Two Langford lads are travelling to Medyka, Poland to offer volunteer support to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Wil Meade and Jon McClean are flying into Warsaw, then driving a rental car to the small town on the border of Poland and Ukraine. There they plan to live in their car for two weeks, helping however they can, ferrying supplies, supporting refugees or offering medical assistance.
Meade had originally discussed going to join the Ukrainian armed forces and fight in the war, but was talked out of that idea, with two children and a wife at home.
“I’m glad I did. I think … I’m not interested in picking up arms. I’d rather hold the stretcher or rather feed somebody.”
Meade’s wife and daughters are Ukrainian and he had extended family in the country – all of whom have left since the start of the Russian invasion. His family has long felt a sense of community with the extensive Ukrainian population in Victoria, he said.
McClean’s family wishes he wasn’t going, he said, but he felt a civic duty to go and support both the refugees and his friend.
“I just felt that I couldn’t let him go do it on his own,” McLean said. “I feel very strongly that as Canadians that’s what we stand for, we stand up for those that are in trouble and we kind of put aside our comfort and our liberties and we do what we can for those that need it most.”
Meade, a retired underwater welder and former diver medical technician, hopes he will be able to assist some refugees who have fled long distances, often without any medical support.
“Men aged 18 to 65 aren’t leaving. So that means you have a lot of elderly people as well – they don’t have the caretakers and they’re being dropped off at the border – that also need care.”
There are still some uncertainties about the trip.
The pair have been trying to contact NGOs to find where their efforts may be most useful, but have struggled to connect with those on the ground – although McClean did recently make contact with Rescuers Without Borders. There’s also the language barrier, but the pair’s funding difficulties have been sorted.
The pair set up a GoFundMe to help pay for their trip and buy supplies when they arrive, but the fundraising was paused pending a review by the company – leaving the pair without funds they’d hoped to use on supplies when they were in Poland. Luckily, the fundraiser was reopened the morning of April 15, in time for when McClean and Meade left the Island the same day. As of Monday morning, the fundraiser had raised $4,165.