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Ogden businessman travels to Poland to aid Ukraine, refugees

By Tim Vandenack - | Mar 22, 2022

Image supplied, Jack Knowlden

This image shows the refugee camp in Medyka, Poland, where some Ukrainians are going to flee the violence in their country brought on by the Russian invasion. Jack Knowlden of Ogden traveled to the area to offer help and the image is from a video he took of the area on Sunday, March 20, 2022.

After seeing news reports of Ukrainian children displaced to Poland by the fighting in their home country, Ogden businessman Jack Knowlden felt driven to action.

“I just couldn’t put the images out of my head,” he said. He’s the father of two kids, aged 2 and 9, and the images of the refugee kids and their moms, also forced out of Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, struck a chord. Most Ukrainian men have stayed put to fight off the Russians.

Beyond that, living in relative comfort, he felt pangs seeing the suffering of the Ukrainians. His two businesses, Skin It Tattoo shops, are doing well, and he’s able to travel and enjoy life. “I just felt guilty by omission,” he said.

So what do you do? Rather than bask in helplessness, Knowlden bought a plane ticket to Europe, launched a Venmo account to solicit donations and now finds himself traveling between Poland and Ukraine, helping those in need. He tapped earnings from the recent sale of a Camaro that had been sitting in his garage to cover his travel costs, but has received a strong outpouring of aid from Ogdenites, Utahns and others and is using their donations to buy goods in Poland to aid Ukraine and Ukrainians.

“As long as it’s coming in, I’ll keep spending it,” he told the Standard-Examiner by phone from Medyka, Poland, which sits on the Ukrainian border and is receiving an influx of Ukrainian refugees. “I just felt it was time to give back.”

Image supplied, Jack Knowlden

Jack Knowlden, an Ogden businessman, traveled to Poland and Ukraine to aid Ukrainians there. Here, he's shown in a screengrab from a video he made Monday, March 21, 2022, while in Lviv, Ukraine.

He had received around $8,000 in donations as of last Friday.

Knowlden left Utah on March 15, arrived in Poland the next day and plans to stay through the end of the month, though the precise timing of his return will depend on the flow of donations. He said he had been focusing his efforts at a refugee camp in Medyka, providing food and clothing to displaced Ukrainians. He said in a message to the Standard-Examiner on Monday that he had shifted gears, aiming to help Ukrainians still in Ukraine.

“Now I switched to much-needed medical and military supplies to Lviv,” Knowlden said, referencing the western Ukrainian city that Russian forces have recently started targeting. “Camouflage, bulletproof vests, canteens, etc. No guns. More water, canned food, bandages, medicine.”

He’s posting accounts of his activities in Eastern Europe to Facebook and Instagram, and in a post on Monday he offered a glimpse of Lviv.

“Markets are open, people are out,” he said, narrating a video he took of himself walking through a market area in the city. “You can see people are going about their business. A lot of people are defiant to give up their way of life.”

Image supplied, Jack Knowlden

Jack Knowlden, an Ogden businessman, traveled to Poland and Ukraine to aid Ukrainians there in light of the Russian invasion. This image is a screengrab from a video he made Monday, March 21, 2022, while in Lviv, Ukraine.

He has connected with others from around Europe who, like him, traveled to the area wanting to assist Ukraine and Ukrainians, he said. The contingent he’s part of brought a truckload of water to Lviv on Monday and he said that trip will help pave the way for additional aid to the Ukrainian city.

“What they don’t have is medical supplies, military supplies, medicines, stuff like that, so that’s what I’m going to be picking up now, buying over at the refugee camp,” he said in his video.

He reported seeing armed military people in Lviv and said some in the city “are kind of edgy.” He may even start vaping again — he had quit last year — “just to calm my nerves a tad bit.”

By and large, though, he said Lviv is relatively safe and that he doesn’t intend to inject himself into the middle of the conflict with Russia. If things start getting “sketchy,” he’ll stick to Poland.

“I promised I’m not going to put myself in danger,” he told the Standard-Examiner. “I’m here to help people. I’m not here to get in the war.”


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