By Lauren Pullen
As the war in Ukraine continues to rage on, the United Nations estimates more that 3.5 million people have already fled the country with more still trying to get out. A contingent of Canadians working with Samaritan’s Purse is helping with on-the-ground aid to try and get as many Ukrainians to safety as possible.
The calls came pouring in the moment the conflict started.
For former Calgarian John Troke, there was no questioning it. He packed his bags and headed to Ukraine mere days after Russian forces invaded.
He is one of a contingent of Canadians with Samaritan’s Purse helping with on-the-ground aid in Ukraine.
Immersed in the war-torn nation for the past three weeks, there are already so many names, faces and stories he will never forget.
“It hits home when you see somebody walking, holding their child and realizing they may not have a home to go back to… and really they’re not safe yet.”
One of his first stops was the train station in Lviv, packed with thousands of people.
The overwhelming scene is something that has stuck with him in the days and weeks since.
“Walking through there with the mass of people coming through, and the dazed faces: mothers having trouble taking care of their children because they’re still in shock,” Troke recounted. “So we decided to put up a medical clinic there.”
Troke said the clinic at the trains station alone sees about 50 patients a day.
Samaritan’s Purse also set up a second medical clinic in the city of Chernivtsi along with a field hospital with an intensive care unit, emergency room and two operating rooms in Lviv — with the capacity to perform 30 surgeries every day.
The aid efforts also span to Poland, Romania and Moldova.
“Really we’re seeing a lot of desperate people that have had to flee conflict – families that have been torn apart,” Troke said.
Samaritans Purse says its helped more than 24,000 Ukranians so far.
Along with critical medical care, it has offered food, water and other support services for Ukrainians forced to flee their homes.
Planes packed with supplies are continuing to be flown in and Troke is continuing to investigate new locations in Ukraine where Samaritan’s Purse can be of service.
“I think we’ll be here as long as we need to be here,” said Troke.
“We have country offices in over 20 countries and a lot of those country offices started with disaster response. Some of these institutions we’re building, like medical clinics — if we find this is still needed it could become more permanent and we could stick around.”
He, too, expects to be in Ukraine indefinitely, but he wants Canadians back home to know “its more than what you see on TV.
“It’s a person’s life, it’s an individual’s life, it’s the life of a family.”
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