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Day 0: Travel Summer: Heading to Ukraine


Day zero of Holly Winter Huppert's travels.

It was time to plan my summer travels. As a teacher, I have my summers off. Traveling and writing about my travels are my favorite things to do. Having people follow along is better than the cherry on top.

Thanks for being here.

In the past few years I taken solo trips to the UK, the Bahamas, Cuba, Vietnam, Turkey and Poland. Where did I want to go this year?

I considered Croatia. Armenia. The Philippians.

But none of these choices felt right. I listed some more countries on a legal pad.

Africa. Australia. New Zealand?

No. Not this year.

A thought occurred to me: maybe I could bring supplies into the parts of Ukraine that were liberated and in great need.


Not going there.

I got out a world map and continued searching for a good place to spend my summer. Chile. Hawaii. That orphanage in India that is run by a monk.

No. No. No. Not this year.

I jokingly added Ukraine to the list and I felt a surge of energy pulse through my body.


No. I went to Poland last summer. For seven weeks. I lived in Krakow and volunteered for Ukrainian refugees in a free shop. That's as close as I wanted to get to Ukraine.

But when I sat still and cleared my mind, then thought about Ukraine, I got another surge of energy—this time in my heart.

I ignored my body: Nope. Not going to a war zone.

A friend who didn’t know what I was thinking about sent me an article about an American woman who drives supplies into Ukraine from Krakow several times a month.

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

I read an article about the great need in Ukraine, how many young people leave regions before the Russians take over, leaving older people and disabled people in those zones with nobody to help them, no food and limited water.

It seemed preposterous that I could help solve this problem. And besides, weren’t there plenty of problems in my own town that could use my help?

Yes, there were. I helped in many ways in my county. Cooking for people with food insecurities. Teaching English. Joining the Walking School Bus at my school.

But I felt drawn to help Ukrainians, again. How could I help?

I told a friend that I was considering going to Ukraine this summer.

“Why would you do that?” he asked.

Good point.

But the idea lingered. I found myself opening to the possibility.


Two men I met last summer were connected with a man, Luk, who drives supplies into devastated areas. He has made 43 such trips in the past year and a half. I read about his trips, then contacted him.

After a lot of soul searching, questioning and meditating before putting the idea of Ukraine into my mind and then feeling that surge of energy again and again, I committed.

When I told people my plans, there were mostly four responses.

1. Oh, is Ukraine still at war with Russia? I had no idea.

2. Why? As in, that problem is far away and you can live a good life without worrying about it.

3. Why? As in, nothing will change if you visit.

4. Thank you for taking action and caring.

Some friends quietly donated money to spend wherever I saw a need in Ukraine.

My mother’s standard response to my travels is, “You could die crossing the road in front of your house and getting hit by a school bus. Go and see the world.”

But this time she made one demand. “Don’t wear a skirt.”

I laughed at her request and asked her if she thought my legs were too sexy in my knee-length skort that I wore to teach kindergarten that day.

She repeated her demand.

I tried to explain to her that Ukrainian women are a part of Europe and dress for every occasion. The refugees I met last summer were always better dressed than I was.

“I don’t care. Don’t wear a skirt.”

I told her to rest easy; I would wear long shorts and a long top.

“No.” she insisted. “Only wear long pants.”

Sigh. I am fifty-seven years old and don’t have to answer to my mother. Do I? “Mom. It’s hot there. Up to ninety degrees.”

“Only long pants.”

I told her that it would be a shame if I got myself all the way to some remote village in Ukraine and then died from heat exhaustion.

Yes, I packed two pair of long pants that I will wear into Ukraine this summer.




Photos of the author traveling.

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