As Russia’s war against Ukraine enters its tenth month, the world remains astounded at the unbreakable resilience of the Ukrainian people. Constant attacks by a nuclear power, resulting in more than 40,000 civilian deaths, has not broken the spirit of the Ukrainian people. Neither has the loss of heat, electricity and water in the middle of winter. Ukrainians are persevering against the odds to protect their homeland, their families, and their way of life.
A little more than 2,500 years ago, the Spartans inspired Greece – which was the great European democracy of the era – to stand against tyranny. They did so by sacrificing themselves against overwhelming odds in the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. As we think about the Ukrainian sacrifices in Mariupol, it too has inspired the great democracies of our modern time to stand unified against tyranny.
The on-going war has also inspired military veterans from countries outside Ukraine to lend aid. Some have been inspired to enlist in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion and fight on the battlefield. Others have been inspired to help by delivering humanitarian and medical assistance. People have been helping in the different ways they can. What is certain though, is that in the greatest war against tyranny of our lifetimes, no decent person can stand on the sidelines and do nothing.
The Christmas Convoy
Being inspired to help is the spirit behind the “Christmas Convoy” that provided 50 cars and light trucks full of generators and critical humanitarian and medical supplies to Kyiv. With weekly attacks on critical energy infrastructure, fuel powered generators are keeping hospitals, schools, orphanages, and government buildings operating during the war. By keeping these key facilities operating, Ukrainians are able to find the strength to endure longer and wait for their eventual victory.
Thus, the 50-vehicle convoy delivered more than three million euros worth of generators, medical supplies, and critical humanitarian aid. By meeting these key needs in the dead of winter, the international community practices the Biblical “Golden Rule” of “do unto others what you would have them do unto you”.
This international humanitarian mission was led by me as CEO and founder of the Spartan Race endurance events. The Spartan Race events celebrate the unbreakable resilience of the ancient warriors, and now quite appropriately, they honor the unbreakable resilience of the Ukrainian people during the war.
The vehicles in the Christmas Convoy were driven mostly by NATO and U.S. military veterans, including many Purple Heart recipients (the Purple Heart is a U.S. military decoration awarded to those who have been wounded in action). This group of modern-day warriors and veterans chose to answer the call of duty once again, by driving from Poland into Kyiv to make the deliveries of much-needed supplies.
Christmas is both about giving and about inspiration. Rarely in life does one get to be inspired and see the immediate satisfaction from giving to those in need. In Ukraine this year, one gets both. Someday, this war will end, and questions will be asked such as: “What did you do to help?”. “Could you have done more?”. “What difference did you make?”.
For Ukrainians, the answers will be clear because, in most cases, they had no options. They did everything they could to save their lives, families and homes. For the rest of the world, the options will range from “doing nothing” to lending a helping hand or providing aid. There can be no starker contrast in choices.
That is why the Christmas Convoy chose to make a difference.
Joe De Sena is the founder and CEO of the Spartan Race and led the Christmas Convoy to Kyiv in December 2022.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.