Estes Park illusionist hand-delivers medical aid to Ukraine – Loveland Reporter-Herald

Over several weeks in March, the Stanley Hotel’s resident illusionist Aiden Sinclair personally delivered 150 pounds of medical aid to Kyiv and another 300 pounds to other cities in Ukraine that are currently in the grip of at war.

“I came back Thursday (March 24) night and jumped into the shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Sinclair said.

On March 9, when Russian military forces bombed a maternity and children’s hospital in southern Ukraine, Sinclair was confronted with a reality that forced him to give up his illusions, walk off stage and do whatever he could to help those who were under attack.

“They keep using the word ‘refugees’, which can be a faceless word. In this case, the “refugees” are entirely women and children. It’s who gets kicked out of his house,” Sinclair said. “We had a man on our train (out of Kyiv) who was well over 70 and only had one leg. He spent the whole train ride fighting with his wife about getting back, basically telling her, “this is my country and I can still fight.” It is the spirit of the people who are there.

Following the March 9 bombing, Sinclair and his team wasted no time.

“We set everything up on the 9th and left on the 10th,” Sinclair said. “To see this happen… We couldn’t just sit and do nothing when we had the opportunity to do something.”

Sinclair has no Ukrainian heritage or family, but has made many friendships through the Stanley Hotel’s employment of Ukrainian citizens in the J1 program. He was lucky to have a contact in Kyiv who could help sort out the details of his trip.

“At that time they were calling for any help that could be provided,” Sinclair said. “Since I knew someone in the country, I kind of looked at our finances, pulled out our credit cards, and we went to buy as many medical supplies as we could.”

What was in demand at the time were essential trauma supplies such as tourniquets, trauma dressings, rapid clotting agents used to clot blood, and chest decompression needles.

“We knew you couldn’t ship anything there because DHL, FedEx… nobody really ships anymore,” Sinclair said. “You want to make sure that what you bring into the country gets where it needs to go and the best way to do that was to carry it by hand.”

Sinclair made a list of what was needed and began planning the logistics to get supplies into the hands of Ukrainian doctors.

“It’s easier and safer to move as an individual than to bring a whole group of people, so I loaded 150 pounds of medical equipment – as much as I could physically carry on my body – in two rolling duffel bags and a large military backpack,” Sinclair said.

On March 10, he flew from Denver to New York, jumped on a Swiss Air flight to Zurich where he transferred to a flight to Warsaw, Poland, and from there took a train to Kyiv.

“It normally amounts to around 12 hours by train. It took me 24 hours to get into Kyiv and about 32 hours to get out,” Sinclair said. “They only run at night. They close all the shutters and turn off all the lights so the train won’t be bombed or attacked. This means that the train cannot move as fast as it could.

Polish train crews had been working non-stop since Russia invaded Ukraine, hoping to get as many women and children out of the country as quickly as possible.

“People working on the train went to work one day, then a war broke out. The train I was on, the train crew had been working for about three weeks straight without a break,” Sinclair said. The engineer was sleeping in shifts and the rest of the crew… Going from Warsaw to Kyiv is when they rest Because when you get to Kyiv they load that train with women and children, way more than 1,000 of them. Once they load the women and children, it’s non-stop for the train crew who are constantly helping people and trying to put everyone at ease, in their bringing water, blankets, whatever they can. It’s rough.

When Sinclair’s train arrived in kyiv around two in the morning, he handed over his supplies to the Ukrainian Defense Forces and was told that his 150 pounds of supplies would be enough to equip 25 combat medics.

“When I dropped that off, they already had a list of more things they needed,” Sinclair said. “When I got back to Warsaw, we had collected some money, so I went out and bought another set of supplies and sent it back.”

During the trip, he was able to deliver three loads (about 450 pounds) of supplies to Kyiv, Odessa and Chernihiv, which is north of Kyiv and has since been cut off by Russian forces. These supplies have equipped approximately 75 combat medics in their fight to save lives.

“Among what we brought were 100 tourniquets and we know all of those tourniquets have been used before,” Sinclair said. “The reality is that the things we brought into the country saved lives, but the fact that these things have to be used is heartbreaking. Every tourniquet put on someone may be an arm or a leg that will never be used again. It’s brutal, it’s absolutely brutal.

The citizens of neighboring Poland have opened their borders, their homes and their hearts to the Ukrainian people.

“Poland took in about 2 million refugees in about three weeks and all of these people were welcomed with open arms,” ​​Sinclair said.

When the trains arrive in Poland, they are greeted by volunteer firefighters who are there to help the women unload their suitcases and pushchairs. Once off the train, the women and children receive “an immense amount of humanitarian aid, including food, clothing and translators”, Sinclair said.

A young Ukrainian boy sleeps at a train station in Warsaw, Poland, after fleeing his war-torn home. (Courtesy of Aiden Sinclair)

Some of Poland’s train stations have been turned into accommodation with cots and makeshift beds set up for refugees to rest. Poland has also offered a large number of police officers to help combat possible kidnappings and human trafficking of defenseless refugees.

“It’s amazing how hospitable people can be in difficult times,” Sinclair said. “There are people opening up their homes and doing whatever they can to help and that’s really what inspired me to go there. I had the capacity to do something and I felt compelled to act.

A makeshift playground is set up in front of a TV showing Disney’s “Cars” at a train station in Warsaw, Poland, which has been converted into accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. (Courtesy of Aiden Sinclair)

The concept of one world power with a tyrannical dictator invading a small neighboring nation is nothing new to Poles, who fell victim to a German invasion in 1939 that proved to be the catalyst for World War II. world.

“Over the past 30 years we have seen a lot of conflict around the world in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria… What we are seeing right now is a bully trying to beat up a weaker child in the hallway,” Sinclair said. . “It’s very reminiscent of WWII and Hitler, but the bully picked the wrong kid this time. It doesn’t become an easy thing for Putin to accomplish because the people there are so strong-willed that they don’t just lay down and give up.

Witnessing firsthand the outpouring of support from the Polish people amazed Sinclair.

“What is amazing, however, is simply the will of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “As they were loading the train with all these women and children, they were waving through the windows, saying goodbye to their husbands and sons, and no one was crying, everyone was very strong. The men who stayed have a strong will and fight for their homes and it’s amazing to see that strength of will.

Currently, all proceeds from Aiden Sinclair’s Underground at the Stanley Hotel will go to help Ukraine.

Introducing Aiden Sinclair’s Metro at the Stanley Hotel

“At the show, we’re also keeping a box open for cash donations and Venmo and PayPal if people want to contribute in that way,” Sinclair said. “We’re really trying to use the platform The Stanley has given us to do some good.”

For those worried about exactly where their donations will go, Sinclair says he’s planning another trip himself to make sure supplies get to where they’re needed most.

“We will continue to do so for as long as we can and for as long as necessary. We can only hope this ends soon,” Sinclair said. “If you don’t help now, why are you helping? »