Resident steamboat volunteers in a Polish-Ukrainian border town

Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach pauses in front of a painted wall in downtown Warsaw, Poland, showing his support for peace in Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo

For Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach, his first two days of humanitarian aid in a Polish village near the Ukrainian border were among the “highlights” of his life.

This news was shared via email from Kovach, a successful entrepreneur, US Navy veteran and 57-year-old married father of two teenagers.

Kovach helps out in the small town of Medyka in southeastern Poland. Its population is 2,800 and the city is one of the main border crossing points between Poland and Ukraine.

Kovach helped other volunteers distribute supplies, provide transportation for refugees, and set up dormitories. It helps fund these needs and more with $29,000 in donated funds, half of which came from Routt County residents.

Kovach said his general impression at Medyka is that many disjointed groups provide food, clothing and medical, hygiene and comfort supplies. He observes “fragmented support” and a “chaotic organization” without “any sense of a main coordinator”.

“The firefighters are in charge of transporting the refugees. The police maintain order. The military leads the security,” Kovach wrote.

“Almost all the refugees are women and children. Border reception areas aim to provide safe transport to major cities in Poland and Europe. There are transport teams from various European countries,” he said.

Kovach flew from Hayden on Sunday March 20 to Denver, then Germany and Warsaw.

“I arrived safely in Poland, but none of my 1,000 pounds of luggage and supplies arrived. So I was stuck in Warsaw for two days until the airline picked it up,” he said of the duffel bag comfort kits, including snacks, small toys and notes of support from school children, which were packed in Steamboat Springs.

“I spent the next two days driving (in a rental car) 300 miles along the Ukraine-Poland border,” he continued. “I started at the Belarusian border and visited all border crossings until stopping at Medyka, where I stayed for two days at the border crossing and shelter in Premyśyl and at the railway station in Premyśyl. When there is a group arriving, I spend time distributing child care packages. In the meantime, I work to support a number of refugee areas.

Currently volunteering in southeastern Poland, Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach hands over a comfort kit to a small child displaced from Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo

“When a bus or train arrives, the goal is to move it quickly and get it to the next safe place. The scary thing is they never know where it’s going to be,” Kovach noted.

The Steamboat resident provides donated funds as dire needs arise in the small border town.

“Rain is expected. I have committed funds to provide 5,000 rain ponchos, emergency blankets and fruit packets,” Kovach said, noting that fruit is a coveted food in short supply.

He used funds to help buy a used military medical trailer for use by a Polish-based courier company delivering supplies to Ukraine.

Kovach said he was helping out among hundreds of self-organized volunteers. If necessary, the various volunteers use Google translate to communicate. He believes that more organized groups, like the International Committee of the Red Cross, work on the Ukrainian side of the border.

“Individual effort and contribution is most common (here),” Kovach said. “Individual leaders and volunteers seem to string together the rest.”

Mark Kovach took this photo of the largest bedroom, one of eight bedrooms in a refugee shelter set up at Premyśyl Tresco, which is a supermarket warehouse, similar to Costco. The refugee shelter is in Poland, about 10 miles from the border with Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo
Volunteers have set up additional dormitories for the refugees at Premyśyl station.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo
A Costco-like store in the Polish town of Premyśyl, about 16 km from the Ukrainian border, has been converted into a refugee shelter.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo
A stream of Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to neighboring countries, including at this border crossing in the small village of Medyka, Poland.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo
The non-profit organization World Central Kitchen has set up several locations to feed refugees at Warsaw Central Station.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy Photo

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