by Shannon Donnelly, Palm Beach Daily News
Palm Beach resident Earle Mack has seen a lot in his years.
But what he saw last week at a center for Ukrainian refugees was gut-wrenching.
Mack, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland, is trustee of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith coalition of business, religious and foreign policy leaders dedicated to promoting understanding, peace and cooperation, and providing a voice of conscience to protect minorities.
On March 10, he led a delegation — which included former New York governor and fellow trustee George Pataki, and philanthropist Peter M. Brant, a member of the foundation’s advisory council — on a foundation-sponsored humanitarian mission to deliver medical supplies, food, clothing, and other essentials to the Ukrainian refugees arriving in Hungary.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and of Wednesday, more than 3 million people have fled and crossed into neighboring countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Mack and Brant, also a Palm Beach resident, departed Florida with a planeload of supplies.
“I have deep family ties to the Ukraine through my great-great grandparents, who managed to come to America in the early 20th century,” Mack said. “I have been a first responder in other disaster areas and I intended to be a first responder again to bring aid to the the Ukraine’s innocent victims in their time of need.”
Pataki, along with members of his Pataki Leadership Center, awaited them.
After off-loading, Mack and team crossed the border into Ukraine, and headed to the Mukachevo Refugee Center, a former school dormitory, where they distributed supplies and played games with the kids.
The director told the visitors that because of the chocolate bars and the games, it was the first time he saw the children laugh in a week.
The stories were painful to hear, Mack said.
“I heard horrific reports about the indiscriminate shooting of women and children that brought me to
tears. People who lived there all their lives had to leave their homes in order to save their lives. Wives
and mothers left their husbands and sons behind to fight.”
Back in Hungary, the delegation met with workers from Jewish relief agencies that have boots on the
ground, and with leading members of the Hungarian Jewish community.
At a refugee center in Budapest run by Hungarian Baptist Aid, there were more painful stories.
“Some of the women and children I visited at the Budapest church refugee center had to walk in the
freezing cold to the western borders, fearing being bombed along the way,” Mack said.
“It reminded me of how many of my ancestors came here more than a century ago in steerage after the
same kind of persecution in the Ukraine and Poland between 1894 and 1900.
“I told the children at the sanctuary, ‘Your parents are heroes. You are heroes. The whole world is on
your side. You will remember this and teach your children about what is happening now. Be strong, be
strong, the world is supporting you!’”
The delegation returned on Sunday, leaving behind a team of professionals who will remain at the
Hungarian-Ukrainian border to assist in aiding the refugees.
Safely at home, Mack said “Terrible is too nice a word for this catastrophe. Emotionally, it was a very
difficult experience, but I’m happy we went.”
Brant urged Americans to step up.
“The Ukrainian people really need our help. Whatever we can do big or small we need to do for them
now,” he said.
You can also read the full article on the Palm Beach Daily News: https://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/story/news/nation-world/2022/03/17/palm-beach-residents-take-supplies-ukrainian-refugees-hungary/7036434001/