With the help from local donors like Charlestown Youth Hockey, former City Councilor and Mayoral Candidate Annissa Essaibi George traveled to the Poland-Ukraine border recently to deliver supplies to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war raging in their homeland.
Essaibi George and a small group of volunteers, which included her sister Sonia, spent a week delivering supplies and volunteering in Poland at the refugee centers in Przemysl and Medyka and even traveled across the border into Ukraine to help deliver supplies.
“Being in the refugee center full of families who were carrying all they could with them, many with pets in tow, made me think about my mom and grandparents and their experience as displaced persons post-World War II,” said Essaibi George, whose mother Barbara was born to Polish parents in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Germany. “Her story inspired me to make this trip to help those experiencing something similar to what my family went through just a generation ago. Among the people in the refugee center, I could see my grandparents and my mom, then just a toddler, moving through the converted supermarket and on to an unknown future far from what used to be home, hopeful to build a new life.”
With donations and cash pouring in from Charlestown and other Boston neighborhoods, Essaibi George said she and the other volunteers used the many cash donations, totaling almost $25,000, to purchase and distribute even more supplies in Poland and delivered food, sleeping bags, and medical supplies to volunteers for distribution in Ukraine.
“Thanks to the Boston community and beyond,” said Essaibi George. “We left the US with over 2,000 pounds of humanitarian aid including medical supplies, feminine hygiene products, soap, deodorant, toothpaste and brushes, packed in 26 large hockey bags. Many of those hockey bags were delivered to us already loaded with donations from local hockey programs, including Charlestown, the Boston Police and Boston Fire hockey clubs as well as bags from Latin Academy and Boston Latin School Even the Bruins showed up to provide team bags for us.”
Essaibi George also thanked all those who donated cash as well as helped the volunteers with the sorting and packing for the trip.
“We met many Ukrainians who were taking the supplies one car-load at a time directly to internally displaced Ukrainians, and children and the elderly who cannot be moved easily, often putting themselves in harm’s way to help others,” said Essaibi George. “One volunteer we met knew of orphanages in Ukraine that desperately needed diaper rash cream and medicine for children who could not be evacuated, and we were able to purchase almost $10,000 of these products to deliver to them. We heard many stories like this where volunteers were constantly solving problems, doing their best to source needed supplies and get them delivered to locations in Ukraine.”
Essaibi George said she left Poland grateful and overwhelmed.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve a small part in helping Ukrainian refugees internally and externally displaced, for your incredible support, and for the many other volunteers who have sprung into action to help however they can,” she said. “I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this tragedy and the toll it is taking on Ukraine, by the need for more support – food, water, and basic supplies, and by the spirit of Ukrainians who have stood strong to defend their country. You all helped us bring much needed humanitarian aid to the refugee center in Przemysl, Poland and to volunteers who transported the items over the border into Ukraine to be distributed there.”