A trained paramedic from Calgary said he felt compelled to answer a calling. Justin Frick traveled to Ukraine along with medical gear to assist the people and wounded soldiers but discovered value in documenting the gravity of the hardships of war.
“My main goal was to come here and record things, to give some humanity to a situation that seems so far away to people back home,” Frick said.
“I just felt like I needed to be here.”
Frick is used to selfless acts of kindness. During the start of the pandemic in 2020, he volunteered to help strangers by going to the grocery store for Calgarians who couldn’t due to old age or being immunocompromised.
But being at a grocery store in Canada is a world of difference in Ukraine. He’s witnessed the emotion and the helplessness of some Ukrainian citizens and said it’s made him more mindful not to drain resources for those in need.
“When I got to Poland, I bought a station wagon so I could sleep in it. I didn’t want to take up hotels and Airbnb’s, I wanted those available for refugees so I parked in a grocery store parking lot,” Frick said. “In the morning I was woken up to air raid sirens.”
“Somebody told me if you see people running and hear sirens, just run in the direction they are running.”
He said the sense of community is inspiring as he’s even had a Ukrainian soldier invite him to stay at his home along with providing meals and donations for Frick to keep going.
“They fed me, offered me money and there’s a society of people here who don’t make me feel afraid,” Frick added.
Mental health support needed
As a first responder, he lives with PTSD and said he’s concerned for the Ukrainian refugees once they get out of the war zone.
“It’s gonna be awful for a lot of people and they need support — I know what it’s like when support is not there,” he explained.
The Mental Health Foundation is prepared for it, launching ‘Hope 4 Ukraine’ — a mental health resource offered in English, Ukrainian and Russian.
Users will receive daily texts to support them through depression. CEO Deborah McKinnon said it’s a proven resource they’ve had success with, using it during the wildfires in Fort McMurray and over the past two years of the pandemic.
“It is a text-based program and a free service to help people manage anxiety and stress,” McKinnon said. “There’s a lot of heartbreak over the human toll they see every day.”
Heartbreak that some are able to escape, Frick will return home sometime in early April; however, he’s already preparing to go back a second time later this Spring.
“It’s important we remember these are human beings hurting and we need to keep them in our thoughts and support them any way we can.”