( ) – Alfonso Herrera witnessed the scars that war leaves on a country, Ukraine in this case, and on its displaced persons.
The Mexican actor, Goodwill Ambassador of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), traveled with a United Nations team to Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia, where he met with people displaced by the war in course.
“It is heartbreaking to see what are the effects of the war, the wounds that the war leaves, the wounds that it leaves not only in buildings but also in people,” Alfonso “Poncho” Herrera told en Español via Zoom.
One of the cities that the Mexican actor visited was Lviv, which, although it is located in western Ukraine, has suffered from air raids by Russian forces.
There, Herrera recounted, her first encounter with some displaced people took place and, in particular, with two women: one who lost almost her entire family and an 80-year-old woman from whom the war took everything.
“I heard the story of an 80-year-old woman who lost everything and yet said: ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m going to get up and move on.’ Listening to an 80-year-old woman say I don’t care what happened to me, they destroyed my house, I have nothing, but despite that, I’m going to get ahead…. It lets you see the spirit and resilience that the Ukrainian people have,” recalled Herrera.
Sheltered in a bunker
In addition to his encounters with those displaced by the war, Poncho Herrera got to experience the scope of Russian attacks in its invasion of Ukraine. And it is that, on two occasions, both he and the UNHCR Americas team had to take refuge in a bunker because the sirens indicated the possibility of an air attack.
For a few minutes he was able to see, first hand, the reality that hundreds of Ukrainians live and that implies the need to hide from Russian air raids.
“Suddenly the alarm went off and we had to go to a bunker. And when we went to this bunker we were surrounded by children between the ages of three and eight. And the children were drawing. The children were playing and the teachers and tutors were assisting them to give them peace of mind, so that they would be calm. But this is not normal,” said the actor.
The other moment in which he had to take refuge, as he explained, was when they were about to take the train from Kyiv to the Ukrainian city of Úzhgorod, near the border with Slovakia and Hungary.
The lesson that the children left Poncho Herrera
One of the encounters the actor had in Poland was with Ukrainian refugee children. In images shared by UNHCR with en Español, the Mexican actor is seen drawing and talking about soccer with children. Precisely, those minutes with the little ones displaced by the war taught him about the value of living in the present.
“Children have tremendous resilience and they easily adapt to the context and environment in which they find themselves. That is why you have to give them a lot of assistance and help them. Every time I saw children, you had to be there, listen to them, play with them, because that’s what they want. They want to sit down with you and connect,” she shared.
Part of the actor’s visit was to raise awareness and promote aid and donations to UNHCR, in order to provide supplies and medical and psychological care to the displaced.
“The donation translates into food, housing, health, mental health. Mental health is a very complex issue because this war is something quite peculiar, since these people lost everything overnight. They went to the supermarket, they had their jobs and suddenly, overnight, they had to leave to save their lives,” Alfono Herrera explained.
Those interested in contributing to UNHCR’s efforts can do so. through the page of the organization.