Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Todd Gallagher (pictured far right) with his team as they load medical supplies into a military truck which will be distributed across Ukraine.
Town Talk – The “Bread” of the Community:
Todd Gallagher – Mission Possible!
By Lara C. Andreykovich • LCA11@pitt.edu
In the previous Town Talk article, I focused on spring and the Easter season as a joyful time of year involving self-examination and self-renewal. Considering the season and considering my Ukrainian ancestry, I couldn’t help but ponder how the Ukrainian people are experiencing the season – a season in which life and hope are supposed to prevail.
The Russian’s grave invasion of the Ukraine has filled my heart with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, as I witness the predictably unpredictable nature of war and its dire effects on the physical environment and morale of the Ukrainian people from a distance. I envision a once fruitful but now unrecognizable landscape foraged by voracious creatures – mortal instruments of war marching forth in cavalier cadence while leaving behind the long resounding dynamics of destruction.
Like many, I am feeling fatigued from my own reflections and the dismal projections of the media. Though I can’t fathom the depth of grief the Ukrainians are experiencing in the vile aftermath of Putin’s merciless actions, I have been blessed with the opportunity to convey a message of hope and love to you through a very special (and local) source. Initially, when I was asked to interview Todd Gallagher – a Parker native and missionary who has been doing extraordinary work in the Ukraine – I felt honored, but after an hour of speaking with him, I was simply astonished.
A little background: For the last eighteen years, Todd has engaged in missionary work teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in the states as well as overseas. But it was in 2004 while attending a global missions conference in Florida that his missionary role would transpire into a broader-reaching leadership position; here, he would meet his future wife, Veronika – a native Ukrainian. After marrying in 2005, the Gallagher’s served together at The Heights Baptist Church just south of Richmond, Virginia, setting up ESL and Vacation Bible School camps overseas. However, Todd’s leadership in the Ukraine would flourish significantly over the next ten years, when he would head one overseas trip per year. After having three children – Anya, Ella, and Niko – Todd fulfilled his calling and completed seminary in 2016. A year later, the family relocated to central Ukraine, about three hours south of Kyiv.
Mission unfolding: In January, the Gallaghers' trip to Poland was derailed due to Covid restrictions, so they opted for a ski trip in Brasov, Romania; three days into their trip, their jeep was hit by another vehicle, and during reparations, a gracious Romanian family hosted them. Subsequently, at the onset of the Russian invasion into the Ukraine, they were in Romania contemplating ways in which they could assist the refugees. It was at this place and time that an extension of Todd’s calling became realized; assisted by Veronika and a Romanian interpreter, Todd has become a well-regarded liaison between the Ukraine and Romania, organizing transportation and provisions for “over 400 refugees who made the trek out of Ukraine and into Romania”. The Heights Baptist Church designated a Facebook page to facilitate funding for the provisions.
Mission advancing: Since all supply channels were cut off, Todd partnered with a trucking company to transport medical and military supplies, fuel, and food and relocate people to hotel/bed and breakfast and apartment stays. Due to dangerous main roads, the trucks were limited to taking back-roads which extended their four-hour trips to seven. After the initial delivery, a local mall in Romania joined the coalition “to advertise and promote donations from the central Romania community”.
In the past two weeks, Todd has traveled from Brasov to Bucharest Romania, then by ferry to the Odessa region in southern Ukraine, “where there was significantly more fighting and destruction”. In Odessa, Todd and crew were able to deliver diapers and other pregnancy care items to a pregnancy care center; in addition, medicine and protective gear were provided to the military. Fortunately, Todd’s group did not witness any fighting, though they did encounter consequential fires.
Mission extraordinary: When I asked Todd about his most rewarding experience, it was clear he did not know where to begin; then he proceeded to tell me about Anna – a 37-year-old mother of seven who resided in Mariupol, one of the most heavily bombed cities in the Ukraine. Anna had had a liver transplant six months prior to the war and had run out of the organ anti-rejection medication for two weeks. Understanding the urgency, Todd and Veronika moved quickly and secured an appointment for her with a specialist in Brasov; there, she was “able to acquire the critical anti-rejection medication for her liver”. The support persisted, as Todd procured two vans to transport Anna and her family to a hospital in Paris, France, where she could receive the care necessary to recover properly. Todd explained, “She wouldn’t have lasted a week without the medication”. And as if those words hadn’t moved me enough, Todd added, “Anna wasn’t a believer, but that changed when this happened…that’s the miracle!”.
Mission continued: This week, Todd plans to visit Mykolaev, a city just east of Odessa, to deliver required medications and medical supplies, thermal imaging monoculars, binoculars, military knee pads, and provisions to a local church, who will then that distribute supplies to village civilians. He informed me, “The sprinter van I purchased from Germany arrived…just working to get it inspected and tagged with permanent plates to be able to take it out of the country”. Todd’s goal is to make one trip to the Ukraine per week.
Meanwhile, Veronika is spending time coordinating the extraction of an 80-year-old mother of a family friend from West Virginia who currently resides in the eastern Ukraine city of Poltava. Following in the Gallagher tradition, Anya and Ella (both fluent in English and Ukrainian) have established themselves as liaisons, teaching English to other children as well as interpreting/translating. I suspect that Niko is learning from them and preparing for his future role.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Todd what his outlook is on the future of the Ukraine and his accompanying mission. I also asked him his thoughts regarding the morale of the Ukrainian people. In response to the first question, Todd emphasizes, “In order for the country to return to normalcy, a lot of rebuilding needs to happen…and channels to help with jobs and businesses…I am prepared to continue getting supplies into tough places”.
Regarding the Ukrainians’ morale, Todd describes witnessing the ups and downs of emotional responses aligned with war-times deceitful rhythms – when the resonance of positivity in the subdued moments of the day transforms into bouts of pessimism and paranoia, re-ignited by the boom of nightlong firings.
In the wake of destruction, Todd’s humility, kindness, and generosity continues to be a humble testament to the Ukrainian people and a demonstration of his all-encompassing love for humankind. I feel proud and honored to have Todd Gallagher and his family as representatives of our local community in the Ukraine, and I feel confident that, after reading this article, your faith in humankind might be restored during this season of hope. Mine certainly was.
To find out how to give a tax-deductible donation, you may email Todd at email@example.com
Todd Gallagher is a 1984 graduate of Allegheny Clarion Valley High School.
Any local donations would be greatly appreciated.
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