Medford Sunrise Rotary Club – Ukraine ambulance delivery report
On Thursday, August 25th, club President Tom Monaghan and Past District Governor David Forward flew from Newark Airport to Frankfurt with a large quantity of donated medical supplies.
We arrived in Frankfurt on Friday, August 26th and were met by Volker Hoffman, President of the Rotary Club of Obernburg, a small town about an hour south of Frankfurt. The Oldenburg Rotary Club was a wonderful partner in the project; they paid for and filled the ambulance with thousands of dollars of medical supplies identified by Ukrainian hospitals as being urgently needed; they had the ambulance checked out mechanically, and they even had a packed lunch for our long road trip!
 
We set off on a very tedious 7-hour drive across Germany, made more-so by continuous highway construction, and we arrived in Dresden after 6pm where we spent the night.
On Saturday, August 27th, we wanted an early start for then700 kilometer drive all the way to Rzeszow in southern Poland.
It was not to be a fun day!
First, we had barely hit the road when we realized we had a problem with the brakes. By God’s grace, even though it was a Saturday, we found a full-service auto repair facility only one kilometer away and even with no appointment, they drained the brake fluid and recharged the system for us while we drank LOTS of coffee and waited. Three hours later, we were back on the road, this time in filthy weather, driving through heavy rain and thunderstorms and almost continuous road construction for the entire trip.
We crossed into Poland and refilled the vehicle. As we tried to pull out onto the highway, the vehicle kept stalling. Every single time it would go maybe a foot and then stall out. We were still in the merge lane and realized that this would be incredibly dangerous if we ever got into the actual motorway lane and THEN stalled again with huge trucks barreling down on us unable to stop. After perhaps 20 attempts and as many stalls, we theorized there must be fuel contamination. Our only solution was to back up—for some reason, it didn’t stall in reverse—all the way back down the merge lane and around the corner---DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!—into a restaurant parking lot. We had no idea where we were or whom to call. We walked back to the fuel station. I will admit, I was praying the entire time! We threw ourselves on the mercy of the gas station manager using her limited English and my Google Translate app. Bear in mind this is now 4:20pm on a Saturday in rural Poland where NOTHING like repair shops open on Sunday. She called multiple mechanics, but most of them were not interested. Then a wonderful young mechanic called Michael said he’d be there in 30 minutes. While we drank yet more coffee, he spent the next 90 minutes draining the entire fuel tank, flushing it out, and then we refilled it—and it ran like a champ!
We didn’t pull into Rzeszow, Poland until midnight, but once again, God had answered our prayers with a miraculous save.
Sunday, August 28th. We drove down to the Polish-Ukrainian border town of Przemysl. Borys Bodnar of the Lviv Unity Rotary Club and Ihor Savchykevych of the Lviv Rotary Club met us. It was moving to the extreme to hear them say how much ambulances are needed. This one will be delivered within a few days to Kharkiv—one of the most devasted cities in Ukraine, where Russians have made multiple rocket and missile attacks on hospitals, schools and apartment buildings. On a single day recently—June 13th—Amnesty International’s website headline was “Hundreds killed in relentless Russian shelling in Kharkiv.”
After delivering the ambulance more than 1,000 miles, we took the train to Krakow, Poland.
 
Monday, August 29th was our “safety day” in case something went wrong during the trip.
Tuesday, August 30th, after a 3:30AM departure, we will fly from Krakow through Frankfurt back to Philadelphia
Knowing how “our” ambulance now can potentially save dozens of innocent lives by getting injured civilians to the hospital even before we get back to New Jersey gives us such motivation to do this with a second and maybe even a third ambulance in the next couple of months. We are already within $5,000 of being able to buy the second vehicle! We hope every donor to this great grass-roots campaign feels justifiable pride in making the dream come alive.
An anonymous donor in Medford Sunrise Rotary contributed $1,000 to the Peace Centers program of the Rotary Foundation and in doing so, make Ukrainian President Volodimyr Zelensky a Paul Harris Fellow.  Incredibly, nobody had done that previously. Our Rotary friends have contacts in the office of the president and will present the certificate to him.
Thank you, on behalf of the volunteers in Rotary in three countries and four districts for your support.
Tom and David