Elaine Bermitz caught up with Harrison Kauffman, freshly returned from a relief trip to aid Ukrainian refugees, to discuss his experience.
So many people have opened their hearts to the communities suffering in Ukraine since the world woke up to Russia’s threat to their very existence, that it has seemed as though there was nothing else going on in the world. In truth, for most Europeans this is the closest we been to a major war for nearly 80 years. Not surprising that every charity and every individual wants to contribute towards alleviating Ukraine’s suffering. Many of us have given money, many would like to do more. One Mancunian has done just that.
“There were many who contributed to this mission,” said Harrison Kauffman. “I am not Bob Geldof, but I was already going to Hungary when the idea came to me that I could combine a short break with a mercy dash and take out some of the most urgent supplies with me.”
“Two friends came with me. I contacted Rebbe Yossel Friedlander, who runs a kosher guest house and is supplying food to the refugees, to ask exactly what they needed: ‘Yogurts, packaged meats, cheeses, gefilte fish, as much as you can bring’ came the rather surprising reply. With only a day to get the supplies, I asked Osher Gross of Kosher Savers and he supplied as much as we thought we could carry, while Sophie Wolfstein, who runs GIFT, helped with extra suitcases. Michael Issler kindly stored whatever we had collected in JS’s freezers overnight and the next day we arrived at the check-in mightily over the luggage allowance. However, when Jet2 found out why we were carrying these enormous quantities, the company simply waived the charges and stored everything in the hold. Collected at Budapest Airport, fed and provided with a car in the Jewish Quarter, we drove to Kerestir, not far from Budapest, where we arrived at the guest house.
“Here I have to say I was amazed at the sight of 500 chickens being prepared, along with 500 loaves of bread, all to be taken with Manchester’s food, by lorry and coach to holding centres in Warsaw, Moldova, Romania, and over the border into Ukraine, where refugees – all women and children –were being sheltered by aid workers.”
The next morning, the food had been delivered to all the centres and so some of the thousands of refugees were fed and shown hospitality and respect as they rested after fleeing from homes blown apart by an invasion they couldn’t have predicted or opposed. Left only with whatever they could take with them, leaving husbands and fathers behind, unsure of where they were going, at least they were helped by the amazing volunteers coming from all over the world.
Harrison’s mission is one of many showing the best side of humanity to people who have already seen its worst.
To donate, visit Charidy.com/rsgh