with them and a cot, one or two cots, that they get to provide for them and their family," Krusz said.
Greco said he couldn't help to draw comparisons to what happened in Europe back in World War II—another reason he was so moved to do all he could to help.
"What happened 70 years ago is being duplicated today. The persecution and murder of innocent people,” Greco said.
Both men praised the function of the Polish government for keeping the processing of refugees orderly and in great function, allowing those in need to quickly get the care and help they need. The two said things were so orderly that they were able to just focus on spending time with individuals and aim to provide a sense of positivity in such a troubling time for them.
“Although there was a huge language barrier, we had spent time, whether that was giving chocolates or just holding their hands and just being present and listening to these individuals—I think was very impactful for myself," Krusz said.
Back at home, the experiences overseas have been brought back and the two are hoping they can continue raising awareness and leaving a positive impact here as well.
“Very humbling, I looked at my boys who are six and nine and I just hope I could have provided, Pat and I, good examples of what you can do when there’s a situation and you’re faced with something like this," Krusz said.
Both men said they are thankful for all of the support they received leading up to their trip and hope to continue raising money and supplies because there is still work to be done.
“The fundraising hasn’t stopped," Greco said. “I’d love to go back and spend ore time and help them."
For those who are interested in donating or helping provide additional aid, click here.
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