AGOURA HILLS (CBSLA) — The Agoura Hills-based ministry, Joni and Friends helped rescue some of the 2.6 million Ukrainians with disabilities as the war with Russia intensifies.
“We were trying to evacuate people with quadriplegia or cerebral palsy, wheelchairs,” said Galyna the ministry’s representative in Ukraine.
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Joni and Friends was established over for decades ago and is an international disability ministry providing care to people with disabilities across the globe. With the humanitarian crisis mood from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Joni And Friends shifted their focus to help Ukrainians with disabilities escape the warzone.
“Our in-country partner Galyna alerted us right away when war broke out with Russia that people with disabilities were in jeopardy,” said founder Joni Eareckson Tada, who is paralyzed.
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As soon as the first bombs dropped, Galyna, whose husband enlisted to fight in the war, worked with the ministry to help the vulnerable get to safety. Galyna led a group of 35 people, 15 of whom had disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy to autism, on a dangerous 90-minute caravan to the Polish border. Of the fifteen with disabilities, 11 people were in wheelchairs and four were children with autism.
“As Galyna made this dash for the border with these people with disabilities in the wee hours of the morning, people were frightened and nervous,” Tada said.
Fortunately, Galyna and her group made it to the Polish border where there is even more chaos as many Ukrainians attempt to flee the violence. While some refugees were forced to stand in line for days, Galyna’s group was lucky as the local government helped ease the process.
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Galyna’s group has been safely relocated to a facility in Holland. Tada continues to work with partners in Netherlands, Germany, Romania and Poland.