TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — Since the war in Ukraine started more than two months ago, the United Nations estimates more than 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes.
An organization led by Savannahians is trying to help children who have become orphans during the course of the war.
Matthew Adams is the director of American operations for Polafund, also called the Polish American Children’s Relief Fund for Ukraine. Adams’ wife’s family is from Ukraine. He went there just weeks after the war started to help evacuate his in-laws, which inspired him to start the organization.
“We realized there’s a lot of need for not only for children, but for all kinds of refugees,” Adams said. “And Krakow, where my base is, there are about 100,000 refugees coming into the train station a day.”
On Thursday, the community came together for the Tybee Island Arts Festival, with profits supporting Polafund’s work to rebuild and restore an orphanage in Ukraine.
“It’s a terrible situation,” said organizer Michael Matthews. “There’s people in terrible strains and we just wanted to do whatever we could to try to help.”
Fifteen vendors and multiple non-profits took part in the festival. Adams and Matthews also tapped North Beach Bar & Grill to join the cause, which donated 25% of its profits Thursday.
“We’ve all been watching with horror at what’s going on in Ukraine,” co-owner Kathryn Williams said. “I was feeling pretty helpless like ‘what can I do?’ We’re just trying to raise as much money as possible for the orphanage in Ukraine.”
With Thursday’s crowd at the restaurant, Williams estimated up to $4,000 went to the organization.
On Monday, Adams will go travel to Poland with the money raised from the festival and begin efforts to rebuild the orphanage in Izmail, Ukraine — which Adams said is in one of the poorest parts of the country.
Adams said it’s all about rebuilding the place his family and children call home.
“For me, to be able to help keep that country alive and keep it free for when they get old enough to go back — because they will — it means the world to me and to them,” he said.