This was sent as an update after my first border drive
This is a long email, so sorry for that. The “too long; didn’t read” version is I’m running trips to bring supplies to the Territorial Defense Force and bringing refugees back and finding housing for them. If you want to help me from Canada you can send money via Interac to rglittle - at - gmail.com
Here’s the long version…
A few days ago I decided to rent a trailer, fill it with gear for the volunteer army, and drive from Vienna to the Ukrainian border. I started the biggest shopping trip of my life and, together with a friend who joined as my co-driver, had to play Credit Card Tetris as we put (converting all to Canadian dollars) $23,500 on credit cards. It was a bit of an “oh shit” moment when they looked at my American Express Platinum and shook their heads at the cash desk. They made a copy to keep it as their record longest.
At 5:30 AM we set out to Przemyśl (we can’t pronounce it either) at the Polish/Ukrainian border. Mission: to meet with contacts I made in the Territorial Defense Force, offload supplies into a tractor trailer heading to Lviv; find refugees to bring back to Vienna and host them at my place until I can get them settled for the long term.
Supply to Territorial Defense Force (volunteer army)
Imagine if tomorrow all men in Canada aged 18-60 were enlisted in an active war that started two weeks ago. Imagine how much would be needed to get them in the right gear. Stuff is flowing and I even saw a few US Forces trailers on the highway but this is a matter of getting as much as possible as quickly as possible to give these men and women the best chance. To quote one of the volunteer soldiers, wearing Reeboks with bright red laces upon seeing the gear we brought, including 32 pairs of winter hunting boots and 165 camo fleeces: “YES GUY”. Simply put: all supply of everything continues to be needed.
From there we went a two-minute drive to pick up refugees to bring back to Vienna. The refugee center was a converted Tesco supermarket and a crushingly heartbreaking scene I had to really focus on the goal of finding people who want to go to Vienna and getting them on the road. I didn’t take pictures as didn’t feel right but you can see them in the news. 500-600 people on army cots and floors with babies and pets in a sea of chaos. I wrote “Vienna” in Ukrainian and walked around calling out “Vienna, Austria” over and over and found a mother and daughter. We couldn’t communicate so I called a friend in Ukraine on speakerphone and we translated and got them to a good level of comfort. That a mother and her 10 year old daughter have to trust total strangers to take them away from their homes, outside of a country they had never left, to futures unknown – I just can’t imagine what it’s like. Olga and Anastasia slept much of the 10-hour drive back as they had been on the road with nothing more than a little backpack for more than three days.
As I write, Olga and Anastasia are next to me eating spaghetti at an obscenely late dinner hour. The first thing Olga did this morning when she woke up was to make us breakfast with the very little food she had in her backpack.
I'll tell her I'm vegetarian another day :)
We spent the day getting sorted with donated clothes, doing some groceries, playing with dogs and cats(!), and working on next steps like long-term housing. Verbally we don’t
understand each other well but we talk anyway; we also use lots of gestures and Google Translate. Tomorrow a friend will take them for a tour of Vienna and a Ukrainian-speaking friend will host them for dinner. They leave behind in Kiev dad/husband called Bogdan and son/brother Vladislav, who turned 24 today. Right now it is 21 hours since I first met them and they already feel like family. I will miss them when they are gone.
Iterating and growing
I am actively building the pipeline together with some people in Berlin and Vienna of 3-day, 1-3-month, and long-term accommodation. We have free cargo vans now and I’m recruiting students to be on standby to ready places with additional furniture as needed via classified ads and with groceries etc. for a warm welcome. I am arranging for people to get picked up from the train station and get a roof over their heads for a night or two until we can figure it out.
We are on WhatsApp and Slack and the phone and calls non-stop with a network of “doers” across Europe and we do all this without having ever spoken to each other before. It feels like a guerilla army because it essentially is.
To scale all this I’m coordinating mostly with my Berlin network on some of the more macro levels and hardening logistics lines so that we can be doing full truckloads of goods and busloads of people and make assets like my VW Passat a little less critical haha.
For those of you who have sent money, here’s where it went (CAD):
So far from donations from people on this list I’ve got $13,850 in (THANK YOU!) If you are in a position to do so, I’d love for you to help me both close the gap on this and get ahead of it for my next trip to the border.
THE ASK: FUNDING COMMITMENTS FOR POWER BANKS AND USB-C CABLES. The smartphone is the lifeline for everyone right now in Ukraine—solider and civilian—and these need to stay charged with portable batteries. I have asked a friend to figure out how many I can fit in my station wagon by weight and volume; I will buy them and head to the border, sleep in the car, and leave the next morning with four more refugees and arrange housing from the car based on profile; the needs of a single mom with three kids are different than four foreign students etc. I am also working with big companies to get stuff like this donated but, as with everything right now, it is not “either or” but rather “and, and, and”.
So many people in Canada have told me they feel helpless. You’re not. Your money can help. You can send to me from Canada via Interac to rglittle - at - gmail.com or if you prefer to send through charities in Canada, my Ivey classmates have vetted some charities and set up a fundraising page here.
Thanks and if you can think of any other way to help, please get in touch.
How to Help
Cash, direct to Ryan for immediate use on the ground, via interact e-transfer or paypal at rglittle -at- gmail.com
Contact me directly if you or anyone you know can help charter planes to Canada (think sports teams, bands)
If you’d rather donate to Canadian charities, some friends and me have hand-selected 4 and set up a fundraising page at CanadaHelps