Notes from the field

From CEO to NGO: Why I Joined GRM’s Ukrainian Mission

by Natalia Zachynsky


February 24th. Just another day for most people in the world. But for me and the other 42 million Ukrainians, it divided us into ‘before’ and ‘after’. 

We woke to explosions and petrifying news, spreading around the country at the speed of light: 

“Russia attacked Ukraine at 4.30am.” 

BEFORE the war, I was a successful young owner of an educational business, a teacher-trainer, an international examiner, and an author. I presented at international conferences, worked hard to achieve success; everything was carefully planned and under control. 

AFTER February 24th…  our lives were put on hold, like a terrible dream with no way to wake up.  I no longer belonged to myself.  I lived at the whim of a ruthless dictator who decides if I live or die.  He chooses whether or not innocent children will be bombed, another building destroyed, or whether to grant a temporary respite in the form of a few hours of peace.  

I felt panic, despair, helplessness, and a feeling of indescribable emptiness as I asked myself repeatedly: “Why?” 

However, by nature I am a doer, not an observer. I wanted to be useful and not sit at home in Khmelnytksy, a city in the west of Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians were less fortunate than me, having lost their homes, jobs, or family and many had been forced to flee.

I started offering shelter to those who needed it, I worked at the train station as people evacuated from targeted and occupied regions of the country, and I gave food and water for those in need. I searched for medicine for the military and volunteered as a translator for those delivering essentials from abroad.

But it felt like I could do more. That opportunity came at the beginning of March when a friend asked me to translate for an American medic.

And that is how I first met Luke. He needed a translator to help him with various meetings, including at the Department of Health in Khmelnytsky. I didn’t know anything about Global Response Management or their work at the time, but I saw a person who wanted to help with all his heart.

It was chaos, not just in my city but in the country in general. Few people had time for us, as meeting after meeting was postponed or canceled.

My professional career had given me a wide circle of useful contacts who had previously trusted me to work with society’s most valuable assets – children. I realized I could do more than just translate. I used my network to find friends and colleagues in the medical field and many patriotic people who were more than happy to help us.

We began to organize medical training on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC or is the accepted battlefield prehospital standard of care), POCUS (Point-Of-Care UltraSound refers to portable ultrasound systems that allow the assessment of patients without requiring them to be physically present in a radiology department.), and Advanced Trauma Life Support, as well as piloting a project with the Ministry of Health and WHO to send GRM surgical teams to the front line to support Ukrainian surgeons.

My role as translator quickly morphed into a much bigger role organizing training throughout Ukraine and liaising with the Ministry of Health as well as other medical institutions of the country. I was responsible for logistics, training, supplies, translators, lodgings, and essentials for the productive work of the entire team.

It wasn’t an easy transition, my ‘before’ to ‘after’ career.  Not being a medical doctor, I was in a new world where my previous professional achievements and life before the war were a distant memory.

I suddenly had others around me, who could support me and advise me when I was unsure how to act. Usually, I am the leader, but I learnt to step back and work a part of a large team. The only thing that mattered was to get help to the people who needed it the most. I couldn’t let anyone down.

I am infinitely grateful to GRM for allowing me to find another side of me, to understand the true value of a team, the support and care it brings as I became part of a whole without losing myself. I learned to make suggestions and to, occasionally, have them rejected, putting aside my ego for the good of the project.

I learned how to make the impossible possible. Always with urgency. They say ‘teamwork makes the dream work’. It’s true!  GRM gave me new colleagues and friends but most importantly, it showed me the beauty of the human soul and the desire to help regardless of country, religious beliefs, profession, and values. We are united by the desire to help and fight together.

As to my recurring question – Why is there a war in Ukraine? – I still don’t have the answer. But now I know why I should live: I have to help those who need it and GRM showed me how.



In The News

Fox13 News – Utah paramedic returns from volunteer medical mission in Ukraine

Original posted on Fox13 News, Jul 20, 2022

After serving in the Air Force for more than seven years, Courtney Pollock felt that she needed to continue finding ways to serve and give back.

She finished paramedic school in August and recently started as a paramedic with Weber Fire District.

“As soon as it started, I remember wanting to figure out how to get over there,” said Pollock about Russia’s war on Ukraine. “I knew that I had medical knowledge now that I was just ready to go and wanted to get there.”

Courtney had been on the job with Weber Fire District for just three days before she got a call from ‘Global Response Management’, who vetted her credentials and offered her a spot on their upcoming volunteer mission in Ukraine.

With support from her new colleagues and fellow first responders, Courtney headed to Poland with nearly 150 pounds of donated medical supplies to aid her response.

She flew from Salt Lake City to Frankfurt, Germany and drove to Poland where she met her fellow mission volunteers. From there, they drove a convoy of ambulances into Ukraine.

“I wasn’t scared, I was ready,” said Pollock. “I was really ready to be there and do what we came to do.”

For the next four weeks, Pollock learned from local doctors, used constantly “google translate” to communicate and helped save victims of war.

“It was a lot better and a lot worse than what I was expecting,” said Pollock about Ukraine after having seen the images on the news. “I saw some lives being completely destroyed, I also saw a lot of people continuing on with their day-to-day life as if nothing was going on and then the air sirens start going off and everything changes.”

Pollock worked with a team that would triage patients in train stations, provide first aid, transport patients to hospitals and convoy patients to Poland.

“There was a moment I vividly remember sitting down and writing my will to my dad,” said Pollock when asked if she ever felt unsafe. “You’re going thru that and you’re like, if this is it then this is it, at least I’m doing the thing and I’m here doing my best helping everybody that I can.”

While she saw some patients in tough shape and spent time in bunkers after air raid sirens went off, Pollock says she wants to go back and help again.

“I realized when I was there for a month that this line of work, helping people in other parts of the world is going to be a part of me now forever,” said Pollock.

In The News

WINK News – Naples doctor sharing his story after returning from Ukraine

by Matthew Seaver
Original posted on WINKNews, May 11, 2022

In The News

Penn Medicine News – Nurse Case Manager Supports Her Ukrainian Homeland from Afar

by Kim Maialetti
Original posted on Penn Medicine News, May 5, 2022

When Alena Blain, MSN, was growing up in Ukraine, she and her schoolmates volunteered to work in one of the country’s many museums dedicated to the history of World War II.

“Everybody grew up understanding that war is horrifying and should never happen again,” said Blain, who is a nurse case manager at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC). “You would never think it is possible to be where we are today.”

This spring, as Russia’s war on Ukraine continued, Blain was volunteering again. But this time she was collecting and packaging much needed medical supplies to send to hospitals in Ukraine for treating people injured in the war.

Blain is one of many Penn Medicine employees and students who are stepping up in various ways to support Ukrainians during their time of need. Penn Medicine partnered with Global Response Management, a relief-focused non-governmental organization engaged with the World Health Organization, to help deploy interested staff members to provide medical care. Additionally, more than $300,000 in monetary donations were collected, including more than $200,000 from the Penn community and $100,000 matched by Penn and Penn Medicine.

What’s more, students at the Perelman School of Medicine have been organizing donated medical supplies and raising funds for relief campaigns, and employees at Chester County Hospital organized a drive to collect medical supplies, hygiene products, and necessities for children and babies. Pennsylvania Hospital donated surplus personal protective equipment. And at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, staff donated more than 100 bags and boxes of humanitarian aid to be shipped to Lviv.

“It is amazing how many regular people are reaching out and wanting to help,” said Blain, who was born in 1979 when Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union. She was 11 when the country gained independence and 22 when she emigrated to the United States.

Blain’s Volunteer Super-Power

When Blain first learned of Russia’s invasion, she was devasted. She would start crying any time someone asked her about it. Often, she was unable to talk through her tears.

Blain decided the best salve was to do something to help.

She joined a team of volunteers with the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) Philadelphia Regional Council to sort and package items donated by local communities.

As a nurse case manager at PMC, Blain helps coordinate and manage patient care. She works with multiple specialties to ensure her patient’s needs are being met effectively and efficiently.

She put those skills to work as a volunteer for UNWLA, focusing on organizing and boxing essential medical supplies that are in high demand.

These included suction kits and ventilation bags, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs, along with medications for adults and children.

“Having a medical background was very helpful when I was packing the boxes,” Blain said.  “I was thinking ‘what would I need most and what would I need to get to fast.’ You must work in the medical field to understand what needs to get there.”

To date, the UNWLA Philadelphia Regional Council has collected and shipped more than 12,000 boxes of  goods to Ukraine, Blain said.

A Family Connection in Dnipro

Alena Blain speaks with her godfather on a virtual call on her laptop

While Blain has made the United States her home, she said she views Ukraine as you would your parents’ house.

“You may want to leave,” she explained. “But it is still very important that the house is going to be OK.”

Blain, whose mother and father are deceased, still has extended family in Ukraine, including aunts, uncles, cousins, a niece, and her 72-year-old godfather, who owns a business in Dnipro and is working to distribute supplies to support the Ukrainian forces.

“He is very determined and said he is going to stay and fight,” Blain said, her voice catching. “I’m not sure how much he can fight at 72.”

Holding Onto Hope

“Before I started volunteering, I felt defeated,” Blain said. “But going to the UNWLA center and seeing all the people there who were like me and wanted to help, was uplifting.

“It gave me hope,” she continued. “Hope that people have not forgotten the lessons we learned from World War II.”

In The News

WINK News – Southwest Florida nurse practitioner travels to Ukraine to help

by Sydney Persing
Original posted on WINKNews, April 13, 2022


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Yesterday, GRM founder Pete Reed and was killed in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Yesterday, GRM founder Pete Reed was killed in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Pete was the bedrock of GRM, serving as Board President for 4 years. In January, Pete stepped away from GRM to work with Global Outreach Doctors on their Ukraine mission and was killed while rendering aid.

This is a stark reminder of the perils rescue and aid workers face in conflict zones as they serve citizens caught in the crossfire. Pete was just 33 years old, but lived a life in service of others, first as a decorated US Marine and then in humanitarian aid. GRM will strive to honor his legacy and the selfless service he practiced.

We fully support Pete’s family, friends, and colleagues during this devastating time.