GASTONIA, NC – A man from Gastonia gives us a first-hand account of the situation at the Ukrainian border.
Joe Lenihan flew to Poland over the weekend and traveled to Ukraine to distribute relief to children and families.
“That’s where if you cross the border, that’s where you’ll end up,” Lenihan showed us.
The Gastonia businessman has a rental car full of supplies for refugee families.
1,000 bags full of things like coloring books and playing cards.
“When I distribute the packages to children and mothers, there is just an elated joy,” he says.
With so many people in the Charlotte area sending items to Ukraine, Lenihan says he felt the need to be there in person.
“Very grateful, but there is very little communication. I would like to have more, but I don’t speak Ukrainian, Polish or Russian,” he says.
A surprise – fewer people crossing than he expected.
Relief organizers Lenihan spoke to told him it was because it was becoming increasingly dangerous for refugees to leave.
“At first it was really crazy, we had 21,000 people crossing the border every 24 hours and now the numbers are going down. And that’s because there’s more shelling on the Ukrainian side, closer to us” , said Marta, a relief organizer.
But organizers believe that will change as the Russians advance further west.
“We expect the numbers to increase again because the situation is not improving,” says Marta.
Lenihan is staying at a hotel on the Polish side of the border and plans to visit train stations and other border crossings over the next week and a half.
“It was very easy to travel. Honestly, in Poland, here, it feels like there’s not even a war going on,” he says.
He is working with a local Jesuit organization to determine where he might be needed.
Lenihan paid for his own flight and transportation to Ukraine, but started a GoFundMe page to help provide donations.