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Former Atlanta news reporter heads to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- As Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, people worldwide have looked for ways to help Ukrainian refugees. A former Atlanta news reporter traveled to Eastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border, to do what he could to help in person. He gave CW69 an inside look at the journey.

Former WXIA Consumer Advocate Reporter John Gerard now works in the tennis industry in Orlando, Florida. He called the Russian war on Ukraine absolutely heartbreaking.

"My partner Kattia and I were watching the events unfold on the news just like so many people, and we were both like, 'I wish there was something we could do to help,'" he said.

Last month, they packed a suitcase full of stuffed animals, pain killers, and protein bars, and they traveled from Orlando to Krakow, Poland, the largest city close to the Ukrainian border.

''We didn't know what to bring. We didn't know how we were going to help, and we didn't know who we were going to help," said Gerard.

He reluctantly launched a fundraiser on Facebook.

"Once those donations started to roll in, we were able to help in a way that most people couldn't," Gerard said. They raised $6,500 dollars, which was enough to load up to 60 grocery carts of food.

"In Poland, the dollar is really strong," he said.

They immediately saw the desperation, as people quickly grabbed the food.

"There was sheer desperation, like what you would see out of a movie," said Gerard. "They were literally just tearing the packages open and eating them on the spot. We would roll a completely overflowing grocery cart onto the train platform. It would be surrounded by people, and in less than two minutes, the entire thing was completely gone."

They also brought goods to a nearby church-run refugee center.

"There's such a desperate need for food and water and hygiene supplies and diapers. It was overwhelming and it was heartbreaking at the same time," said Gerard. "Even though it was a very difficult experience for us physically and emotionally, there's nowhere in the world that we would have rather been."

Despite the difficulties, Gerard said they were glad to play a role in helping those in need. He hopes that sharing the journey reminds the public to count their blessings and never take their freedoms for granted.

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