George Fox ‘75 was visiting an old friend in Poland shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. “I had seen the images of women and children streaming into these border refugee camps, and I had already heard of the unspeakable atrocities being committed… and I realized I was four hours away from this world-wide event,” says George. “I told my friend, I just feel like I’ve got to go down there and help out.”
George got in his rental car and headed toward the Polish-Ukrainian border, where, he says, “an army of volunteers descended on the border, and we were working together – I became a driver.”
George made multiple trips driving refugees from border checkpoints to Warsaw and other safe havens. After several weeks, though, the flow of refugees began to dwindle. In fact, George noted, people began returning to Ukraine to stand by those who couldn’t leave the country.
Wanting to do more, George decided to relocate to Ukraine. “I ended up moving to Lviv, Ukraine and became a freelance humanitarian. I met a guy who had a van, and we started running supply missions. We’d bring supplies east and bring people west. We never traveled empty.”
George’s experience supporting the Ukrainian people was not without its share of danger. “My very first day in Ukraine we were delivering supplies to a Ukrainian Youth Center in Lviv, and we started hearing air raid sirens and saw black smoke billowing nearby – a nearby fuel depot had taken a missile strike,” says George.
In addition to providing assistance to refugees, George’s work also brought him close to the front lines of the conflict. “I was running supplies – military boots and a load of plywood for a bombed-out school – into the Donbas and met another American who was bringing supplies into previously-occupied towns. We decided to run a mission of food and water to remaining villagers and could feel the ground shaking with incoming and outgoing artillery.”
George has spent nearly six months over the last year running missions to support the Ukrainian war effort. As the war carries on, George mentions that he intends to return to Ukraine, saying, “I can’t see myself never not going back. I’ve made so many friends. I will definitely go back to help rebuild.”
And George speaks of the Ukrainian people with a deep reverence. “Ukranians are the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life,” says George. “They are strong. They are determined. So remarkably calm in the face of this terrible war. I love them.”
What was meant to be a relaxing and peaceful vacation set George on a life-changing course of service. “When I arrived in Poland with this new war just right next door, it was like something from my soul telling me that I have to help… My mission when I’m in Ukraine is to help,” says George, “and my mission when I’m back in the United States is to promote the Ukrainian people.”
When reflecting on his time at Holderness and its impact on his work in Ukraine, George says, “perhaps the Holderness jobs program, and subsequent leader position, instilled or refined the desire to help others and invest in something that's greater than myself with the knowledge that such a larger span of goodness is created by the collective efforts of smaller segments.”
“If you have the capabilities to help people, then why not?”