Former Southern Oregonian helps Ukraine refugees

POLAND-UKRAINE BORDER – A former Southern Oregonian fled Ukraine with his family one week before Russia began its invasion. Now, he’s at the border of Ukraine and Poland trying to help others. 

More than one million people have fled Ukraine after a week of war in the country. Among those who fled were St. Mary’s graduate Nic Patella and his family.

“We recently had the opportunity to live and work in Kiev,” Patella said. “And we took that opportunity, were quite excited about it and enjoyed it very much until the recent events.

They only lived in the capital city for six months. 

Patella explained, “We chose to come to this location and establish a household because it gives us the potential to help friends and family who are fleeing across the border.

And that potential to help has now materialized. Patella has relocated to the Polish-Ukrainian border to help refugees. 

Patella modestly describes the impact he’s had: “It’s nothing more than picking up people at the border, feeding them, giving them a night in a safe place, or two nights in a safe, calm place, where they can decompress and get ready for the next leg of the journey.”

At the border, Patella has heard refugees talk about their journeys, often by foot to escape. Some walked 15 kilometers, others 18 kilometers. 

“They’re doing this with bags and in the cold, that’s it’s quite a difficult thing to do,” Patella said. “And obviously, they’re under a lot of stress. Most of them haven’t slept in a couple of days.”

He said Ukrainians are tough by design and by necessity. “It’s important to realize that this is not just a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, this is much larger than that. It’s essentially a conflict between Russia and all of us, right, all of us who value peace, and freedom and the ability to live in safety without the threat of an unprovoked military conflict from another country.”

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