Six Utahns help fleeing Ukrainians in Moldova
Mar 31, 2022, 6:14 PM | Updated: Jun 18, 2022, 8:30 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — A group of six Utahns is in Moldova right now, helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war. Several lived and volunteered in Russia in the past, and speak the language. Today, they are working with local volunteers to spread humanitarian aid and hope.
“We feel incredibly lucky to be able to be here and be able to help these people with what we’re doing,” said Brian Grow, who helped organize the humanitarian trip with his wife, and several longtime friends.
The men said they are humbled by the tragedy and the outpouring of support they are witnessing, And they are glad to be sharing the support of generous Utahns. When they left Utah a week ago, they had $25,000 from a GoFundMe* account that has now grown to more than $40,000.
“We have delivered thousands and thousands of dollars of groceries, thanks to the donations we’ve had,” Grow said.
So far, they have spent long days delivering food and necessities to refugees at the border and driving women and children to safe destinations.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity to be hand-in-hand with the volunteers here from Moldova,” he said.
Hearing the stories of the Ukrainians who have left their homes keeps them focused.
“Their journey has been terrible,” Grow said. “Their neighborhoods have been bombed.”
Most have faced incredible hardship, while others are just happy to be safe.
“You’re hearing the worst of the worst,” he said. “But, you’re also hearing some pretty positive things from people that have lost a lot.”
This from a mother with a young daughter.
“She said, one morning, I literally woke up and opened up the blinds and there were Russian soldiers standing outside my window.”
A sight she never imagined before she fled.
“It’s hard,” said Sean Slobodan, ine of the Utah volunteers. “You leave your home. You have a few bags. You have your kids. Usually, it’s single moms. They’re presented with this.. now what do I do? How do I figure this out?”
Yesterday, they prepared travel kits with blankets, food, and water for Ukrainians boarding buses bound for Germany, a 40-hour drive.
“They’re not looking for a handout. They’re not looking for support,” Grow said. “They just need a place to stay temporarily so that they can go back.”
In their van, they hang pictures of their own kids in Utah holding messages for the refugees.
“They say love and hope and peace in Russian and Ukrainian,” Grow said.
They share the pictures with passengers to show them the kind of support there is for the Ukrainian people here in the United States.
“Hey look, we’re supporting you. We love you. We care about you,” Grow said. “There’s a lot of people thinking about you and praying for you all around the world. And the first group of people we handed those pictures to, they just broke down sobbing.”
The Utahns believe they are making a difference, but no more important than the efforts of local helpers.
“We’ve been able to listen to a lot of people’s stories, and found ways to try to be humans to humans,” Slobodan said.
The men from Utah are also meeting with local business leaders to try to create a sustainable pipeline of humanitarian aid. They hope to establish a full-time distribution center for food and clothes.