Adam Nofziger, AHS ‘94, son of Paul and Esther, is a medical doctor. He can stay home, work regular hours, and make a significant income.
“Right, but what fun is that?” he asked.
Instead, Adam, who specializes in emergency work, has volunteered his services all over the world.
Now he has added a new stamp in his passport: Ukraine. He was there from Sunday, June 5 to Thursday, June 16.
After the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Adam and other medical volunteers from the Toledo area began making contacts “to see if we could get into the area and help.
“We could help with the people that are escaping the wartorn areas. We weren’t trying to set up, like, Army hospitals or anything like that.
“We ended up making connections with a service group from a bordering nation,” he said.
“We flew to the neighboring country, and they drove us just across the border into a town,” about 15-20 miles into Ukraine, he said. They set up their “base” there.
“There’s a bunch of shelters– 50 shelters in that area for internally displaced people (IDPs, people who had fled the fighting in the east).”
“They’re not refugees, since they didn’t actually leave the country, so we were able to treat the IDPs when they were in the shelters.”
Many patients Adam saw were people who no longer have access to their medications, because their local pharmacy back home may now be a bomb crater.
“Exactly,” Adam said with a chuckle.
“We did a lot of refilling, providing some blood pressure medications, diabetic medications, and what-not.
“Some of them have been gone from home for 100 days. Some of their medications have run out.
“We took a supply of $17,000 worth of meds. We got them for cost, so the (retail) value was well over $100,000.”
There weren’t a lot of injuries.
“It was more like children playing that fell down and got hurt. It was a lot of treating cough and congestion and a lot of stress-related illnesses,” he said.
“Unfortunately,wecouldn’t take along some of the benzodiazepines– the medications we would use here for anxiety attacks (i.e., Xanax, Valium, etc.). But we did take some antidepressants.”
In talking with those who fled the fighting, “you can tell most of them were anxious or stressed out,” he said.
“We saw a lot of women and children because their husbands were pressed into service. A lot of them hadn’t seen their husbands for months. They don’t know where they are.”
Adam said some Ukrainian medical students joined them for a few days.
“One of the girls was displaced herself, and was easily anxious and timid over anything we might encounter.
“You can tell people were not in their right state of enjoying life,” he said.
They would travel up to 45 minutes to get to the various camps.
In western Ukraine, “you could barely tell there was a war going on, except sometimes there were barricades along the side of the highway.”
The barricades were more like fighting positions: concrete barriers topped with sandbags, with firing ports built into them.
“There wasn’t a lot of traffic, and things were closed down a little bit.”
Once, they drove by a grain elevator.
“I thought it’d be interesting to show a picture (of the elevator) to my dad, who farms around here, of what grain elevators look like (in Ukraine).”
Adam was driving, so he passed his phone to the passenger, who snapped a picture out the window.
“As soon as we got past the grain elevator, a security guard flagged us down and called in their version of the FBI.”
The agents told Adam, “’you know, it could be a target, and we can’t have you taking pictures of anything that are government-owned installations.’
“We didn’t know if we were going to go to prison or what. But they took all our information, and they let us go on our way.”
“The one girl that was displaced was in the van with us. She started crying, because of having to interact with authorities like that.”
The Russians have launched missile attacks into western Ukraine, so no part of Ukraine is “safe,” but Adam said, “It’s safe enough for us to go into.
“Almost every day, there was an air raid siren that would go off at some point. And they actually had an app that you could download on your phone to hear the air raid siren.
“But we never ended up going into any of the bunkers or the bomb shelters.” Impressions of Ukraine
Adam said Ukraine and Eastern Europe reminded him of “the pictures that we’ve see from the 1950s here.
“The buildings, the school buildings and playgrounds, the communities, and everybody’s walking in the streets in the villages.
“There were cow herders escorting their cattle through town.
“Everything was in color; it just looked like all the black and white photos of the 50s. It just felt like that. That’s how far behind they were, because they were part of the Soviet Union and they’re still affected by that.”
But there was cell phone service everywhere.
Did he meet anyone that really stood out?
“There was the 18-yearold, I’m not sure– he was MR-DD (mentally retardeddevelopmentally disabled) of some sort.
“And so, his mother is trying to take care of him.
“So his mother not only doesn’t know where her husband is, now she’s in a shelter trying to take care of this boy who’s bigger than she is and doing everything for him, on top of being displaced and being in a shelter.
“It’s just the selflessness that goes along with anybody who has a specialneeds child, multiplied by the situation.”