2. Traveling to Ukraine, a Land Where Spring Has Yet to Arrive
It’s a snowy Saturday in March.
The sudden snow reminds us of Russia’s sudden invasion of Ukraine and saddens us.
Today, we tell the story of our second visit to Ukraine and our process of urgently delivering tourniquets to Ukraine.
The sixth day of our visit to the border of Ukraine was March 15, 2022. Our team explored Beregsurany and Tiszabecs in Hungary and then headed to Romania. We saw many teenagers in the refugee camp, which was located 2km from the border of Hungary. We heard that there were only teenagers on the bus from Ukraine this morning. This refugee camp was better organized compared to other camps. We did not see any refugees at the camp in Tiszabecs. Volunteers were prepared to welcome refugees.
The seventh day of our visit to Ukraine was on March 16, 2022. We traveled to Halmeu, Romania, and visited the refugee camp in Uzhgorod, Ukraine. There were three booths at the camp on the border in Halmeu, Romania. It was very quiet there. We heard that there is an organization that takes care of refugees in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, and we headed there.
It was relatively easy to travel to Ukraine from Halmeu. The area was 112 km from the border, and the road was bumpy. The hotel that we visited was upscale, smelled like coffee, and played soft music. We saw some people eating breakfast. There was no indication that there was a war in that area.
After a bumpy ride due to big potholes in the road, it was difficult to find a refugee camp in Uzhgorod. The camp that we managed to find was a two-story building, and had four rooms, temporary beds, and a small kitchen. Forty refugees stayed there. The building was well-managed, but there was no food storage because there was no refrigerator. They had to deliver food from distant places. JTS shopped at an electronics store to buy a refrigerator.
Products on the shelves were sparse. We saw a refrigerator produced by Korea’s “L” company. It was a bit expensive, but we bought it anyway because of the quality and our wish for them to remember Korea. Volunteers at the camp stated their appreciation again and again and said that they can cook now as they can store ingredients.
The scenery of the sunset and fields that we saw on the way back from the store was beautiful. But we realized there was a war in that area by seeing cars lined-up at a dark gas station. When we told a volunteer at the camp that we donated a refrigerator after we crossed the border, the volunteer was very happy.
Our next story is about the urgently delivered tourniquets that were requested by the refugee camp at Mukachevo, Ukraine on March 14.
On March 15, tourniquets were running out in Hungary where the team was staying. There was a notice to all JTS activists in Europe: “Find tourniquets.”
All were worried as there were no tourniquets; and they knew that tourniquets were in need all around Europe.
On March 15 at 6am, JTS America received a request for tourniquets. We found that there were tourniquets available around $7-$12 ea. at Amazon and Walmart. We agreed to purchase at Walmart since we could pick them up at the store without the need to wait until they are delivered. We contacted the supplier directly, and the supplier suggested $4.50 ea. if we made a large purchase. But the supplier was located in New York. If they were delivered to Washington D.C., where the headquarters of JTS is located, it would be too slow. Thus, we decided to expedite the delivery by receiving them in New York.
We had to find a volunteer who would pick up the items in New York and ship them out. We contacted Myungsuk Lee, a longtime volunteer of JTS who lives in New York. The pickup location was a 1.5 hour drive from her place, but she was willing to do it. We purchased 300 tourniquets, paid online, contacted her to pick them up, and ship them to Hungary right away through expedited mail.
We decided to purchase an additional 3000 tourniquets after discussing it with the team in Hungary. Since most volunteers have to work during the day, we needed to find a retiree to help. As we have 15 boxes, and each weighs 15kg, we asked for help from volunteers in the Jungto Society in New York.
JTS America purchased all items through the internet and phone calls, Jungto Society in New York picked up the tourniquets, packed them, and shipped them to Hungary before the post office closed.
All volunteers were located in different areas, but they were happy to work fast and communicated very closely through phone calls and the internet.
The tourniquets that were sent to Hungary will be delivered to our team at the border , and will be eventually sent to Ukraine. Can these be delivered to Ukraine safely under war conditions?