SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Matthew Adams has spent the past several months in Poland assisting refugees pouring across the border from Ukraine.
“These people are leaving their country with nothing, absolutely nothing,” he said.
Adams is a Middle Eastern history professor who knows a lot about Ukraine, and some of that is probably because his wife and in-laws are Ukrainian.
In March, Adams flew to Poland to assist his mother- and father-in-law — who had made it to Poland from their home in Eastern Ukraine — in making the final step in the journey to their daughter’s home in Savannah.
But Adams says after helping his in-laws, he decided he should stay in Poland.
“I decided I was going to stay over there because I had other friends I wanted to get out,” he told us.
Adams told us about two friends, one of whom had a terminally ill mother. The friend was able to leave but Adams says only after his urging and her parents.
“I said to her that she couldn’t just die there or be raped,” said Adams. “The Russians are raping so many women and it is disgusting. We’re helping rape victims in Poland and there are so many you have no idea.”
Adams said she died in Ukraine just one day before he and his friends could find an ambulance to try and rescue the sick woman.
He also told WSAV that in recent days, his organization rescued several sick children with cancer. In addition to vans, Adams said the group needs a “bulletproof” ambulance to help all those who need transport.
Another friend indicated she had had 12 people she knew killed by the Russians. “All civilians, it’s horrible,” said Adams.
Other friends told Adams that family homes, schools and neighborhoods in Ukraine had been leveled.
Adams said with help from yet another friend in Poland, he created a nonprofit where donations can be made to help refugees — especially children.
He said after trying to assist friends in Ukraine, he and others turned to try to help the daily onslaught of refugees arriving in Poland.
“There were a lot of people, a lot of women and children, and we were going to the train station and buying food and helping those we could find a place to stay.
Then Adams heard about children in dire need at a makeshift orphanage near the Ukraine border with Romania.
“And we’ve made it our mission to help these 41 orphans and we’ve sent them medical supplies, we’ve sent them food. Today I sent them $1,000 worth of food,” he said. “But then at the same time, we’re going to help rebuild that orphanage, and that’s why we created this festival.”
On May 5, the Tybee Island Art Festival for Ukrainian Children will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. at North Beach Bar and Grill. The festival will feature local artists, music, dance performances, Ukrainian-inspired food, drinks and a silent auction.
The proceeds of the event, including 25% of all sales at the restaurant on May 5, will go to Adams’ nonprofit, Polish American Children’s Relief Fund for Ukraine.
Adams, who is also an artist, said he will donate up to a dozen paintings.
“Every last piece of art that I own will be for sale, and every last dime that I get for it I will donate,” he said, adding that he’s trying to do whatever he can to help save children in Ukraine because they are the future.
Adams showed us a book he had written about American relief efforts in Poland after World War I. Now, he is not only following the written map he wrote but living the reality of war.
“War is hell,” he said. “It would be hard to imagine that most Americans could understand the loss of what is happening to these refugees unless they could see it for themselves.”