72-year-old American spent a week feeding refugees in Poland: 'I just knew I had to be there'

People who fled the war in Ukraine walk towards a humanitarian train to relocate refugees to Berlin on March 15, 2022 in Krakow, Poland.
People who fled the war in Ukraine walk towards a humanitarian train to relocate refugees to Berlin on March 15, 2022 in Krakow, Poland. Photo credit Omar Marques/Getty Images

With more than half of Ukraine's 4.8 million refugees being taken in by its neighboring country Poland, many are working to help the people involved and the nation taking a brunt of those fleeing war.

While many are looking to do whatever they can to help the 2.8 million Ukrainians in Poland, one man decided to take it to the next level and travel across the Atlantic to -- literally-- put boots on the ground.

Steven Givot, a 72-year-old native of Houston, recently returned from a two-week trip in Poland, where he served food to refugees through World Central Kitchen. He joined News Talk 830 WCCO's Paul Douglas to discuss his journey.

Givot was skiing in Colorado, and while at dinner with his son and grandson, the three talked about what was going on in Ukraine. Givot shared that he saw a picture of a train station where Polish women had left strollers for Ukrainian mothers who fled their country.

Like many, this picture moved Givot, and his next steps were made clear as he booked a flight to Poland without hesitation.

"I didn't know what I was going to be doing, I didn't know where I was going to be staying, but I knew where this town was because I had my phone and I found the nearest airport," Givot said. "I just knew I had to be there."

Givot shared that his grandfather was from Crimea and the other three sides of his family were all Polish, and he said, "it just struck me."

"These are my people helping my people," Givot said. "Those people have been fighting with each other for 100 years, but they came together, and I just had to be there."

His expectations before the trip didn't live up to what he expected because he said, "you can't imagine all that's going on."

One of the main towns taking in refugees has a population of around 62,000 people, Givot said. But that number comes nowhere near the half a million people he says have gone through there and into the country.

While many shared their want to help, Givot took action despite his age and admitting he's not in the best shape. The 72-year-old shared that it was almost euphoric the work he was able to accomplish.

"I'm not in the best shape, and I was carrying around 80 pounds of potatoes at a time," Givot said. "I wasn't aware of it, but I was literally running on adrenaline in the kitchen."

Seeing what war has done to Ukraine and the surrounding countries, Givot shared that it has given him a new sense of appreciation for his own blessings. If anyone follows in his footsteps, he thinks they will see the same.

"It will make you appreciate how lucky we are," Givot said. "For all the divisions in this country, we are all so lucky to be here."

Givot said it took him a week when he got home to recover physically from his labor, but he is still recovering from the emotional trauma he faced seeing what these refugees are going through. Despite this, he knew he needed to help in some way.

"I could not fail to be there. I was just drawn," Givot said.

When it comes to what he's done, Givot only wants people to recognize that they can help those in need, too, even if it doesn't look like what he did.

"Do something. If you can not go, you can't go," Givot said, adding that not going to Poland doesn't mean you can't help as he thinks "everybody can do something."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images