Ocean County mayor travels to Ukraine to help refugees

Mayor Paul Kanitra says he will reassess the situation in the coming weeks and consider returning to Ukraine if needed.
OCEAN COUNTY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- An Ocean County, New Jersey mayor is back home after returning from the border between Ukraine and Poland.

"We went over there with the mindset that if we could help just one person, we would consider the trip a success," said Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra.

Kanitra is like so many other Americans. He's been glued to his TV, horrified by the devastating images from the war in Ukraine as Russia continues to invade the country.

Kanitra was so moved by what he saw that last Friday, he took action and made a humanitarian trip to Ukraine to see what he could do to help.

"We had a 10 passenger van, which we used to shuttle some supplies to and from the refugee center are to the border crossing," said Kanitra.

He spent a week at the border of Ukraine and Poland and estimates he was able to help at least a thousand refugees with supplies, food, and other needs.

"You can see the looks on the parent's eyes when it gives them a couple of minutes of joy in what probably is going to be an ongoing very difficult situation," Kanitra said.

He's hoping his mission will motivate others to lend a helping hand.

"Everybody can help in their own way. Even if it is two dollars or five dollars, that buys somebody a hot meal over there," he added.

The mayor not only wanted to give back because he says it was the right thing to do, but he says his shore town has a strong connection to Ukraine.

For years, Ukrainians have staffed boardwalk jobs. He also has a family connection.

"I have Slavic background in my family tree. My great grandfather came over from Slovakia. My great grandmother came over from Poland, both bordering countries to Ukraine," said Kanitra.

Kanitra says he will reassess the situation in the coming weeks and consider returning to Ukraine if needed.

He is also planning to hold a benefit concert in the near future.

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