Mayor Gary Christenson welcomed Malden resident Julio Salado who had just the previous day returned home from Przmysl, Poland where he volunteered to serve food and help refugees near the Ukraine border. Julio told the Mayor that he felt a strong desire to assist those suffering from the devastation resulting from Russia’s war on Ukraine. Still recovering from the time difference, Julio talked about his experiences during the week-long trip.
A licensed EMT and business owner of Fitness Foundry, Julio put his job and clients on notice of his impending trip because he believes that there is nothing like the feeling of helping people. He himself had experienced homelessness during his teen years having lived out his car for a period of time. He has since been involved with volunteering for several organizations including the Bread of Life.
Julio initially reached out on social media to learn how he could best help the people of Ukraine. Upon completing several volunteer applications, World Central Kitchen founded by Spanish American Chef Jose Andres accepted his application to assist in Poland. Julio then started a GoFundMe page and raised nearly double his goal. Upon arriving in Poland, he considered himself lucky to have secured a bed in an all-male dormitory facility, and after a quick training got to work. He learned some basic words from Polish volunteers who spoke Ukrainian such as coffee, tea, milk and quickly learned what people were asking for. He worked alongside volunteers, including chefs from many different countries who were cooking food from scratch for the refugees.
Julio told the Mayor that he was particularly moved by the plight of the refugees especially witnessing generations of women, grandparents and young children adjusting to being relocated to large buildings converted to house them. Their husbands and sons are all fighting on the front lines. Although the weather in “Polish Spring” is very cold and wet with strong winds, one night Julio felt compelled to walk several miles to the Ukraine border just to get a feel for what exiting refugees are going through. He said this was an experience he’ll never forget and hopes to do it again.
Mayor Christenson thanked Julio for going above and beyond in taking the initiative to serve on the front lines of a humanitarian crisis and for making a difference in the lives of the people of Ukraine.