Summer 2023 – Day One: And So We Begin

And So We Begin

Day One
The team visiting Ukraine meets in Krakow Poland. They come from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Washington, DC, Hungary and me, from Ohio. They are a diverse set. Left to Right: Chip Duncan, Photo Journalist and Documentarian; Rachael Beck, PASS USA, trip organizer; Marco the Bronco, our driver; Sandor Kolesh, Executive Director, Carpathian Foundation; Shawn Borich, MD; Dan Puls, Executive Director, PASS USA, Donna Thibedeau, Firefighters Rescue Network; Dan White, Geotrac Foundation

Yet, diversity brings strength; the same hearts with different skills, the same hearts in one team and the same hearts with focus and purpose to bring some measure of relief to the suffering people of Ukraine. The news this morning is a Russian missile attack last night on a medical facility in Dnipro, Ukraine. Two dead, thirty injured. It make one furious, it makes one cry, and it steels one’s resolve.

Most have come from the U.S., flying overnight and some 24 hours, to meet up in Krakow, Poland at 12:30 this afternoon. Collect the bags, no lunch, jump in the van, we’re already running late for our first meeting in Rzeszow, Poland near the Ukrainian border.

Rzeszów is located in the Polish Carpathian Mountain region, close to the Ukrainian border. It is the largest city in southeastern Poland. The city is home to a number of higher education schools and foreign consulates. In 2011 Forbes recognized Rzeszów as one of the most attractive semi-large cities for business. In 2022, following the February Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rzeszów became a main artery and hub for resupply of military material being transshipped to Ukraine from countries of the Western alliance.

Even with war so close there is an obvious desire for normalcy. People stroll, chat, grab a coffee and listen to the young man playing on a beat up, outdoor piano.

We meet with David Lasek, Secretary General of the Association of the Carpathian Euroregion Poland, The Carpathian Euroregion is a semi- governmental, trans-national organization that focuses on the five countries that share the arc of the Carpathian Mountains: Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungry. David explains that his organization brings together bordering communities in cultural exchange and tourism expansion.

Yet, today war is top of the list not tourism. The regional support for Ukraine is strong but uneven. Poland and Slovakia are all in, Hungry less so. Yet every country has accepted Ukrainian war refugees in massive numbers. History runs deep and people don’t forget. They don’t forget the Soviet times, the secret police and the deportations to Siberia. They don’t forget the ravages of World War II. The Poles will reach back into history and remember when the Prussians, Austro-Hungarians and the Russians divided their country between them and Poland ceased to exist. Every country in the Carpathian region has historical reasons to mistrust and hold grudges. In the U.S. no buildings and certainly no grievances go back a thousand years. People like David, do massive work in peace time and war to help find common cause.