In February 2022, Daveed Walzer Panadero came home from his job as a project manager, took a look at his two-year-old daughter, and had an epiphany.
His epiphany definitely improved – and maybe even saved – the lives of generations of people to come.
Daveed is an American. His daughter was born to a Ukrainian surrogate. So when the war broke out in Ukraine, he felt it hit close to home, even though it wasn’t actually happening close to home.
Many Ukrainian women, children, and elderly fled their homes (the men stayed to fight).
But fleeing was not an easy feat. It was one that had to mostly be done on foot. It’s not like they just jumped on an Amtrak to Paris and were eating croissants by dinner time.
They had no place to go, no way to get there, and oftentimes no money to support them on their journey.
Daveed was heartbroken and felt an urgent need to help these refugees. So that’s what he did.
A few days later, he left his daughter with his mother and bought a one-way ticket to Poland (where most of the refugees were headed).
Daveed didn’t speak Polish. Or Ukrainian. Or even Russian. I’m unclear on whether he spoke Mandarin, but that has nothing to do with this story so I’ll save that for my own personal research.
Daveed rented an AirBnB in Krakow, then went down to the train station where refugees were congregating. He announced that he had enough room to house five people. That first night, he gave a much-needed home to three sisters, a little child, and an 80-year-old great-grandmother who had all trudged across the border together.
When they left, he housed more people.
He kept doing this, over and over again. He fed them. He sometimes clothed them. He even bought some families’ plane/train tickets out of his own savings to help them on their journey.
He soon convinced five of his friends to join him in the efforts, and they began housing and caring for up to 75 refugees at a time.
It is estimated that Daveed helped care for and support more than 1,200 Ukranian refugees.
This is the point where I mention the term “radical empathy”.