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Millerton’s André Wlodar travels to help Ukrainian orphans

MILLERTON— The exuberance in André Wlodar’s voice could be heard clearly through his cellphone as he spoke on Wednesday, Aug. 10, about his recent journey to his native land of Poland. From there, Wlodar, who now splits his time between Millerton and Manhattan, brought both funds and essential supplies to help deliver to the war-torn country of Ukraine. (For details, go to www.tricornernews.com.)

Wlodar said on Wednesday Aug. 31, he’s now planning a return trip to Poland and Ukraine in September, during which he will bring essential first-aid supplies to those fighting on the front lines.

Dedicated to the cause

An executive with the Swedish company, Cellmark, Inc., which specializes in pulp paper, recycled fibers and chemicals, Wlodar immediately jumped into action after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ever since, he’s been busy organizing fundraisers and garnering as much local support for those affected by the war as is humanly possible.

During his initial fundraiser in March, Wlodar, aided by his wife, Kim Schmidt-Wlodar, held a highly successful art auction that drew talent from around the Tri-state region. It raised $85,000 in total art sales, with an estimated $400,000 raised since Feb. 27 from the community.

Garage Galleri

Millerton businessman Svend Lindbaek, owner of Garage Galleri at 2 Main St., has offered his space as temporary headquarters for the Wlodars’ United for Ukraine campaign charity.

There, items in support of Ukraine are sold to help raise additional funds: lawn signs, T-shirts, stickers, pins and tote bags — all bedecked with Ukrainian designs and its national colors of blue and yellow.

Countless local residents and business owners, vendors and artists, plus community groups and nonprofit organizations have all contributed to United for Ukraine.

In fact, Cellmark funded Wlodar’s most recent excursion to Eastern Europe, so all of the money raised will go directly toward helping with safe houses, schools, kindergartens and  psychologists for Ukrainian refugees — many of them orphans.

Going overseas

Wlodar was excited to talk about that recent trip abroad; he left for Poland and Western Ukraine on July 20, and returned to The States Aug. 4.

As his father, Julian, was just turning 89, Wlodar said he was “able to do three things together… I was there for his 88th birthday, and I hope to be there for his 90th.”

Along with close friends both in Poland and Ukraine, Wlodar is doing “tons of things mainly with the Wayair Foundation, a nonprofit.”

Helping orphans

The Wayair Foundation helps Ukrainian orphans and other refugees safely relocate to Poland. Wlodar has helped with relocating hundreds, as well as donating funds and supplies. Wayair is helping many refugee children find homes in schools, so they may continue their education.

Specialists help orphans

In April, Wlodar spoke about work he and the Wayair Foundation began, to hire psycho-trauma specialists in Poland to help orphans and displaced children. Many suffer from PTSD, as they have been separated from their parents due to the war.

Wlodar explained the specialists are key to helping children deal with trauma, so it doesn’t evolve into aggression or depression.

“Children are all asking ‘Where’s my daddy?’ It’s complicated,” he said. “Teachers don’t know what to do, they’ve never been trained. We’ve never seen this in Europe since the Second World War. It’s unheard of.”

First-hand account

At one particular school in Jastarnia, Poland, the principal said she had 140 children including orphans from Ukraine and 300 children from Poland. The Wayair Foundation hired two specialists for the school; one is Polish and one is Ukrainian. Both specialists speak both languages so they can communicate with everyone.

“The principal said, ‘We have no experience with how to deal with trauma,’” said Wlodar, who noted there are more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland at the moment. “If it’s not treated within two to three months it becomes PTSD for life… the young ones can’t process what’s been happening.”

Generosity abounds

Cellmark not only paid for Wlodar’s trip abroad, it just donated $25,000 (in addition to $100,000 it donated in March) while United for Ukraine and the Wayair Foundation gave another $50,000, said Wlodar.

The funds are paying for the psychologists. Workshops are now available “for teachers, caregivers, mothers, adults, on how to spot the first signs of trauma and what can be done about it,” he said.

Everyday needs

Wlodar visited another pre-school in Lviv, Ukraine in desperate need of laundry machines. With 500 students attending there, only two working machines worked.

“They do a lot of laundry for the kids,” said Wlodar, who hopes to buy two commercial machines for the school. “It would help improve lives.”

Fundraising updates

United for Ukraine continues to fundraise under the direction of the Wlodars. It is no longer working with the nonprofit Sunflower of Peace, as Wlodar simply said he had a conflict with its organizational approach.

Now (UFU) is working strictly with the Wayair Foundation and with Razom, another nonprofit. The Ukrainian-American human rights organization is based in New York and also helps relocate Ukrainian orphans in Poland.

Future fundraisers

Another fundraiser with an art auction is being planned for September. Wlodar noted he’s “concentrating more on smaller fundraisers that are more selective, with 12 to 16 pre-selected people.” The events will include a catered dinner and possibly music featuring the bandura, a Ukrainian plucked-string folk instrument.

Money raised would help another cause close to Wlodar’s heart: supporting a Polish music school in dire need of assistance. With 300 students, Wlodar described it as “Our Music Mountain.”

“The more word we spread, the better chances we have of getting some help,” he said, adding people can send fiscal donations or instruments to help the music school, attended by Ukrainian and Polish children.

Call 786-282-2495 for details. Send checks made to United for Ukraine, P.O. Box 537, Millerton, NY 12546 to donate. To purchase UFU merchandise, call 917-292-7750.

A *spotfund page has also been established to send tourniquets to Ukrainians on the front line. For details on how to help, go to www.spotfund.com and search for UnitedUkraineCATTourniquets.

This week’s article on Millerton resident André Wlodar and his campaign to assist Ukrainian orphans in Poland included the following mistakes: Wlodar’s father’s name is Julian, not Kalush. Also, there are 3 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland, rather than 3 million Ukrainian orphans. We regret the errors.

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