When Russia attacked Ukraine, “experts” said the country would fall within days.
This is not the case.
One of the reasons is that the Russian army was not as effective as people thought.
Another is that Ukrainians surprised the world by bravely defending their country.
A third reason is that volunteers from all over stepped in to help.
Volunteers helping Ukraine include those offering medical experience
People with combat experience joined the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. Doctors, nurses and others with medical experience keep the country’s healthcare system running. Several thousand more are doing humanitarian work, such as distributing food and medicine.
For my video this week, Stossel TV executive producer Maxim Lott traveled to Ukraine to record them at work.
He was accompanying ambulance driver Didrik Gunnestad, a 27-year-old Norwegian volunteer. Gunnestad delivered supplies and then chased the sick from the dangerous areas.
“It was learning by doing,” he says. Ambulances were desperately needed. “Most of the things that happen here are done by volunteers, not government officials.”
Tom Palmer, an American from the Atlas Network think tank, has raised over $1 million in aid for Ukraine. He flew it to Poland and then drove part of it himself to Ukraine. He worked with Ukrainian volunteers to find out where help was most needed.
“It was just amazing to see this network emerge,” says Palmer. “It wasn’t centrally driven… (Volunteers) solved a lot of the micro issues that the big hierarchies can’t see.”
Volunteers also reduce waste.
“There are a lot of losses (in big charities like the Red Cross),” says Gunnestad. “It’s not that anyone flies over the top; it’s just the cost of being a big organization.”
Governments are even more bureaucratic.
The Polish government wants to help Ukraine, but its bureaucracy often complicates things. When Gunnestad and Lott went to a depot where Gunnestad had previously picked up donated goods, they found bureaucracy had changed the rules. Now Gunnestad was supposed to write a letter to the Polish government for supplies. As they didn’t have time to wait, they left empty-handed.
Even the Ukrainian government is making it unnecessarily difficult for volunteers to deliver goods. They force almost everyone to wait in long lines at borders. When Lott and Gunnestad crossed paths this summer, there were still one-mile queues. Ambulances, at least, are generally allowed to skip the line.
Governments and other bureaucracies slow down aid to Ukrainians
“But sometimes there’s a guard who doesn’t like it,” Gunnestad says. “We’ve had patients who almost died from guards like that.”
As he passed the long line of trucks, he sighed and said, “I’m so sorry for the truck drivers. Some could wait in line for days or even a week!
Many of these truckers try to bring in needed supplies, but “they were only allowing 400 Ukrainian trucks a day,” Palmer says. “It’s nothing. Why couldn’t they bring more? If you need to inspect them, call in more inspectors!”
The bureaucracy did not.
“You may have seven checkpoints, but only two are open,” Gunnestad complains. “They could at least open all seven.”
Lott notes, “Volunteers can’t do everything. They do not supply the army or provide fuel. But they save lives. delivering supplies to neglected Ukrainian hospitals. Gunnestad says small hospitals often get nothing from the government or the Red Cross. “We have a chance to help places that are forgotten,” he says.
You can help Gunnestad do this work by donating on its GoFundMe page. It’s a way to help the Ukrainians without taking the risks of Gunnestad.
His ambulance was hit by bullets. Fortunately, no volunteers were hit.
“I’ve always been the one who gets into dangerous situations,” he says. “I think this work is so meaningful that I’m willing to die for it.”
John Stossel is the creator of Stossel TV and the author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media”.