On May 16th, Mike Apfelberg, is a member of Rotary West and President of Nashua United Way, addressed the Rotary Club of Nashua regarding his Trip to Romania aiding Ukrainian refugees.
 
  • Went to Romania to support and aid refugees fleeing Ukraine.
  • Reached out to the UN and Red Cross, then realized he worked for the United Way and reached out to their headquarters.
  • United Way Romania was doing relief, and he had a couple of zooms to get started.
  • Flew into Bucarest, rented a car, and drove to the Ukrainian border, which they call Sighet (Sighetu Marmetei).
  • Around a 12 hour trip to the border that required doubling back d/t mountainous, wintery terrain and conditions.
  • He noted the contrast of Metropolitan, modern amenities and impoverished conditions.
  • He traded flags with the Rotary Clubs, noting one club being referred to as the old man’s club and the other, a young person’s club.
  • He spent time in 2 border regions. Sighet is a river crossing with a very old (mostly walking) bridge to a small town in Ukraine that has a railroad to and from Kiev and Kharkiv. where waves of people needing assistance would arrive several times a day.
  • He noted the contrast of Metropolitan, modern amenities and impoverished conditions.
  • He traded flags with the Rotary Clubs, noting one club being referred to as the old man’s club and the other, a young person’s club.
  • He spent time in 2 border regions. Sighet is a river crossing with a very old (mostly walking) bridge to a small town in Ukraine that has a railroad to and from Kiev and Kharkiv. where waves of people needing assistance would arrive several times a day.
  • People have been swimming across the river to refuge, which is very cold and fast running this time of year, and some die of hypothermia.
  • He volunteered in two functions: A welcoming committee asking how they can help (food, rest, accommodations, transportation).
  • First time refugees felt safe in weeks and tend to follow you around
  • The other function is an intake process through UNICEF, asking refugees a series of questions, taking inventory of where they are from and where they
  • are going etc.
  • In asking what people need, Mike was part of a team that did medical shopping for wheelchairs, commodes, walkers. There were also needs for animals like leashes, carriers and food. He also distributed chocolate, which he jokes was an American innovation brought to Romania. This was the first
  • time children had smiled in weeks.
  • He showed a video thanking everyone from Rotary for the help
  • On the border at Siret, welcomed busloads of refugees. He did a lot of shopping as they welcomed women, children, elderly and animals.
  • Mike learned he had a great grandfather born in Romania in the same town (Raudati) where he stayed at one point during his journey.
Questions:
  • Mike discussed language barriers and we learned he is fluent in German, which he noted being the most helpful besides English.
  • Regarding Pets, the need is mostly to get resources inside of Ukraine.
  • Some people have nowhere to go. One family was going to Frankfurt Germany without reason to go (no family or known relationships there). Within 10 minutes they had this family registered and going to
  • Frankfurt for official placement.
  • John Bob said Mike told him “I hope I have Covid so I don't have to come back”, and “I wish I could have done more”. John Bob is going to call him ‘Mr Electricity’, and encouraged us all to do so too.
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