Local aid worker plans to return to Ukraine to help victims of war

Sunday marked exactly two months since Russia invaded Ukraine.  One aid worker is back in Snohomish after traveling there not once, but twice. Now he's gearing up for a third trip. 

"It was very emotional to interact with people that had been basically locked in their house for 30 days," said Gerry O'Reilly.  "They weren’t sure when all the bombing was taking place if they were going to get hit, if a Russian tank was going to park in their living room."  

O'Reilly worked with volunteer groups like Vital Solutions and Word of Life in Ukraine, sometimes traveling to the front lines to help those in places liberated by Ukrainian troops.  

O'Reilly says one of the first stops was Trostyanets', close to the Russian border.  

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As peace talks remain stalled, many are still fleeing Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues wreaking havoc. One family fleeing the war-torn country crossed the southern border to get into the U.S. safely, before making their way up to Seattle. 

"The first day we went there we probably distributed about 20 tons of food and when we left there were still about 200 people who did not get food yet," he said.   

His group returned with more food and other supplies and tried to comfort the survivors.  

"They are telling you about rapes and kidnappings and murders, and begging you if you can help find your loved ones," he said. 

He says they also gave toys and chocolate to the children when possible.  A young boy who received a teddy bear especially stuck in his mind.  

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"He just took it, and he hugged it into himself, and it was like the only gift he’d ever been given," he said.  

O'Reilly says pets and livestock also needed food and attention and dangers, like land mines, remained.  

"If you can see hundreds of mines sitting on the sides of the road. How many mines are you not seeing ?" O'Reilly said.  

He says in one instance, he was called in to help a woman injured by a blast from a mine or booby trap hidden in the woods. 

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"I could see her whole left side of her body had been hit with an explosion," he said.  "It just felt like I had a purpose to be there in that moment."  O'Reilly applied a tourniquet on her leg to stop the bleeding.  He also tried to help another man who was injured in the explosion, but he passed away after he was carried to the road. 

"It’s like something you would watch on a movie, the sheer destruction, and the people that lived through that," he said.  

He plans to travel back in the coming weeks.  "As these towns get liberated, there is work to be done," he says. 

O'Reilly says he's collecting funds to travel back to Ukraine though The Cedar Park Church in Bothell.