KRAKOW, Poland (NYTIMES) – Every week for the reason that starting of March, Evgeny has packed his automotive with field after field of medication and pushed from his residence close to Krakow to a different Polish metropolis, Rzeszow, close to the border with Ukraine.
Evgeny stated he was initially from Russia, however for the previous 16 years, Poland has been his residence. He lives there together with his spouse and is a Polish citizen. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in late February, he stated he knew he needed to do one thing.
He stated he is aware of of different Russians in Poland who even have spent the previous seven weeks, like many of their adopted nation, becoming a member of grassroots efforts to supply housing, logistical assist and different sorts of assist to these fleeing the struggle in neighbouring Ukraine.
“For me, it’s simple. It’s not an internal conflict for me,” he stated of reconciling his Russian identification – and issues for household nonetheless dwelling in Russia – together with his want to assist Ukrainians. “I do not treat it like two opposing sides, as if my family is an enemy of the other side. This is not true,” he added, asking that his final title not be used out of issues for his household’s security.
More than 2.5 million folks – most of them ladies and kids – have crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland for the reason that Russian invasion started, and their wants are immense.
When information of the Russian invasion broke, Evgeny stated he was shocked.
“You have mixed feelings – of feeling angry, embarrassed and no idea what to do next,” he stated. “For five or six days, I was completely empty inside.”
But Evgeny stated he has a shut good friend in Ukraine, Oleksandr, who he stated had saved his life when he was in a dangerous automotive accident in Ukraine eight years in the past and has grow to be like a brother.
“We got to know each other during the worst day of my life. He is a fantastic person, a pure patriot of Ukraine and a good person,” Evgeny stated. When he heard the information of the Russian invasion, he stated one in all his first calls was to Oleksandr to verify he was alive and to see what he wanted, and what Evgeny may do to assist.
Oleksandr is in an space of Ukraine that has remained comparatively steady to this point, and he’s serving to with the struggle effort. Evgeny stated he has been in shut contact together with his good friend to see what the wants are on the bottom and is working with a community of his contacts to coordinate assist.
Now, his residence workplace has grow to be a logistics hub, he stated, and he has devoted all of his spare time exterior of labor to serving to Ukrainians. He makes the three-hour spherical journey to Rzeszow at the least as soon as a week.
Evgeny, whose spouse is a pharmacist, stated a lot of his consideration has been targeted on getting medicines to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and sending them throughout the border into the nation.
“At least I feel like I can do something,” he stated.
Other Russian nationals have additionally joined these efforts. Igor Gerbeev, 34, who had been dwelling in Moscow however moved to Poland in 2020, is amongst them.
“This country became like a dictatorship with no ability to say your own opinion,” he stated of Russia. As somebody who spoke out in opposition to the Kremlin on-line, he stated the environment had grown more and more troublesome.
“Russia is like a beautiful facade,” he stated, however behind it’s a lack of alternative for younger folks like him, and he not noticed a future for himself there.
Since he got here to Poland and located a new job with an IT firm, he stated he had grown near a group of Ukrainian pals who had welcomed him with open arms when he knew nobody in Krakow.
So when the Russian invasion started, he felt he needed to take a stand.
“This is my duty. I have principles, and I have vision,” Gerbeev stated.
He stated he had welcomed a household of 5 Ukrainians into his residence for weeks earlier than they moved on to stick with their members of the family in Germany. When the household arrived, Gerbeev stated, the mom was nervous when she realised he was Russian. But she quickly warmed up and was extremely grateful.
Gerbeev, who described himself as only one small a part of a wider assist effort, stated he has been impressed by the tireless work of Ukrainians serving to their fellow countrymen, whilst they endure the ravages of struggle.
He stated he believes that long run, the struggle will destroy the lives of Russians in addition to Ukrainians, due to punishing sanctions and worldwide isolation of Moscow. Still, he stated, the vast majority of the folks he is aware of again residence nonetheless assist President Vladimir Putin.
“It’s hard to speak with them. To many people in Russia, I am a traitor,” he stated, including that that may not cease him from doing all he can to assist Ukrainians in want. “It’s my duty as a human.”