Disabled people evacuated from war-torn Ukraine, thanks to Southern California organization – NBC Los Angeles

Ukraine has almost three million disabled people trapped in violence in Ukraine. A Southern California organization helps them evacuate.

In the pre-dawn hours Monday, as bombs fell on Ukraine, a group of volunteers made a daring escape, crossing the bombardment with dozens of disabled Ukrainians, bringing them safely to Poland.

“Cripplegics paralyzed on beds, carried on stretchers, people with cerebral palsy in wheelchairs,” said Joni Eareckson Tada, who runs the Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, which provides services to the people’s community. disabilities in Ukraine and around the world.

His organization coordinated the evacuation of 35 disabled people stranded in western Ukraine.

“Our partner in the country, Galyna, requisitioned Volkswagen vans. It was a veritable caravan of several vehicles that transported them early this morning,” she said.

She spoke with her Ukrainian partner Galyna via zoom after the group arrived safely in Poland, letting her know that Southern California is praying for them.

“We thank God for feeling your prayers,” she said. “We really felt them.”

Galyna says the group sang defiant songs as they ran in the dark, arrived safely in Poland with their guards and were allowed to skip the long lines at the border.

Joni says the disabled are often left behind in war zones and find it difficult to access traditional shelters like those at underground metro stations.

“Some of these disabled people are in critical situations and live in basements or maybe live on the sixth, seventh or eighth floor of a building. They are paralyzed. They cannot escape. They cannot not rush to the border.”

Joni and her team are working with a Ukrainian church that installed a basement bomb shelter, fortifying their windows with sandbags. The group is planning more rescue operations in the coming days. He promises to scour the countryside in search of disabled people who need safe passage to escape the traveling Russian soldiers.

“If they come here, we don’t want them manipulating people with disabilities or using them as a shield,” Galyna said.

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