Bob's Thoughts

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Spent the day in Medyka and surrounding area. Train station there is a bit of a hole in the wall, so I drove along the border a bit in the morning and an older man with backpack and bag was walking along the road having some trouble. Offered him a lift and turned out he was a Ukrainian refugee. No English. But when I told him I was American he was very happy and asked if I was military. (Guess that was flattering for me, but not so much for the military given the shape I am in).

Medyka is "dead" compared to a few weeks ago. As a transit point, the Poles/EU have done a fantastic job of taking in the refugees and dispersing them across the EU to avoid large scale refugee camps with their attendant issues. There are UNHCR booths/tents as soon as they come across to let them know their options. And buses running non-stop to take them places they want. I followed one to see where it was going and it took them to the main train terminal in Przemysl. There is a large grocery store right on site at the border crossing. But food, clothing, and medical care is provided free by all the NGOs as soon as any refugee comes across the border. The main pedestrian walk from the crossing comes down a brick sidewalk and it is like a carnival boardwalk with organizations from all over the world, from Sikhs and Chinese, to Israeli and Canadiens. (My daughter will be happy to know that there is even a NGO devoted to caring for refugee dogs and cats with pet supplies and veterinarian care).

Per previous ground intel, confirmed that while there are about two dozen organizations in a chaotic ad hoc effort at the crossing to help out, there are three large main players. World Central Kitchen (which is also currently operating in New Mexico for relief to those devastated by the wildfires); an anti-communist Chinese group well funded by a dissident billionaire which provides a large amount of creature comforts but everything they do is tinged with a propaganda component against the CCP; and an Israeli medical service corps.

There is also the long line of trucks waiting to cross the border from Poland into Ukraine (quite a few with vehicles as cargo). In the early AM when I arrived, it was about 1/2 mile long. By mid-afternoon, it was more than a mile, maybe close to two. Not sure what the hold up is given that Ukraine is so desperately short of supplies. Would think it would be easy to set up a system to just wave truck cargo through.

Spoke to a Danish guy working for a UK NGO and a Spanish one working for another. The Dane was excited when I told him it looked like the border had set into a good routine but that HROC had some expertise in infection control. Given the ad hoc nature of the effort, sanitation and trash control, as always, has gone to the wayside a bit. He said he personally went out and picked up trash across from their tent and cleaned one of the portable wash stations that OxFam just set up, but with no follow-on support. No one likes trash detail, but really needs to be done. He also suggested they need spray bottles for disinfectant to clean the various stations as they have lots of disinfectant, but it is all bottled and not very useful. He was also thrilled at the idea of the portable solar panels and generators. His NGO gave out small cell phone power banks, but stopped as the refugees would just use them one time and throw them away and not recharge or reuse them. They also had a very large power bank on site that could charge about 20 phones/laptops at a time. But the acute need would be in the more remote parts of Ukraine. The Spanish guy said the UN provided a large number of small water purification kits, but they require electricity. And where the water is bad enough to need purification, the electricity usually is spotty or non-existent. We have small portable solar panels that can direct charge laptops, cell phones and likely this sanitation kit. And it has always been my view that: "comm comes first". So a colleague arrives from Kyiv early tomorrow who is quite excited about the phones and solar panels for inside Ukraine more than for refugee assistance. So we shall see how that goes tomorrow.


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BOB MARSHALL IS A RETIRED MARINE CORPS OFFICER. USE OF HIS MILITARY RANK, JOB TITLES, AND PHOTOGRAPHS IN UNIFORM DO NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, MARINE CORPS OR DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.