Fundraising efforts going to buy needed medical equipment, amid dwindling support
By Kris Parker
As the full-scale war in Ukraine enters its six month, the conflict is testing the endurance of individual volunteers and donors who have played a role in supporting Ukrainians whose lives have been upended by war.
Raquette Lake native Rebecca Pohl has spent most of the last six months doing what she could to assist those fleeing Ukraine. (Read about her work in a previous story here.) As a counselor at an international high school in Warsaw, Poland, she witnessed firsthand the flow of refugees overwhelming the city in the wake of the Russian invasion. After posting about the situation on Facebook, friends in Raquette Lake began asking about sending money, and soon donations were pouring in from Pohl’s Adirondack community and beyond.
“Seeing the sheer amount of people who have helped, it reassures me about the state of humanity; it’s reassuring to know that in a time of war that there are so many good people out there,” she says over Zoom.
The donated money allowed Pohl to buy much-needed supplies for the thousands arriving in Warsaw each day. Working with a network of other volunteers and professional colleagues, Pohl was able to deliver thousands of dollars worth of food and requested supplies throughout the month of March, meticulously documenting how funds were being spent or distributed.
As the number of people crossing into Poland began to decrease, Pohl’s deliveries of large amounts of food and other supplies to Warsaw’s train station were no longer necessary. Needs had shifted and now shipping medical supplies into Ukraine became the priority.
Through her network of contacts in Poland, Pohl was introduced to an organization working in Ukraine called Marlog, and soon met one of the lead coordinators, 31-year-old Inna Polishchuk, at a park in Warsaw.
For Polishchuk, meeting Pohl in person was also crucial to developing mutual trust. “Right now people are helping Ukraine for many different reasons, but Rebecca is doing this from her own heart,” she says. “I saw that, because even though she is busy with her work at the school, and has so many things going on, she keeps helping us.”
According to Pohl, a majority of the money she has raised has now gone into medical supplies that are delivered to Marlog, and then distributed to trusted contacts around Ukraine, an amount worth more than $50,000. This money has purchased three more defibrillators, medicine, tactical first aid kits, and speciality bandages for the severe wounds experienced in combat. The supplies are sent to the frontlines to treat injured civilians and soldiers. Pohl has raised almost $70,000 in total since March.
“In Ukraine, we’re so grateful for the support from all over the world,” says Polishchuk. “Sometimes it’s not only about physical things like food, funds, or medicine, it’s also about moral support. When we know that the world supports us, it makes us want to continue to fight for our freedom.”
Marlog is based in Kovel, Ukraine, a small town in the northwest Volyn region, not far from both Poland and Belarus. Though Kovel is far from the front lines and was never occupied, the town was attacked with missiles on July 25 in an attack that killed an elderly man and injured two other adults and three children.
Despite no decrease in the severity of the crisis brought on by the war, donations to Pohl and Marlog have begun to dwindle. For Pohl, one of the last large donations came from the Adirondack Lake Center for the Arts over Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s amazing how many people have contributed,” says Pohl, “but the money has slowed way down since the end of May. It’s becoming old news in the U.S. for some people, they don’t really think about it anymore and everything is becoming really expensive. “People have families to feed and I understand that. Individuals are starting to become tapped out.”
While donor fatigue may be a reasonable expectation in any crisis, this phenomenon is likely to make life even harder for those remaining in Ukraine.
“This is like a marathon and we have to accept this reality. Right now it is impossible to raise money within Ukraine, because in the beginning, people sent everything and now they have to think about how they will survive themselves,” says Polishchuk.
How to help
Want to get involved? Here are some ways to contribute:
- Donate to the American School of Warsaw (ASW) Foundation
- Donate to one of the organizations recommended by Pechersk School International in Kyiv
- Funds sent to the Pohl family (listed below) will go directly to Ukrainians and will be used toward efforts that Rebecca learns about in Poland.
- Rachel Pohl (Rebecca’s sister) via Venmo: Rachel-Pohl-6 (confirmation code 5253)
- Donna Pohl (Rebecca’s mom) via PayPal: email@example.com
- Check (from a US bank only) to: Donna Pohl, PO Box 100, Raquette Lake, NY 13436