Woodsman travels to Poland to deliver much-needed aid to Ukrainians
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Conflict doesn’t need to be at our doorstep for us to take courage and act. Although the Russian incursion into Ukraine may be thousands of miles away, one Woodlands resident in particular felt his own home was under attack and jumped on a plane to Poland to see how he could help.
Craig Ludrick uses his overseas connections to provide humanitarian aid
Craig Ludrick kissed his wife Nancy – who is the Conroe Independent School District’s senior speech therapist – goodbye and boarded an international flight to land in Warsaw. His mission was to do whatever he could for civilians caught in the crossfire between advancing Russian troops and Ukrainian military repelling the invaders. With the complexities of warring nations sharing the same border, the logistics of escaping a war zone become too complex for a refugee to handle. Ludrick wasted no time in springing into action.
When Woodlands Online was able to reach him by phone, he was walking literally three miles from what he described as a ‘huge’ demonstration of Poles and non-Poles outside the Russian Embassy in Warsaw to his bedroom. ‘hotel. The number of people at the protest was so massive, he said, that the noise of the crowd could be heard for miles around.
“I saw a lot of support, strong support, from people here, especially Russians who don’t want to know anything about what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said.
From 1988 to 1992, Ludrick was a Russian linguist for the US Army, a skill he put to good use during his service. When he leaves the army, he decides to use his training for another authority. “God put it in my heart to use my language skills to help others in need,” he said.
In May of the same year – 1992 – he made his first trip to Ukraine. Based on his connections with pastors he had known in the United States through his strong church service, he landed in the now independent former Soviet republic to provide training for missions and missionaries. One of the pastors he worked with overseas all those years ago is his best friend today, and someone he relies on during his current stay in Eastern Europe.
The irony is that Craig and his family had moved to Hawaii for a business opportunity. However, according to him, “it just wasn’t for me, it wasn’t in my heart. I felt that God was leading me elsewhere. So they returned to The Woodlands area, and two weeks later he decided to bring some money to his pastor friend in Poland because of the rumors of impending war. The day he landed in Warsaw, the invasion took place, and he hasn’t left yet.
“I rented an Airbnb for two months, and when that time is up, we’ll see what’s up,” he said. “I promise to stay here. My first priority is to take care of these pastors by ensuring that they receive food, clothing and supplies. I take this opportunity to also broaden what we can do.
Ludrick takes an active role – and a huge risk – in his mission, because this “enlargement” includes helping refugees fleeing Ukraine to Poland, an indomitable task.
“I learned that a pastor’s daughter from Florida was stuck at the border,” he said. “The line of refugees was literally twenty miles long; there were more than 80 buses in front of his, and no one had moved in 26 hours. The thought of her family back across the state worrying about her was intolerable to me, so I was able to track her down, bring her across the border with me, and now she’s back home in Orlando.
Another case of border crisis involved a group of Egyptian students attempting to flee from Ukraine to Poland. “We are in northern Europe in a harsh winter; the weather here is nothing like back home in Texas,” he said. “These students traveled 30 miles in the snow on their attempt to cross the border. And in the end, they still had to stand for 24 hours in freezing weather and exposed to frostbite.
Lurdick points out that – even with these countless thousands of refugees – only women and children make up the crowd. “Men between the ages of 18 and 60 can’t leave, and many wouldn’t even if they could; they want to defend their homeland. The chaos he describes is chilling, as he described encountering sites such as thousands of people crammed into temporary shelters.
He describes the needs of these people as “overwhelming”. He organized the delivery of 22 tons of food to help them and is currently trying to get buses for transport.
Despite the gloom of his current situation, Craig Ludrick remains optimistic. “The support I see is everywhere. Virtually every store has boxes where people can drop Ukrainian relief items. The number of Russians at the protest I just left was staggering. And earlier today I had to ask a Polish resident for directions to a bank. I spoke just enough Polish – and he spoke just enough Russian – to hope I could get my question across. He pointed to my car and then managed to make it clear to me that he wanted to buy me a hot meal. When I looked at the car I had just gotten out of, I realized he was pointing at the Ukrainian license plate. He thought I was Ukrainian, and his first and only reaction was to feed me. And this is only an indication of the willingness of the Polish people to help.
For those wishing to support Craig Ludrick in his efforts, he encourages people to find him on Facebook (“I’m the only one out there with my name”), or visit his organization Church Leadership Development International’s website at www.cldi.org.