A team of first responders and veterans visited different parts of Ukraine this month to offer medical supplies and training to Ukrainians who were eager for assistance amidst the ongoing invasion by Russia.
Ross Marsh, a Beulah resident and first responder, was one member of a six-man Project Victory Ukraine team that visited hospitals and orphanages to deliver medical supplies to hospital personnel and food and toys to children in Ukraine.
Ukrainian citizens were clearly shaken by the destruction caused by Russian forces, Marsh said, but many were overjoyed to see his team and other Americans offering assistance as they sought resources to build back their homes, parks and community centers.
“You can see in their eyes that they’ve been through a lot and the weight of everything is carrying on their shoulders,” Marsh said. “But you also see resilience in their face — they’re not going to give up.”
Ukraine has been under constant barrage by Russia since the latter invaded in February. Russia’s latest attacks have targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions of Ukrainians without heat, water or power, according to president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia has pulled back its military personnel in some areas following resistance from Ukrainian forces, but the damage since the invasion has been catastrophic — the United Nations estimated that there have been nearly 6,700 civilian deaths as of Nov. 27 and almost 10,400 injuries to civilians since the start of the war.
Gen. Mark Milley estimated that about 200,000 Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have been killed or injured during the war.
In some of Ukraine’s cities, buildings and homes have been left disintegrated after being bombarded with missile strikes.
“The amount of devastation — you can’t really see it in one picture,” Marsh said. “There’s whole streets littered with bullet holes and houses crumbling on each side. It’s hard to paint that picture until you’re there and see it firsthand and talk with people this (war) is affecting the most.”
Marsh has been a firefighter since 2008 and volunteers at departments in and around Pueblo. He was joined by three veterans and two other first responders during his first trip to Ukraine earlier this month as part of a team with Project Victory Ukraine. The nonprofit raises money for essentials and sends teams to Ukraine to deliver them.
Marsh and his team traveled to different parts of the country across six days, delivering $30,000 of medical supplies to different hospitals, including one in the Donetsk region. One of those supplies was sutures, which hospital personnel in the area reported would cut surgery times by 40% and increase the amount of people they could save, Marsh said.
Marsh and other members of his team taught 45 National Police of Ukraine personnel how to properly apply tourniquets and separate applications of first aid to wounds. One officer later shared the teachings with other police personnel, Marsh said. Officers were also given trauma kits that were donated by the Stop the Bleed program.
They also visited an orphanage outside Kyiv and brought children backpacks, coloring supplies and stuffed teddy bears. Orphanage staff received flour, sugar and other food supplies.
Some kids at the orphanage seemed shocked and were unable to communicate, said Marsh, who spoke to some children through an interpreter. Others were more talkative and painted pictures, including one young girl who sketched the Antonov AN-225, which was destroyed by Russian occupants in February, according to Ukrainian authorities.
“We asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up,” Marsh said. “Some of them said Superman. One girl said, ‘I want to be a soldier.’ Then pretty much all of them said, ‘My heroes are the soldiers and the first responders.’
“You can see that even the children have a sense of what’s going on and they’re passionate about their country of Ukraine.”
Marsh’s group also traveled with some of the country’s juvenile police to houses in Chernihiv that were damaged or destroyed. The families within those homes were also given flour and sugar with the children receiving toys, coloring books and school supplies.
“(The children) were just happy to have a little bit of their childhood,” Marsh said.
Marsh and his team visited previously occupied territories such as Irpin and Bucha that “looked like a war zone.” Every street showed signs of war, he said, though some parks and roads have been rebuilt. One group of Ukrainians was seen working to rebuild a house, brick by brick, Marsh said.
Others placed flowers next to a cultural center and painted sunflowers, the country's national flower and symbol of resistance against Russia's invasion, on tattered cars in a car graveyard outside Irpin.
During an evening in downtown Kyiv, Marsh saw a small group of Ukrainians using a generator to play music at the corner of a street because the power was out. About 50 people surrounded the musicians and sang along to what they were playing, he said.
“They were out trying to get back to their normal lives,” Marsh said. “The resiliency of the people over there — you can tell that this is their American revolution. They’re fighting for their country. You can just see people were determined to see this thing through.”
Project Victory Ukraine on its Facebook page wrote that the nonprofit has sent multiple teams into Ukraine and that it has brought more than 2,000 tourniquets into the country.
Chieftain reporter Josue Perez can be reached at JHPerez@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @josuepwrites.
Full Article Citation: Pueblo Chieftain || By Josue Perez