UTAH (ABC4) – A Utah man recently returned from spending three weeks in Poland helping Ukrainian refugees and is already planning on returning later this month.

Bob McGee from American Fork said when he saw what was happening in Ukraine, he felt he needed to find a way to help, so he bought himself a plane ticket to Krakow, Poland.

“As I watched the atrocities going on and the terrible things happening in Ukraine, I just had this growing sense that I had to be able to do something,” said McGee.

With his personal funds, donations from the community, and medical and dental supplies donated from Intermountain Hospital in Provo and Hill Family Dental in Orem, McGee left for Poland in early April. He originally planned to stay for only two weeks, but decided to add another week once he arrived and witnessed firsthand what the situation was actually like.

“The Ukrainian people have an indomitable spirit,” said McGee. “They all want to believe this is going to be over soon, they’ll be victorious, and they’ll get to go home. And in the meantime, they’re going through so much hardship and have lost so much.”

McGee drove refugees from the Ukrainian border to Krakow, helping with food and shelter along the way until he could help them get where they needed to go.

The first people he helped were Anya and her family, who had already traveled 900 miles from their home when he first met them at the border. McGee helped them stay in hotel rooms until sending finally them off on a bus to Hungary, where they boarded a second bus to meet with family in France.

“For them and many others that we help, it’s the first time in days they’ve slept in a bed,” said McGee.

Anya and the Kononenko Family. Anya is pictured near the middle wearing a black coat.

Anya had to leave her husband and son back in Ukraine to fight in the army. McGee recently received an update from a member of the family:

“She says everything is good, but I want to go home, and that’s what they all want to do, they all want to go home, but some of them don’t have homes to go back to.”

McGee also helped Nikolai, who was travelling with his wife who was on crutches, along with her older sister and his 14-year-old nephew. Nikolai’s brother was too young to leave and his wife wouldn’t leave without him, but they asked Nikolai to take their son.

Nikolai, pictured here standing in the center.

“I picked them up one night in a refugee center, it was about 10 o’clock at night,” McGee recalled. “Nikolai genuinely looked like he lost the will to live. They’ve been travelling for 17 days from their home in Kharkiv.”

They were ultimately put on bus to stay with Nikolai’s brother in Germany.

“You know, a 60-something-year-old man with an equally aged wife who was on crutches and an older sister who could barely walk along too, had been travelling 17 days,” he said. “They spent about 12 of that in a basement in a school, sleeping on the ground, waiting to find a way to be able to get to Poland. And that was a reoccurring story too, of people sleeping in basements, while outside was being shelled and their homes were being destroyed.”

He also recalls the story of Irina, a 23-year-old woman who was traveling with her mother after their home was destroyed by a bomb while they were away. Her uncle and family members did not have the right documentation with them and were unable to go with Irina.

Irina, pictured on the right wearing a red beanie.

“Her family was just kind of left behind, but they told Irina and her mother, go get out while you can,” McGee said.

While waiting at the train station to send Irina and her mother to Austria, McGee asked whether Irina needed anything else, and she admitted that the clothes she was wearing were all that she had.

“To me, I’ve got nieces, young women I know in the area that are 23-years-old, and to think of one of them in a situation where everything they own, they can wear at one time just broke my heart,” he said.

McGee was able to buy her new clothes to take with her before she left on the train.

McGee says he was inspired by seeing what other volunteers were doing, recalling seven volunteers from South America who he said put their lives aside to come over and help in any way they can, not knowing how or when they would get home.

“Other people are doing what they can do, and it just, it starts to restore your faith in humanity a little bit, which can get crushed when you see what terrible things are happening to these people in Ukraine,” said McGee.

McGee is encouraging others to help in any way they can, whether it’s traveling there themselves or donating to credible organizations.