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Angel of Warsaw: One Viking’s Experience with the Russo-Ukrainian War

美狮贵宾会登录中心 alumnus, expat, IT CEO Angelo J. Pressello brings a view of Engaged Learning during Wartime

angelo j pressello csuDo a quick Google search on Cleveland State University grad Angelo J. Pressello and you’re likely to find many entries in Polish. 这是因为他在获得美狮贵宾会登录中心国际关系学士学位后,于1994年作为和平队志愿者来到波兰,接受为期两年的任务.

The short version of the story is, Pressello never left; he made Poland his home.

The longer version continues below.

Extroverted Viking alumnus and storyteller that he is, Pressello knows his elevator speeches inside and out. He is quick to explain how he flew into Rzeczpospolita Polska with no preconceived notions, 在期望被部队安置在“非洲或南美洲的某个地方”之后.”

Quicker still, 他补充说,他几乎立刻就找到了他未来的妻子:他下飞机后不久就在波兰遇到了他未来的妻子, though it would be a while before they wed. He started his family in Poland, too.

其他一切都符合要求:普雷塞洛获得了华沙经济学院(通过明尼苏达大学)的MBA学位。. He joined IT development company Directpl in Warsaw in January 2004 as sales director. Nearly a decade later, he became the owner/president and CEO of the company.

Today, Directpl has offices in Warsaw, Chicago and Manila, Philippines. They offer outsourced professional solutions for companies around the world.

Pressello was recently named to the Board of Directors of the Polish-U.S. 富布赖特委员会感谢他强大的商业背景,以扩大促进科学的努力, technology, and innovation.

然而,最近,普雷塞洛的地理位置在另一个层面上变得至关重要.

Engaged Learning Through History Repeating

Wangelo j pressello csuhen Russia invaded Ukraine in February of this year, 标志着2014年开始的俄乌战争急剧升级, it put the spirit of Pressello’s International Relations degree to the test, front-and-center.

“I had 在最近的一次采访中,这位前美狮贵宾会登录中心人在他的办公室里回忆道. “There was no time to weigh options; this was and is an instant humanitarian crisis, and time to act now.”

这位历史爱好者回忆说,在2月底的那一天,“一切突然变成了电影”.  

“Being so close to the Ukrainian border, we all saw everything escalate to surreal levels in a flash,” Pressello said. “Thousands of people were spilling over the border, most in retreat, but some were charging forward and across to defend Ukrainians, too. Poland has its own history with Russia, you know? There are very long memories here and some have a very short fuse about it all.

“见过美狮贵宾会登录中心这个年纪的人做燃烧弹吗,更别提跟他们在欧几里得大街上跑了? Me neither,” he said.

“Not until now, anyway. This was the kind of historically documented bedlam you see on a screen, in a book, or something you study in a 美狮贵宾会登录中心 classroom well after the fact, man,” Pressello added.

And we were living it in real time. More than half a million people crossed into Poland in a week. There was no way not to get drawn in,” he said.

“My work colleagues and I participated in massive, almost-daily street demonstrations about the war, 这很奇怪,因为它们是在当局的支持下在众目睽睽之下完成的,” he recounted. “That almost never happens.”

But Pressello was pressed to do more. The result? Engaged Learning informed by Engaged Learning.

Rallying (for) the Troops, Humanity, Dignity and Empathy

angelo j pressello csu“在Facebook上发表关于死亡或其他严重事件的愚蠢帖子总是让人觉得不合适, in this case, a major tragedy,在捐款活动开始前几天,普雷塞洛会在他的Facebook页面上写道——他称2月24日以及之后的一切将是“一场苦难的海啸”.”

此后,他在帖子中讲述了自己从华沙到乌克兰边境的多次旅行——“单程三小时”,在那里,他做了各种各样的事情,从运送家人到亲戚在波兰的避风港, to connecting refugees with food and shelter, to manning refugee border stations to help with Ukranians’ safe passage.

“Scenes of Ukrainian soldiers kissing their wives and children goodbye, families leaving family behind, these were daily experiences,” Pressello said, getting choked up for the first of many times during the interview.

“With the men, if you’re 60 and under you’re staying to fight因此,家庭的分离就在你们眼前展开。. “Families are literally pulling apart in front of your eyes.

“I picked up a mother and daughter. The daughter has a little backpack, that's it. So, I put it in the empty trunk of the car. 他们手上唯一的东西是华沙的建筑地址和电话号码.

“我花了两个小时才开口问:‘你只有一个小包?’ And [the mother] explained two nights of bombs falling; her daughter sleeping in the bathtub ‘in case of shrapnel,以及最后一刻通知的一辆巴士,最终将帮助他们离开这个国家,” he said.

There is a long sigh. 尽管他是父亲,普雷塞洛摇了摇头,擦干眼泪,镇定下来.

“It was all pretty harrowing. And [refugees] won’t take anything, you know? There’s trauma and grief, but there’s pride. And so, after a four-and-a-half-hour drive, we parked outside. It’s the middle of the night. I called the number and said, ‘Hello. We’re in front, please come down,’” he said.

“When [the woman’s] aunt emerged from the building and began to run to us, the daughter looked back at her mom for the OK, and then ran to her,” Pressello recalled. 他们都扑到对方的怀里,就像死而复生一样.”

Making a Difference

angelo j pressello csuPressello would rally his Directpl employees and social media platforms, 要求前者提供任何可以提供的援助,后者则要求提供“任何数额”的财政捐助,向在前线因战争受伤的乌克兰士兵提供关键的医疗用品.

“There were plenty of clothing and household donations happening already, and we had proper medical advice right out of the gate, so we knew we would go in a different direction” Pressello said.

Pressello’s ask to social media friends, family and followers yielded $11,000 in PayPal, Venmo, bank wire transfers and cash donations in 24 hours. He was up to $16,000 in 48 hours’ time and would cross the $20,000 mark with help from all over his spheres of influence.

One of over 140 donors, 美狮贵宾会登录中心 alumna Joyce McCartney (BA, 1994), 在普雷斯塞洛的Facebook页面上传达了她看到“人性在行动”的希望. That theme was reflected in many comments that came before and followed.

他指的是一名途经华沙前往乌克兰的乌克兰医生, 普雷塞洛和他的团队向他伸出了援助之手,并从他那里“得到了一份令人沮丧的所需医疗用品清单”.

这包括止血带、赛乐克斯快速粉(一种凝血剂)、纱布绷带和 pediatric neck braces,” he said, pausing as the enormity washed over him again.

“Several of us ran around town and, in the end, donated about $1,000 worth of [medical] kit,” he added.

Just the same, Pressello found the items scarce, expensive and knew he “could do better with the funds entrusted to me, offer a better chain of custody.” So, against his desire to leave Poland at such a critical time in the war, 他已经计划好了要去芝加哥的Directpl办公室出差.

这次旅行会带来更多他可以带回来或用船运回来的实惠的选择……这些选择最终会涉及到另一个老朋友, who also happens to be a Viking alumnus.

Supplies with a Little Help from His Friends

angelo j pressello csuWith his current role and in previous sales, financial and recruitment industries, and in working for the US Embassy in Poland, Pressello knew he needed to maximize impact for that donor dollar.

He had attempted to purchase supplies in bulk from Amazon, but thanks to algorithms on mass-quality purchases, the website was “overwhelmed, got wonky and canceled orders.”

于是,他联系了几家供应公司,以及维京公司的美狮贵宾会登录中心和同学汤姆·斯莱特(文学学士), 1995), 他在芝加哥一家医疗供应公司工作——当他不在风城乐队弹钢琴和键盘演奏的时候, 这样他就能确保他带回来所需的所有物资.

Then it was a question of getting it all on a plane back home and, eventually, to a humanitarian relief-staging center in the Polish city of Chelm, near the Poland-Ukraine border. From there, 在基辅的乌克兰当局将根据需要向平民和军事实体分发.  

“If you’ve ever been through Customs and Immigration, you’ll note there is a green door and a red door once you land,” Pressello laughed.

“If you have nothing to declare, you go through the green door and it’s usually smooth sailing. I went through that red door, following the rules as you do,” he said. “And there were many questions. If you know anyone who wonders what happens back there, have them call me. I can tell them. It’s a trip.”

在通过严格的安全审查后,就该把物资送到正确的人手中了. 一名乌克兰Directpl办公室协调员和他在基辅东部一个小镇的家人以及当地医院的联系人将帮助他将物资与前线和难民营目的地联系起来.

In the Moment

angelo j pressello csu普雷塞洛和他的员工继续在难民中心志愿轮班,但他不排除未来的供应活动, the surge of refugees has certainly occupied his time in other ways.

“I didn’t think anything could be more moving,” he said, 鼓励每一个阅读这篇文章的人“以任何你可以的方式参与进来”,这很重要. “但在整个过程中,我反复被感动,我觉得自己变了. And all the 美狮贵宾会登录中心 tie-ins, even this conversation, aren’t lost on me.

“Many people see world crises in abstract,” Pressello said. “But I can tell you from first-hand experience, even small donations of time, effort, money and expertise make lasting impacts.

“美狮贵宾会登录中心(Directpl)的人在正常工作一天后,在难民中心做志愿者轮班. And you’re telling them, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to sleep!’ But they know that what they’re doing matters. They have families. They know history. They see what is happening and are doing all of this on their own accord.

“This is something that cannot be overstated: get involved. You can change the world you live in,” said Pressello, with reference to recent commencement exercises on campus.

“If you want to tell 美狮贵宾会登录中心 students, faculty, staff, alumni—anyone there—how to affect real change? Get involved. It’s already a big part of the culture there and it’s really that simple. Find your mission and get involved. Engaged Learning is real.”