Stories from Ukraine: Updates & What’s Next

The following is being shared by GoAbroad’s Founder, Troy Peden, as he volunteered in Poland and Ukraine to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. To read Troy’s statement about the conflict.

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April 25, 2022

The situation in Ukraine changes everyday. And everyday people on the ground speculate what Putin might do next. We think Lviv is free of attacks and then there is an air strike. Ukrainians return to Kyiv and Chernihiv to rebuild and then there are explosions. What we know is that help will be needed for years to come. If the conflict ended tomorrow, there is the returning of four million people, the returning of ten million internal refugees, the rebuilding of countless houses, schools and cities. There is the need for teachers and nurses and food distribution and road repairs. We recognize that long after refugees are lifted from Ukraine and settled outside of Ukraine there will be too much work to do.

My time in Ukraine has come to an end for a while at least. In order to avoid being the villain in my daughters’ future autobiographies I have returned home for a school play, two school graduations, and the moving of one college student home for the summer.

I want to share with you an epilogue of some human stories you have heard, where they are now, and also a future plan for the GoAbroad Foundation’s work in Ukraine.

The GoAbroad Foundation has partnered with our friend John Lawler and his Make A Difference (MAD) Foundation. John and his wife Kari Anderson have been working around the clock since they arrived. John has actually postponed a surgery twice in order to stay in Poland. A generous donor has gifted the MAD Foundation another van, the seller, named Derrick, further discounted the price by 50% knowing where it was going, we have named this van “Derrick”. The original van funded by you was named for its first driver “Diego”. Joining Diego and Derrick regularly are the vans of Paul Hodgson, who has put together a fleet of four vans. The MAD Foundation will add an SUV next month. Then you add the four vans of Igor and you have a sizable fleet ready to extract families from the most inhabitable places and get them to Poland and beyond.

The objective moving forward is to establish a permanent base in Lviv inside Ukraine. Then have a small fleet of vehicles in Poland. The border crossing on foot takes less than two hours. In a vehicle the same crossing can take up to seven hours. This return time means you can only make one crossing a day and still avoid curfew travel hours. The additional two fleets allow for a transfer of passengers on foot and means you can make multiple trips a day if needed. Additionally the establishment of a Ukrainian headquarters means that the GoAbroad Foundation and The MAD Foundation will be in a position to pivot their objective to rebuilding, returning and reconciliation when the time comes.

The next phase will include volunteers. My professional life has been dedicated to helping people volunteer at home and around the world, I am a believer in the value of service. Volunteers who go to Ukraine and Poland are not bringing disease cures or war remedies, they are bringing their time, goodwill and generosity. They benefit as much as the locals benefit from their efforts. The MAD Foundation will begin taking 1-2 week volunteers very soon. The volunteers will be required to fundraise at least 1,000 British Pounds to offset their in-country costs. There will be a waitlist (due to limited space and housing), so contact them if you are interested in showing your support to your fellow humans.

United Planet is also accepting short term volunteers for their base in Moldova. Learn more here.

Yana’s Family

You may remember Yana’s family from their multi-day experience waiting on a train platform in a tightly packed crowd to get on a more densely packed train. They were originally taken to Szczecin, Poland but after a couple weeks their one room living arrangement was packed with many people and they needed another solution. Rich Kurtzman and Kerry Kurtzman (Barcelona SAE) of Catalan messaged me offering their house for a family. We retrieved the family from Gdansk and brought them to Munich where they boarded a 13 hour bus to Barcelona. Today Anastasia is thriving, happy, she has friends and she looks like a whole new person. Young Misha said “Mom this is a different world.” Yana says, “We really like it here. I see happiness and peace in the eyes of my children.” The kids are connected to the Kurtzman kids and soon Yana will be eligible to work. The family is already accessing public health care and the education system in Catalan.

Masha’s Family

After an ill fated trip to Lithuania, this family decided on Ireland. They are so very happy. The country was welcoming at every level and stage. They went from one night in Dublin to a hotel in Cork. The country has taken over hotels to accommodate refugees until long term housing can be arranged. Ken Jones donated a laptop for Krystyna so that she would be able to do freelance design work. Maximo Nivel has given her, her first design job and Rosie Mansfield from Premier TEFL will deliver the computer along with other aid. “We are so happy. The sun is shining and we are breathing.” Lera has been connected to 14 year old girls around the world and is building a pen pal network of support. Sasha is still wild and loves the open space.


Cepren was the fighter who was going to Poland on Easter Day to see his wife and three sons before he returned to rebuild his city. He made it across the border and was welcomed back after spending the day with his kids.


Andrey was the legally blind young man who had been conscripted and received a medical exemption report from Poland which we delivered. He was ultimately exempted and is attending university in Germany.

Olga’s Family

Olga Gorodetskaya and Vanya, after several moves, including an outbreak of severe illness at Leipzig Refugee camp, have arrived to reside with a generous family in Munich. Sadly, Melog the Mouse did not make the last leg of the journey. Olga is happy to be living again free of bombings, free of sirens and free to walk outside. They attended the wedding of Verena and Heinrich today.


The bravest of the drivers has a young son with a spinal injury. The son was receiving treatment in Chernihiv Hospital but sadly the hospital is offering only limited service and Igor has requested permission to travel abroad with his son to get the treatment he needs. Igor is the archetype Ukrainian citizen soldier, he is heroic and moves with little caution to do what is needed. Even if Igor travels abroad his team is in place and will continue the work until he returns.

Paul the British Teacher

Paul Hodgson and his partner Nadia Ustenko continue to drive everyday, supply aid and have now moved farther east to Kyiv. Paul is an intellect and he is trying to develop a long term strategy to help Ukrainians rebuild when the fight has ended.

There are so many more stories, some happy and some still struggling, but all of these stories were influenced by your generosity in spirit and contribution. During my last ride out of Ukraine a woman asked me on my translator app if the world knows what is happening there. I said, “The world knows and admires the bravery of Ukraine, the world is connected to Ukraine and the whole world knows where Ukraine is. The world is wearing blue and yellow.” She cried and the whole van applauded and began singing a Ukrainian folk song.

I want to thank Nadja Pisula-Litoff , Katie Mayer Christensen, Tonya Truelove, Janet Dorwat, Todd Peden, Garrett Christian, Bruce Jones, Shey O’Brien Bauer, Christine Listello, Caroline Journeycake , Scott Dillingham, Shelley Burback Smith, Stu Jacover, Brian Saul, and over 100 other generous donors. And thank you to Ray Boswell for starting this wave of generosity and love.

Please give if you can. Thank you!

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