Board of Directors Spotlight

FBMS Board Member & Husband Provide Aid to Ukrainian Refugees

We are incredibly proud of FBMS Board of Directors Vice Chair Mary Catherine Finn, and her husband, Bruce Ring, who traveled to Poland last year to provide medical care to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

Finn, a local pediatric nurse practitioner, and Ring, a primary care Internal Medicine physician, were disappointed that the State Department declared it was too dangerous to continue providing care on their yearly trips to an impoverished rural Haitian village medical clinic.

They had been going regularly since the 2010 Haiti earthquake. They felt the “think outside the box” skills they developed practicing medicine in a setting with intermittent electricity, no internet, and very limited medications or testing could be useful somewhere.

After several months of contacting large relief organizations, their congresspersons, and several journalists to no avail, they finally made a friend of a friend of a friend connection.

In October 2022, the two landed in a heavily fortified provincial airport in Rzeszow, Poland (pictured), where a driver took them near the Ukrainian border. This was to the first train stop outside Ukraine, where thousands of refugees found themselves uncertain what to do next or where to go.

Most had left quickly, and with just one suitcase. They had no choice but to disembark, as the cold war Soviet era rail lines were designed with a different track gauge as a deterrent against the West supplying invading armies by railroad. They were women, children, and the elderly, as the men stayed behind to fight.

Finn and Ring lived with the Ukrainian refugees in a dormitory style old building (pictured) with a cafeteria and a room converted into a medical clinic. (Mary Catherine Finn pictured in clinic) They sorted donated supplies and set up a mechanism to obtain additional needed medicines working with a Polish pharmacist. The two provided care for respiratory infections, hypertension, diabetes, and heart failure with the assistance of a refugee who had formerly taught English in a Ukrainian school.

Concerned that the approaching winter and close living quarters could bring widespread influenza and Covid outbreaks, Finn and Ring traveled to several refugee shelters to explain and answer questions. Then, set up a vaccination program.

Other than their language, the refugees were very much like middle-class Americans. But, they lived with the fear of never seeing their homes, their friends, or the rest of their families ever again.

Yet, in their true character, they constantly showed their appreciation of  their two medical volunteers.  In the converted exam room, in the cafeteria, in the hallways, everywhere, they said “dyakuyu,” thank you in Ukrainian. The children drew crayon pictures thanking the United States. When asked why a large recently arrived group of refugees all began crying one evening over supper, they replied, ”We finally feel safe.”

For the refugees, the war cannot end soon enough. Finn and Ring agreed, their trip was all about touching lives in some small way until peace comes for them.

Finn and Ring (pictured below), who live in North Easton, serve on our “A Path Home” Campaign Leadership Cabinet in support of our Brockton Housing Resource Center.

This story was featured in the Spring/Summer 2023 edition of FBMS' newsletter, "The Heartbeat."