In her real life, Ewa Herzog is a designer, a pretty famous one actually.
The Berlin-based Ukrainian creative has been a household name in Germany for over a decade.
The thing is, Ewa Herzog hasn’t worked in her profession for three weeks now: She has slept in her car on a parking lot alongside Berlin's busy city highway.
Today, she is one of our many silent.
And she might be able to offer hope to a boy called Wanja.
Ewa Herzog’s Mobile Help Line
Since late February Ewa has been Berlin's most active aid network for Ukraine.
She, her sister and her friends coordinate daily truck deliveries with groceries, medical equipment and other urgently needed goods to cities in the Ukraine.
She started with just her mobile phone and a few Berliners willing to collect clothes and food.
Three weeks later, her collective of hundreds of helpers has transported 1.500 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukrainians.
How did all this happen?
“I talk to people directly. I am in close contact with mayors of cities and villages in Ukraine, because I want to know what is happening with our stuff.
I want to be sure that the people get the help directly, without middlemen.
I guess, by now, everyone in Ukraine has my mobile number.”
Ewa Herzog’s Silent Heroes
50 people listen closely as Ewa is talking.
We have gathered at The Reed, Alexanderplatz today.
Alexander Wolf – host and founder of the Foundation Aussergewöhnlich Berlin – asks Ewa Herzog about her incredible story.
Ewa talks about the families she and her friends have helped find shelter for, how she answers every call, how many Berliners are helping spontaneously.
She also mentions how official responses have been slow- and how the silent heroes are doing the job that normally our government should do.
And while all this has been going on, Herzog also founded a foundation to be able to create the right infrastructure for helping refugees on a larger scale.
When Citizens Do the Government's Job
Business as usual has been unthinkable in Berlin since the last week of February.
Not just for Ewa Herzog but for all of us.
Citizens have mobilized, where politicians have failed to take action.
They greet Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s main train station Hauptbahnhof.
They have opened their homes to strangers.
They have created an unprecedented network of professionals and civil citizens to support those affected by the war in Ukraine.
And they have acted fast.
Here at Aussergewöhnlich Berlin, we’ve once again been really fortunate with our network of members.
For two weeks now, our phones have been ringing off the hook while members and friends of members call us to find out where and how they can help.
It’s been quite an overwhelming and yet encouraging experience.
Members who just do it
Even after all these years, we’re still amazed to see just how willing and able members were to step up to the plate when the Ukraine crisis began, just three weeks ago: apartments, hotels and large spaces have been offered to house refugees.
Other members have stepped in to offer legal advice.
Yet again others were quick to donate significant amounts of products and money.
Ewa’s wish for Wanja
Ewa Herzog finishes by telling the story of Wanja, an 11-year old Ukrainian refugee.
Wanja and his mother have made it out of what is left of their city.
Now they’re stranded in Berlin.
The boy is heavily traumatized.
He doesn't want to play, eat or talk.
Like many children who have lived through a war, he's got the soldier's stare. But Ewa won't give up on Wanja.
She found out, Wanja plays soccer and he’s a huge Robert Lewandowski fan.
Ewa promised she would get him a personal message via Video if that would make him talk to her a little. Wanja agreed.
He said: “This would be a miracle.”
Ewa: “If we get Robert Lewandowski, you will believe in miracles again?”
Wanja: ”Yes, because then I'd know that miracles really happen.”
As Ewa finishes, 50 people sit quietly, not knowing what to say.
Then one of them breaks the silence: “We all know what to do now, right?
We make this miracle happen. Let's throw our contacts together and find Lewandowski's number.”
Sometimes it's better not to wait for help and most times miracles are performed by ordinary people.
Let's all pull together to make miracles happen. Let the people of Ukraine know that they are not refugees here.
They are our guests. Or rather… our friends.
If you’d also like to support the efforts to find shelter for Ukrainian refugees around town, please call our Transiträume hotline and speak to Moritz Tonn: 01776294109
If you’d like to donate goods, please visit Ewa Herzog here.
If you’d like to make a monetary donation dedicated to Ukraine, please do so using the word (Verwendungszweck) Ukraine and make your donation here.