STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Aid from Northeast Ohio will soon be on its way to help Ukrainian refugees. On Saturday, Pat Greco and Brian Krusz will travel to Poland to hand deliver donations and provide support in whatever capacity they can.
Both men belong to the Strongsville Rotary Club, which began collecting donations for Ukraine after its invasion by Russian forces. Greco, a retired Strongsville firefighter and paramedic, has been on a number of international humanitarian trips in the past 24 years.
“When this started happening, I felt the need to go. There was a lot of second thought because of the emergent nature of it, but then I said, ‘No I’m going to go,’” Greco said of the crisis in Ukraine.
When he told his friend about his intention to travel to Poland, Krusz quickly volunteered to join the mission.
“Absolutely, I’m going to step up and do what I can and try to set the best example I can for my two boys,” said Krusz, a Strongsville business owner and former Marine. “Marines are the first in and the last out. And what we’ve been trained for is to do that and help.”
The men plan to begin their 10-day journey in Warsaw, before traveling to Krakow and then on to more rural areas near the Ukrainian border. They’ve been coordinating their efforts with Polish Rotary clubs and other Northeast Ohio connections already on the ground, and recognize their plans are fluid.
“We are actually lining up a day of help with a doctor from Cleveland. And we’re going to be working in a medical clinic, somewhat close to the border,” Greco said.
Krusz added, “Whether it’s passing out hugs or helping in a soup kitchen or passing out supplies or organizing any way that we can.”
According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, Poland has taken in more than 2.5 million displaced Ukrainians as of April 6. An additional 6.5 million people are displaced from their homes, but still inside Ukraine. Near the country’s border, trains have been packed and traffic backed up with fleeing families.
“It’s definitely unsettling. The whole genesis, at least for my decision, is that I was inspired by what I saw, by the Ukrainian president, by the Ukrainian government, by the people of Ukraine,” Krusz said. “One day they’re happy and healthy and the next day it’s: leave, get out of here. And they’re kind of fleeing for their lives.”
Between the Rotary Club Foundation, business and individual donations, more than $50,000 will arrive in Poland with Greco and Krusz. The pair is also bringing four checked suitcases full of medical supplies and other gear to distribute.
“Something needs to be done,” Greco said. “While I can’t fight, I can bring humanitarian relief, whether it’s financial or medical supplies, and pitch in and help.”
The Strongsville Rotary Club plans to send aid even after Krusz and Greco’s trip. If you’d like to contribute to the mission, you can donate by clicking on this link.
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