Força Ukraine Update: August 1, 2023

Dear Friends – 

A more appropriate subject line would be Forca Poland update.  It has been a sad 24 hours for the team, as we first said goodbye to Dr. Steve on the train platform in Kyiv yesterday morning.  As many of you know, Dr. Steve left his job as an Emergency Medicine doc and professor to move to Ukraine this past spring.  He has been working with a different organization, but we were so fortunate to have him join us for our month in country.  He lives in Dnipro now, so he took a regional train to travel home.  Our interpreter Viktoriia left later in the day for a well-earned few days off at a local resort.  Vik lives in Kyiv, so her trip home was not quite so long.  Last night, Bohdan, Emily, and I got on the train for Poland by way of Lviv.  Stan waved us off at the train station, as he also lives outside of Kyiv.  Bohdan got off in Lviv, and Emily and I crossed back into Poland at about 0500 local time this morning.  After changing trains, we arrived in Krakow mid-morning.  We will be here tonight before flying to Germany tomorrow and then home the day after, where hopefully we will see Finch back in Colorado in the not too distant future.  

While yesterday was incredibly sad, this team – your team – has so much to be proud of.  I will be compiling the metrics in the coming weeks, but as a rough readout, in four weeks we were able to train approximately 750 individuals in a full range of medical skills from community first aid all the way to advanced life saving interventions.  We were able to teach medics highly sought after skills like surgical cric, needle decompression, and field whole blood transfusion.  We donated 250 tourniquets that were all purchased locally in Dnipro, ensuring that we upheld our Foundation’s promise to support the local economy, ensure your dollars go as far as possible, and provide locally replicable equipment.  We also donated 100 pairs of shears, 150 occlusive dressings, 250 Israeli bandages, 150 AC wraps, three field litters. wound packing trainers, 300 IV catheters, and additional assorted medical equipment.  Most importantly, we utilized an interactive, hands-on training approach that ensured that the providers not only were taught the information, but were able to do actual practice, something that is not often provided.  We heard a great deal of positive feedback about our approach and the benefit of having skill repetition.  

We also learned a great deal – in going as far East as we did, we were able to hear and witness the sounds of the war.  The constant barrage of artillery and small arms pulverizing civilian areas is not something any of us will ever forget.  We got to talk directly to medics who operate in that environment, doing long-distance evacuations where maybe the closest stabilization point is several miles away and they are under fire the entire time.  We saw the trenches where other medics work with limited supplies to save those who are injured.  We saw first aid kits that were woefully understocked – some empty, some men coming up to us with plastic bags since they didn’t have an actual first aid bag to stock.  Thanks to your generosity, we were able to provide equipment, transfer knowledge, look these men and women in the eye and provide some modicum of hope that someone, somewhere cares.  For that, we cannot thank you enough.  We know that we were the lucky ones to be on the ground – to have the experiences that we did.  We were welcomed into people’s lives, ate next to the men and women we were training, shared stories, and grew together.  

While this Forca mission to Ukraine is done, we are already planning for a return, hopefully either in the fall or winter when the weather will add compounding misery to the on-going situation.  The next mission will likely be medical evacuations for those unable to leave their homes in the contested areas as the lines shift.  All too often, the old and infirm are unwilling or unable to leave – a situation compounded by the dangers of mined roads and artillery.  There is also continued need for training – the mission will continue.  

We are so incredibly grateful and indebted to you.  Your donation, your message of support, your interest in us allowed this team to make a difference.  Please keep our Ukrainian teammates in your thoughts and the situation in Ukraine in your conversations.  The war is very real, and the threats continue.  Ukraine needs us now more than ever, and the world needs a free and independent Ukraine. 

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