That’s all folks!
Up early, like all the days here in Przemyśl. Knowing that this was my final day, I thought I’d walk past the WCK kitchen at the train station one last time. As I passed the passport control building, I see that there is a lineup of people heading back into Ukraine. It includes a woman with a Corgi that looks just like any one of the many of the treasured companions Donna and I have had over the past 25 years. Heartbreaking to see.
We start the morning outside with some yoga and stretching lead by Andrew, an energetic young US Army veteran who saw terrible action in Afghanistan. We should have begun every day with this! Our duties on day 7 were much like the others, though Paulina and Alina tell us we’ll be breaking early that afternoon. In addition, we’re all invited back this evening to screen the recently released documentary by Ron Howard about WCK and José Andrés called “We Feed People.”
As the morning progresses, the pace is more leisurely, with self-imposed breaks to talk about what comes next for each other, viewing of photos & videos from the past week, sharing email addresses and Facebook accounts. Most of the team will be leaving after this week but half dozen or so will stay on for one more week. And a couple of members of the team talk about extending their time here indefinitely. For posterity, here’s a video of the penultimate sandwich line in action…
It’s interesting for me to see, hear and compare the different perspectives on what this past week has meant to the various people I worked with at WCK. Without exception, everyone expressed thanks and appreciation for having had the privilege of being here. For many, it has been a deeply moving, perhaps life-altering event. One or two have changed their travel plans to stay on. Some talk about coming back in the near future. For me, it has brought on a variety of feelings and revelations:
- There are lot of good people out there. The folks I met and worked with are big-hearted and genuinely nice. They were also hugely fun to be around. While the purpose for being there was serious, there were lots of laughs and good times, with true friendships made.
- It isn’t difficult to make a difference. While our efforts at WCK may do little to stop Putin’s destruction of Ukraine, I saw firsthand how a hot meal served with a smile can help someone whose life has been upended. Afterwards asking “How are you?” was invariably met with “Better now, thanks” which was truly gratifying.
- When I talk with people back home, particularly in my venture mentoring role, I often hear that the decision in front of them is “life or death.” Well, this past week has reminded me that most of us in the West rarely face the types of decision that can be labelled as such. For me, I will try to remind myself not to sweat the small stuff, because relatively speaking, nearly everything I’m confronted with is small stuff.
- While I found the time at WCK worthwhile, I do wonder whether I might be able to do something that would have a bigger impact. I enjoyed the simplicity of chopping vegetables and wrapping sandwiches, and more importantly, the sharing of what we made with those who were in need of a hot meal and some comfort. But I’m left with a feeling that if I choose to spend more time helping others, I have other skills that I could draw upon. I’ll need to think more on this.
As we wrap up mid-afternoon, we gather one last time to share our thoughts on the week, what it has meant to us and what’s in store for the future. One of my observations is that WCK should find a way to capitalize on the impact it has on its volunteers. The organization has demonstrated it can mobilize for any event anywhere. I was surprised to see that they had helped out at last year’s devastating floods in the interior of BC for example. We then posed for one last group photo session and said goodbye to those not coming back for the evening viewing party.
My time at World Central Kitchen closed with the viewing of the National Geographic Films “We Feed People.” It was a good primer on José Andrés and the creation of WCK, beginning with the earthquakes in Haiti and its growth right up to the impact of Covid-19. Personally, I was disappointed that there was no mention of WCK’s efforts in Ukraine. I know that the film had been completed prior to the invasion by Russia, but thought a pre or post-film on-screen message would have been in order. Also, as I heard José Andrés mention on the Stephen Colbert show, the film could have focused more on WCK and less on chef Andrés. But nonetheless, it was a great spotlight on an important organization. You can find it here… https://films.nationalgeographic.com/we-feed-people
Time to say goodbye. Best wishes and safe travels to my teammates. And thank you and here’s hoping for a safe and happy life to our Ukrainian leaders Paulina, Alina, and Anna. Slava Ukraini!
I’m heading off for a day of sightseeing and reflection in Krakow and Auschwitz, so stay tuned for another post.