By Graham Gaulke, an American living in Europe
This post and the previous post are not your typical battlefield tour articles. They focus on the actions of two young individuals in Europe–one German and one American–who are taking action to help Ukrainians. I admire their initiative and I hope they move readers to take some action. In the feature photo above, Graham and Pat are transporting a patient and mother–Randy Gaulke.
On the weekend of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I was in Berlin with a number of friends from school. That Monday evening, while returning to the Netherlands by bus, I met some of the first Ukrainian refugees at the bus terminal; it was entirely by chance, under the shared circumstance that our bus had been canceled.
As the war drew beyond the first weeks, I knew I wanted to go and help, but wasn’t sure how. Initially, I volunteered for an Italian NGO with some friends from the Netherlands at the Poland-Ukraine border, packing and shipping hospital equipment, medical supplies, and food into Ukraine by truck. A week or two after the initial trip in April, I returned with the NGO for another week, helping with the final shipments and to liquidate the warehouse, as their Ukraine mission ended. During this time, I met Pat Shearer, a retired detective from Arizona who was working as an independent driver, working all over Ukraine.
I returned to Ukraine to work with Pat as a co-driver in early June. The goal of our operations was relatively straightforward: bring supplies eastwards, while evacuating civilians westwards. Our supplies normally consisted of medical items or food, usually working alongside the NGOs who were supplying the things which we then delivered and distributed to their final locations, directly to those in need. Likewise, most of our civilian evacuations were for special medical cases, where, for various reasons, they needed a special transport rather than the overcrowded and chaotic trains or buses.
Without an official organization, we had flexibility to operate when we wanted to and maximize our time and resources there. In the month I was working with Pat, we did drives all over the country, including a civilian evacuation in Zaporizhzhia and another in Kharkiv, the latter under the sound of Russian artillery shelling.
While the war in Ukraine has caused immense suffering, pain, and damage to the country, it is truly incredible to see the diversity of volunteers and sheer amount of people from all over the world who have joined together to help. I want to thank my father, Randy, for allowing Johannes and I to share our stories, and hope that it will lead readers to consider helping in any way they can; every small bit counts.
Randy’s comments: Here is a link to an article written by Pat Shearer’s brother for a local Arizona newspaper. It describes their last evacuation. Pat returned to the USA from Eastern Europe in late June after he reached his passport travel limit of 90 days without a visa. I do not know if or when he is planning to return. Graham left Ukraine on the same day and is back in Western Europe.
Postscript: Graham is also quite a proficient photographer, and he had significant opportunity to document what he saw in Ukraine using his photography skills. A few examples are shown below:
#kdih #kneedeepintohistory #ww1tours #ww2tours #battlefieldtours