Sewanee is full of extraordinary people with fascinating stories. Here they share those stories–in their own words.

Elizabeth Konradi, C’23

Art and Russian double major, SGA senator, student co-director for orientation, Arcadian, Theta Pi president

In March, my family and I went to Poland to assist with Ukrainian relief efforts. My dad's family has some Russian lineage in it, so I grew up speaking a little bit of Russian and then chose to major in it at Sewanee. Because of our family ties to the area, we looked to see if there was anything that we could do that could help. It was kind of a last-minute decision. We flew from Dallas to Germany, and then on to Vilnius, Lithuania. From Vilnius, it was about a 12-hour overnight drive to our first volunteer site. 

We spent a lot of time at the train station in the city of Przemyśl, Poland. All the volunteers wore bright orange vests, and we wrote on ours in Russian, “I speak Russian” and then in English, “I speak English” so that people could more easily identify someone they could communicate with. There were an incredible number of displaced people arriving who needed help, and because we had those orange vests on, we were just getting flooded with questions. A lot of people were carrying their things in grocery bags because they had to flee their homes so quickly or maybe they just didn't have a suitcase to begin with. We would help them take their bags to a tent with heaters, get some food, and help set them up with transportation.

One of the main organizations that we worked with was World Central Kitchen (WCK), which is one of the coolest organizations I've ever seen or volunteered for. They were just, for lack of better term, badass. In Poland alone, they were distributing tens of thousands of meals a day, which were primarily locally sourced. We started a GoFundMe campaign before we left. We’ve now raised a little over $85,000, which we plan to give to WCK. 

Since I returned, I feel like I'm constantly reflecting on the experience. I think there's a lot more that people can do than they think they can. Not everybody can go over there and witness this firsthand or get their hands on the actual volunteer work, but there are definitely ways that you can help like donating, educating yourself, and even reaching out to support other members of your community who are more directly affected. One of my biggest takeaways is that you really can make a huge difference. And if you can make a difference, shouldn’t you?

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