Steamboat resident volunteers in Polish-Ukrainian border town

Donations from Routt residents help support efforts

Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach stops at a painted wall in downtown Warsaw, Poland, that shows support for peace in Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo

For Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach, his first two days helping with humanitarian efforts in a Polish village near the Ukraine border have been some of the “most impactful” of his life.

That news was shared through email messages from Kovach, a successful entrepreneur, U.S. Navy veteran and the 57-year-old married father of two teenagers.

Kovach is helping in the small town of Medyka in southeastern Poland. Its population is 2,800 and the town serves as one of the primary border crossings between Poland and Ukraine.

Kovach has been helping other volunteers distributing supplies, securing transportation for refugees and setting up sleeping quarters. He is contributing funding for these needs and more thanks to $29,000 in donated funds, half of which came from Routt County residents.

Kovach said his overall impression in Medyka is that many disjointed groups are providing food, clothing and supplies for medical, hygiene and comfort. He is observing “fragmented support” and “chaotic organization” with “no sense of a lead coordinator.”

“The firemen are in charge of refugee transportation. The police keep things in order. The army directs security,” Kovach wrote.

“Almost all refugees are women and kids. The border reception areas are focused on providing safe transportation to larger cities in Poland and Europe. There are transportation teams from various European countries,” he said.

Kovach flew out of Hayden on Sunday, March 20, to Denver, then Germany and Warsaw.

“I arrived safely in Poland, but none of my 1,000 pounds of luggage and supplies made it. So, I was stuck in Warsaw for two days until the airline recovered it,” he said of the duffel bag comfort kits, including snacks, small toys and notes of support from school children, that were packed in Steamboat Springs.

“I spent the next two days traveling (in a rental car) 300 miles along the Ukraine-Poland border,” he continued. “I started at the Belarus border and visited all border crossings until stopping at Medyka, where I have been for two days at the border crossing and at the Premyśyl Shelter and the Premyśyl train station. When there is an arriving group, I spend time handing out the children’s care packages. In between, I am working to support a number of refugee areas.”

Volunteering currently in southeastern Poland, Steamboat Springs resident Mark Kovach hands a comfort kit to a small child displaced from Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo

“When a bus or train load arrives, the objective is to move them swiftly and get them to the next safe spot. The scary thing is that they never know where that is going to be,” Kovach noted.

The Steamboat resident is providing donated funds as important needs arise in the small border crossing town.

“Rain is expected. I have committed funds for supplying 5,000 rain ponchos, emergency blankets and fruit-squeeze pouches,” Kovach said, noting the fruit-squeezes are a coveted food item in short supply.

He used some funds to contribute to purchase of a used military medical trailer for use by an established courier business in Poland delivering supplies into Ukraine.

Kovach said he is helping among hundreds of self-organized volunteers. If necessary, the various volunteers use Google translate to communicate. He believes more organized groups, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, are working on the Ukrainian side of the border.

“Individual effort and contribution are most common (here),” Kovach said. “Individual leaders and volunteers seem to be stringing the rest together.”

Mark Kovach took this photo of the largest sleeping room, one of eight rooms at a refugee shelter created at the Premyśyl Tresco, which is a supermarket warehouse, similar to Costco. The refugee shelter is in Poland, about 10 miles away from the border crossing into Ukraine.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo
Volunteers set up overflow sleeping areas for refugees in the Premyśyl train station.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo
A Costco-type store in the Polish town of Premyśyl, about 10 miles from the Ukrainian border, has been converted to a refugee shelter.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo
A flood of Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to adjacent nations, including at this border crossing in the small village of Medyka, Poland.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo
Nonprofit World Central Kitchen set up multiple locations to feed refugees at Warsaw Central Station.
Mark Kovach/Courtesy photo

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