George Fox, in the orange vest, prepares to help Ukrainian refugees who are trying to flee to safety. Submitted photo

It all started with “a little bit of a crack” in his back during a spill on the slopes at Sunday River that put an early end to Bethel resident George Fox’s ski season.

With skiing no longer an option, the 65-year-old decided to accept an invitation from a friend in Poland to come visit her in Warsaw.

What he thought would be a nice vacation turned into something quite unexpected after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war against Ukraine in February, creating devastation in many cities and a flow of refugees anxious to escape to safer lands.

Instead of enjoying a pleasant vacation, as he’d planned, Fox wound up among the tens of thousands of volunteers helping to deliver much-needed supplies to Ukraine and offer a range of humanitarian assistance.

“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Fox said during a late-night telephone interview from the eighth-floor condominium where he’s staying in Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine, which has become a hub for tons of material pouring into the country from international supporters.

Until he headed overseas, he said, he’d been living in “utter isolation” since the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago. He said he’d been feeling “stir crazy” for a long while.


Now, Fox said, he’s surrounded with people, a “whole band of brothers and sisters” pouring heart and soul into doing what they can for Ukraine.

“It’s just been wild,” Fox said. “I’ve made so many friends here, all these new friends for life.”

Where he lives now, phones chirp with air raid alerts daily and the city “gets bombed every now and then,” Fox said, “and everybody pauses and then life goes back to normal.”

“They’re taking some hits,” Fox said, but the Ukrainians he’s met are determined to soldier on.

“This is just history in the making,” he said, “and I kind of found myself in the middle of it.”

George Fox, right, helps a group of Ukrainians trying to escape their war-torn land in the wake of Russia’s invasion two months ago. Submitted photo



Fox said he’d only been in Poland a little while when he got the notion that he ought to go the border and see if he could help anybody.

Fox said he “wanted to jump right in” to assist the vast crowds of mostly women and children who were gathering as the international community geared up to assist millions fleeing the fighting.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said, but decided to “make a beeline” for the closest border town, due east of Warsaw.

He got in his rental car, he said, and drove east to the Ukrainian border. But nothing much was happening there so he meandered through the pretty Polish countryside until he reached Hrebenne, a village on the road between Lviv, Ukraine and Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

It was, he said, “a complete cold call.”

Smoke rises from an explosion in Lviv, Ukraine Submitted photo

He parked his rental car and walked into a busy hub of tents and people, where huge piles of supplies were pouring in from across Europe and Ukrainian refugees were gathering as a first step to finding a temporary home far from the Russian attackers.


When he heard a couple speaking English, Fox stopped and asked them how he could help. He told them he had a car and would do anything.

Within 15 minutes, he’d checked in with the police and loaded a family into the vehicle to take them to Warsaw.

Fox came back the next day.

He said he eventually made six trips hauling refugees to Warsaw, often relying on a translation app on the phone to communicate with the Ukrainians piled in alongside him.

The experience got him hooked.



In Hrebenne, Fox said he found “a great community of international people.”

“There are people from all over the world who have come here,” Fox said, including many Americans. The most valuable ones, he said, are folks who can speak Russian because their language skills “are very handy.”

Some of the supplies donated to help Ukraine that have been sorted near its border with Poland. Submitted photo

They came together there with two missions: to help refugees get out and to move food, medical supplies and “this whole array of stuff” into Ukraine from the vans, trailers and trucks that arrived in a steady stream from all over Europe, Fox said.

From diapers to dog food, Fox said, “It’s just absolutely piled high.”

Fox said people at the border, some volunteers and some working for aid agencies, are constantly sorting material and packaging it up to send into Ukraine.

Fox, who moved recently to Lviv to keep doing the same type of work, said he basically is told where to pick up supplies in a van and then where to take them.


He said they try to fill the empty vans for the return trip with anybody looking to get out.

“We load up with stuff and come back with people,” Fox said.

So far, he hasn’t seen much of the war itself.

On his first day in Lviv, he said, he was driving across the cobblestones near the train station so he didn’t even hear a bomb exploding not too far away. When he stopped, somebody pointed to the black smoke rising from the explosion nearby.

“I said to myself ‘welcome to Ukraine,’” Fox said.

Most of the missiles and bombs that have targeted Lviv have been out in the industrial area, he said, not close to most of the people. In general, too, the Russians are more focused on the eastern side of Ukraine than the western edge of the country near Poland.



Despite the feeling that he’s doing important work with wonderful people, Fox said he can’t stay indefinitely.

“I really hate to leave,” Fox said, but “I’ve got to come home.”

A roadblock near Lviv, Ukraine. Submitted photo

He’s eyeing a May 13 return date after having put off a couple of earlier deadlines.

“It’s been really amazing” to be in the middle of it all, Fox said.

Fox said he’s been especially impressed with the Ukrainians he’s met.

“They’re so strong, so stoic, so determined,” he said. “They’re not going to lose this war. But nobody’s going to win it.”

Every day, he said, the people around him are offering each other “big hugs” as they exchange contact information, part of an ever-changing but big crowd stepping up to help brave people defy Putin’s military.

“It just really warms the heart,” Fox said.

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