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Bernadine Joselyn Spends 3 Weeks Helping Evacuees on the Ukraine/Poland Border

Bernadine Joselyn
Bernadine Joselyn traveled to the Ukraine Poland border to support evacuees from the war

Bernadine Joselyn, former diplomat with the US Department of State, recently traveled to the Ukraine/Poland border to assist refugees displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Heidi Holtan and Scott Hall spoke with Joselyn on the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show to share more about her connections to the region, her perspective on the conflict, and some of the stories of the people she met at the border. Click the player above to listen to the entire conversation.

Joselyn went to the Ukraine/Poland border to provide volunteer aid as part of a humanitarian group. "I was on the border, 15km from the actual border in the southern part of Poland" Joselyn said. "And that was a place where people who were fleeing the conflict were being dropped off. President Zelensky has forbidden men between the ages of 16 and 60 from leaving the country, so they are overwhelmingly female women and children."

There were two simple questions that Joselyn asked when people arrived at the border: Do you have anyone here in the West? And will you go back?

"Some people left hoping they would go back; they wanted to stay close, they wanted to return," Joselyn said. "Other people had left total devastation and they understand they will never go back. Those are the choices people are making and then we would help connect them with opportunities."

In the Morning Show conversation, Joselyn shared many details about her connection to Russian and Ukraine, including her past working for the US State Department and attaining education in international relations. However, through the work that Joselyn has been doing here in northern Minnesota for the Blandin Foundation, she was able to make a surprising observation that she shared.

"Do you know the number one thing these people needed when they got across the border?" Joselyn asked. "A SIM card so they could use their phone. If you have a phone, you have opportunity to get connected. You can find out 'when does the train leave? Where's a map?' You can call your daughter. If you didn't have a phone, you were dead in the water. And so we had 24-hour staffed volunteer banks, and people stood in line before they got food or went to the bathroom or anything, they went and got a new SIM card for their phone so they could connect."

For those people who can't travel to eastern Europe but want to support people displaced by the war, Joselyn recommends working with Alight organization.

If you'd like to read more about Joselyn's experience in her own words, The Minnesota Women's Press published a reflective essay written by Joselyn. Click here to access the essay.

Heidi Holtan has worked at KAXE/KBXE for over 22 years. She currently helms the Morning Show as News and Public Affairs Director where she manages producers, hosts local interviews and programs, oversees and manages web stories and establishes focus areas of programming like phenology, clean energy, Indigenous voices, Strong Women, local foods, clean energy, economic development and more. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North. In 2018 Heidi received the “Building Bridges in Media” award from the Islamic Resource Group for her work on KAXE/KBXE hosting conversations about anti-Muslim movements in rural Minnesota. During the pandemic, Heidi hosted 14 months of a weekly statewide conversation on COVID-19 for the AMPERS network.
KAXE/KBXE Senior Correspondent
Max Philbrook (he/him) is a Producer at KAXE focused on telling the stories of the people, events, and organizations that make up the fabric of northern Minnesota. Based out of Grand Rapids, Max spends his time reading fiction at the library, seeing sports and live music, and supporting the arts and cultural events in the area. Get in touch with Max if you have a story to tell, an event to publicize, or just want to chat about life in the northland.