‘Someone had to step up’: Meet Volodymyr Pavlyuk, 2023 Jefferson Award winner

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Tons: 250 of them.

That’s how much humanitarian and medical aid RocMaidan has sent to Ukraine.

To give you an idea of how much that is, the average tractor-trailer weighs 40 tons. So, RocMaidan has collected and sent more than 16 tractor-trailers’ worth of donations.

It was a pleasure to sit down with RocMaidan founder Volodymr Pavlyuk and other volunteers to talk about their incredible efforts to support the people of Ukraine.

“There is not a moment when I don’t think about the war,” Olya Szylo, one of the volunteers, said.

“We believe, we believe that Ukraine will win, [and] we know they need our support,” Szylo added.

You will not find a more dedicated group of volunteer, led by the steadfast founder of RocMaidan: Volodymr Pavlyuk, a 2023 ESL Jefferson Award winner.

”Maybe that’s the reason I’m in United States here. I moved here so when Ukraine will need my help, I’m here,” Volodymr Pavlyuk said.

Pavlyuk and volunteers launched RocMaidan in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The group ramped up its efforts significantly in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. Pavlyuk spends countless hours leading the charge.

“I don’t know how he finds the time in the day to do the things that he does,” Szylo said.

The group has sent 16 huge containers of humanitarian and medical supplies to the front lines.

Like a massive puzzle, these volunteers have packing the containers down to a science.

“We try to ram as much stuff into that container as possible, just to ship everything we can,” Irene Lyko Smith, another volunteer, said.

Recent shipments included medical beds, personal hygiene items, medical equipment like walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs, and even ambulances.

“Thanks for Monroe County leadership, we shipped five ambulances from Rochester. So, five ambulances were donated to us and we organized all logistics, so they went to Ukraine, and they’re already saving lives,” Pavlyuk.

Although he was honored with a Jefferson Award, he emphasizes that none of RocMaidan’s efforts would be possible without the entire corps of people helping him.

“I’m lucky to have good group of volunteers, as you meet today. So, it’s not me alone,” he said.

He leads an army of fighters – armed not with weapons, but hope.

“Yes, it’s difficult, yes, it’s a lot of responsibilities, but someone had to step up and do that,” he said.

You can help RocMaidan by making a financial donation or pushing items off its Amazon wish list.

And learn more about the winners during a special program airing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3 on News10NBC.