This site was put up rapidly in 2022 to respond quickly to the Russian full invasion of Ukraine. RawTravelUkraine.com is currently re-designing for a longer-term expansion, with the new site set to debut in December 2023, so please stay tuned.
The new site will feature a repository of our extensive and growing content emanating from and dedicated to Ukraine, research, resources, and various ways you can help, from monetary to volunteering, to militarily and politically.
In the meantime, here are TEN tangible ways you can help now!
1) TRAILER: View and share the “My Summer in Ukraine” trailer.
2) VIEW OTHER UKRAINE VIDEOS: Videos produced before and after the full invasion HERE:
3) SEE PHOTOS: See photos from “My Summer in Ukraine” HERE.
4) READ BLOG 2023: “My Summer in Ukraine” 2023 HERE.
5) READ BLOG 2022: Summer of 2022 travel to Ukraine HERE
7) BUY MERCH: Empathy = Strength, Let Freedom Ring shirts and merch save lives. Order your Official Raw Travel “Empathy = Strength” Shirts and Mugs HERE
Order the Empathy = Strength T-shirt that Rob wears on the show, and $10 of every order will support our efforts to help those in Ukraine directly, including our videographer, Anastasia’s father’s troop, who desperately need essential supplies.
Your “Empathy = Strength” T-shirt, Sweatshirt or Hoodie will literally save lives.
Or check our new Coffee Mugs as well. Same deal. All profits (approximately $10) will go to help our pals at Care4Ukraine.org and Keep the Kids Learning.
– Travel Producer & Host to Speak at Fall 2023 Fundraiser for Ukraine in San Francisco –
NEW YORK, NY: October 5th, 2023 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), the producers of the internationally syndicated television series Raw Travel®, announced that Robert G. Rose, the Executive Producer and Host of the series will be a featured presenter at Warm Up Ukraine: Fall, a multimedia fundraising event to showcase Ukrainian culture through music, art, talks, and activities.
The event will occur on Saturday, October 14th, from 11 AM until 8 PM at the Midway in San Francisco. From 11 AM until 3 PM, the event willfeature talks on “Transformations for Good” from Ukrainian and American veterans, doctors, documentarians, volunteers, tech entrepreneurs, and more.
During his talk, Rose will premiere the official trailer of “My Summer in Ukraine” from the forthcoming travel documentary series to debut via Raw Travel in 2024 and photos and inspiring anecdotes from his travel to Ukraine in the summer of 2023 during an intense time of war.
“I’m honored to be able to share my life-changing experience traveling through Ukraine this summer to help raise awareness and funds for such a great cause,” said Rose. “I went to Ukraine to give something of myself, but I received so much more in return. Good people of good conscience cannot stand idly by while others suffer needlessly. I hope we can inspire more people to help a country and people who need our support and assistance, now as much, or more than ever,” Rose Continued.
Warm Up Ukraine’s mission is to raise funds for urgent causes and create a positive influence in Ukraine and among the community in the Bay Area. The funds raised from ticket sales and donations will help provide critical supplies to battlefield medics in Ukraine and bring innovative professional education to Ukrainian veterans.
In addition to TED-style talks and presentations, attendees can enjoy live performances by renowned Ukrainian and international musicians and DJs, discover and acquire authentic Ukrainian artworks, taste delicious Ukrainian-inspired food and drinks, and attend a series of classes for adults and children.
Other presenters include Evgeniy Maloletka, Pulitzer prize-winning Ukrainian journalist and photographer, who will discuss documenting war crimes, and Yuliia Matvieieva, a therapist, discussing communicating with war-scarred veterans. Also presenting are T.J. Collins and Lesya Kalynska from the documentary film “A Rising Fury,” speakers and companies working with people with physical impairments and PTSD, representatives from the End Violence Partnership, and many more.
Among the artists whose prints will be for sale include Iryna Babanina, Maryna Maliarenko, Slava Babanin, Tetiana Kopytova, and Vidro (Andrii Bunyak) and the music program will feature the Fima Chupakhin Trio and more.
Warm Up Ukraine: Fall is organized by and will benefit Leleka Foundation and New Horizons Hub, 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Ticket sales and donations are tax-deductible. For tickets and more information, please visit www.warmupukraine.org.
# # #
ABOUT RAW TRAVEL TV
Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves eco-tourism and voluntourism (giving back) themes uniquely with underground music and authentic culture. Since 2013, the show has raised funds and highlighted dozens of non-profit organizations helping the unhoused, orphaned children, people with disabilities, displaced refugees, etc., as well as encouraging earth stewardship, sustainable living, and travel with a purpose.
The show is broadcast in 185 U.S. cities on major broadcast affiliates and several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe…) each weekend. It can also be found on several major airlines.
AIM Tell-A-Vision Group produces the show and oversees its domestic and international distribution. Visit RawTravel.tv for more information.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) Group is an independent production, content, and distribution company founded by media veteran and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. Since 2000, AIM TV has produced and distributed positive, compelling content that reflects a mission of presenting “Media That Matters.” Visit AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
ABOUT LELEKA FOUNDATION & NEW HORIZONS HUB
Leleka Foundation is a non-profit that supports Ukrainian military medics with equipment and supplies. Since 2014, Leleka has raised over $8 million and provided thousands of first aid kits, backpacks, medical evacuation vehicles, and hospital supplies. With Leleka Ukraine, we work with front-line medics and are recognized as one of the most trusted and effective organizations in this area. Funds from Warm Up Ukraine: Fall will be used for equipment and supplies for field medics. Visit https://www.leleka.care/ for more information.
New Horizons Hub is a non-profit organization that supports veterans in rebuilding their lives by providing them with the education and essential skills needed to pursue a rewarding career in the tech industry. Visit https://www.horizonshub.org/ for more information.
Just when I think things can’t get any more surreal in Ukraine, the next day one-ups the previous. We were allowed rare access to a drone-flying school where we hung out with soldiers of various platoons for a full day, some fresh from the front and returning there the next day. This realization put me in a solemn mood.
It was final exam day, and the students had all passed with flying colors and received diplomas at the end of the day.
We took part in some of the drone-flying games out in the field. It occurred to me I was a legitimate Russian military target now. Still, if past history predicted future actions, the Russians were more likely to bomb a restaurant, hospital, daycare center, or playground than a military target.
It was a beautiful spring-like day. I could hear roosters crowing, mixing in with gunfire from a practice range a few miles away. Whenever the joy of the day’s beauty hit me, I was reminded of destruction, misery, and war. I was up and down all day.
One field exercise included hitting a target, kamikaze style. There were no bombs on these, as that would eat up too many drones during practice. But the drones had been souped up, built from scratch, and could scream through the air at incredible speeds. In the first round, I was taken to the practice field in a brand-new fancy Audi car, unsuitable for the barely-there dirt path and bumpy and muddy terrain. On the second, it was a junker that the soldiers and I could barely fit into, and the trunk kept popping open every time we hit a bump. It was apparent these were civilian cars being used for military purposes. These guys need more trucks.
Whether in a car or on foot, we stuck to the same route each time. The instructor informed me that we wanted to be careful not to veer off the path in case there were any unexploded ordinances, as we were on land that Russians once occupied.
The instructor knows what he speaks. He is from the Donbas region, which Russia invaded with the assistance of separatists in 2014. He recounted that he was captured by the Russians when he was just 17 years old and a minor, so they let him go… in the middle of a minefield.
At the time, apparently, the Russian military at least pretended to care about war crimes and didn’t want to kill a minor, so they hoped a minefield would do the job for them, giving them deniable plausibility. He disappointed them and somehow made it across the field in one piece. Now they’ve created a mighty enemy. I was reminded that this “special military operation” of Putin’s has been happening for almost ten years. But it’s even older, as Russia has attempted to destroy the Ukrainian people, culture, and language for centuries.
Later that day, the instructor who relayed this information to me found out one of his peers, a fellow instructor at another school and a good friend, had his right hand blown off by an unexploded ordinance and needed blood. He sent me a photo of the poor kid (very young looking) in a hospital bed, smiling… it was the anesthesia talking. Maimed Ukrainians will be just part of the Russian legacy and a long-time reminder of the shame that we should never allow them and their supporters to forget.
Next, we were shown a demonstration of drone flying skills on the homemade indoor course. It demonstrated the precision with which these machines are flown and the skill of Ukrainian drone pilots.
Drones are an inexpensive and efficient way to save lives. Soldiers’ lives are saved by allowing the pilot to be further away from the action. But there are challenges, not the least that the primary maker of drones, DJI, a Chinese company, has stopped manufacturing and importation to Ukraine and severely restricted neighboring countries’ importations.
Officially, the same policy from DJI applies to Russia. However, unofficially, according to Ukrainians, DJI supports Russia. I believe this is true. Anastasia purchased a brand new DJI Steadicam, and she could not download the software and app to use it for more than the 24-hour trial period simply because she is Ukrainian. Thankfully, I was with her and could download it on my phone in order to use her new gear.
The Chinese government doesn’t seem to care about morality, the systematic and state-sponsored murder of innocent children, or right or wrong, but only about money and geopolitics. While some may argue the same applies to the United States of America, and while the US history of intervention isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t buy it here.
The “what about” and “both sides-isms” is just a way for weak-minded people unable to distinguish nuance and feel better about supporting what deep down they know is evil. Again, 1,000 plus Ukrainian children were killed versus zero Russian children. I could list dozens more facts like this but isn’t that all you really need to know. Arguments stop there. There is no justifying the unjustifiable.
And the Russian people are not totally innocent in these atrocities. One other journalist on location, a Ukrainian photojournalist, recounted an all too familiar story of a family torn apart by the war. His father lives in Moscow and believes Russia is correct in invading Ukraine. It’s common to write off this widespread belief that everyday Russians do not have accurate information on the war, BUT his son lives in Ukraine. He knows the facts of civilian carnage and the killing of innocent children and the elderly (presumably pensioners like the father).
He’s been told of the maiming, orphaning, and kidnapping of Ukrainian children by Russia, and he CHOOSES to believe what Putin has to say. Indeed, some in the USA believe that we should “listen to what Putin has to say” (Rock Musician turned Country Artist Loon, Aaron Lewis of the 2000s band Staind, Tucker Carlson, formerly with FNC, a variety of right-wing politicians, and their ignorant and ill-informed followers).
Anastasia’s Ukrainian soldier boyfriend has a cousin who lives in Russia and believes Russia should kill Ukrainians until Ukraine “comes to its senses.” You can’t reason with people with such beliefs; you can only defeat them.
As the students received their diplomas, I noticed the cheerful atmosphere. It dawned on me that most of these men hadn’t even known each other 11 days prior (school is only 10 days long) and now were jocular and jovial with each other and me. They shared a bond of war, sadness, and now of drone school and joy.
I, however, had to struggle with my emotions, understanding that some of these men I’d grown to admire over the past few hours might not make it back in one piece.
But eventually, at the ad hoc barbeque celebration that evening, I let go of my somber mood. For a moment, I was in high school again, back home in Tennessee, hanging with my buddies by a bonfire. Indeed, many of these men could have passed for avid hunters down south with their beards, bowie knives, and humor… I felt completely at home though only a couple (former IT or businesspeople in civilian life) spoke any English.
As the evening wore on, it got windy, chilly, and cold. Someone loaned me a hoodie to keep me warm. They ensured my plate and my glass was filled, even though I was a visitor, not accounted for when they bought the provisions.
A couple had eyed me slightly suspiciously all day, probably because they were wary of having their image taken by a foreign journalist. That can be dangerous here, for them if captured, or their families live in occupied territory. I, of course, was very conscientious of this fact. Still, ALL warmed up to me that evening.
As they recounted stories from the battlefield, comrades and family members lost, with translations made for my sole benefit, I tried to keep it together. They were stoic and strong, So I must try. I felt a kinship with these men, along with a deep admiration. I said so in my toast, which Anastasia translated for me. But I couldn’t find the words in English, much less translate them to Ukrainian to fully express my feelings. Still can’t. War absolutely sucks, but witnessing Ukraine’s fight for freedom is THE noblest cause I have ever been a part of. I feel so blessed and humbled to have played even a small role.
PLEASE NOTE: Though I have permission to post photos, out of an abundance of caution, I’ve decided not to include faces or landmarks that might give away ANY sensitive information.
JULY 19th, 2023 – Driving from Kyiv to the Southern parts of Ukraine, I can see that farmland is everywhere and that Ukraine is the world’s breadbasket. Wheat is ripening. Fruit is in season. Farms, as far as their eyes can see, make the flooding brought on by the Russian destruction of the Kakhovka Dam so unspeakably harmful.
Yesterday Mark & Hymie arranged for us to embed with the Red Cross offices of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv to help them assess and help the victims of the flooding of their neighbors in Kherson Oblast (Oblast is like a state in the U.S.) caused by the June 6th eco-terrorism event from the Russians destroying the Kakhovka dam.
After a briefing, some coffee, and some getting lost, we finally made our way from Mykolaiv to a small community where a local school now serves as a relief site where distressed locals can pick up food, clothing, water, etc. The children’s playground was full of lovely little kids playing under the watchful eyes of their mums. (Yes, I’m talking a bit British these days, thanks to a few days in the van with Hymie, who hails from London).
Just across the street was a destroyed building with a man selling fruit next door. I have mostly stopped taking photos or videos of demolished buildings as it is becoming redundant and a common site. But it was not lost on me that it was directly across the street from a school. I posted something on Instagram (you can follow at Instagram.com/RawTravelTV ) about taking a risk jogging by a Russian military target, a playground recently because so many Ukrainian children have been killed or maimed on them by the Russians, who seem not to value anyone’s life or humanity. I digress.
The Soviet-style playground for the school was like a look back into the 1970s or 80s at the height of the cold war, today all painted blue and yellow, Ukrainian colors, which would not have been allowed back then. Of course, I toured the outdoor toilet. Too bad “Don’t Skip the Loo” is already in “the can,” as it would have been good footage. At the school, we loaded a big water bladder capable of holding 10K liters of water to act as a water tank for two villages. This would be a test run; if successful, more would roll out.
In all, we visited two villages with the Red Cross. The smells in the villages where the water had now receded were intense, where the flood water had receded. The first village was unique in that when the Russians once occupied it, the village head did not flip to the Russians to save his skin but stayed loyal to Ukraine.
The seemingly tight-knit community gathered around to collect water and gossip. The town is luckier than most because electricity has been restored, though some are afraid to turn it on because many of the homes are still wet.
Hymie donated one of her brand-new laptops, courtesy of the Royal Bank of Montreal, to the “mayor” and the administrative center.
The next village was far away over some bumpy roads and not a very pleasant ride in the backseat of a cargo van. As we rolled up, it was apparent it had been completely devastated by the flood and the adjoining farmland, on which I assume the village once depended.
We dropped off the water bladder and toured a couple of the homes. The first home I toured had a giant collapsed sinkhole right next to the house.
Valentina is the sweetest grandmother, and she immediately grabbed me and started talking to me as she pulled me into her home, speaking in Ukrainian the entire time. I got the feeling she wanted me to witness her pain and what the Russians had done to her home as she encouraged me to film.
When Hymie walked in, she continued but broke into tears, with Hymie comforting her and me fighting back my own (something I’m getting used to as well) as I continued to film.
Artem, one our Kharkiv Red Cross bi-lingual contacts, translated for us. Valentina had been in this house for 54 years and raised a family with her husband. Some of her children had become medical professionals, but most were teachers. It was all gone within just 12 hours as the water rose and destroyed their home along with their garden upon which they depended.
You could see carefully saved items out in the front yard and on the upper reaches of the house, out of reach from the flood waters, containing beautiful religious imagery and lovely chandeliers. This was once a lovely home put together and was tended with tender loving care by its owners, who likely weren’t even remotely wealthy as they were subsistence farmers. Still, it was obvious that they took excellent care of what they had been blessed with.
A family photo album was drying in the sun out front, which was particularly upsetting. Luckily the photos seemed in good shape.
Valentina’s adult daughter, Natalia, came in and spoke a little English. I toured the home with both of them and picked up some words here and there. Somewhere in the conversation, I tried to ask if they spoke Ukrainian or Russian so I could figure out if it was better to say “Dyakuyu” (“thank you” in Ukrainian) or “Spasiba” (“thank you” in Russian) since we were in Southern Ukraine where Russian was also spoken. (Russian was the only language taught in schools during Soviet times as the Soviet government tried mightily to stamp out the Ukrainian language and all signs of Ukrainian culture and identity).
I couldn’t verbalize it properly, so I did what I always do when I run into an awkward silence with folks and let out a “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine), to which they both brightened, smiled, and even laughed as they let out the response “Heroyam Slava” which means “Glory to the heroes.” When we left Valentina’s uninhabitable home to tour other homes, Valentina was far from defeated. She was a bit defiant. Talking about how the Russians would never win and that they would rebuild as soon as she got the materials in hand.
I tried to give them a little money, but they staunchly and vehemently refused. I can’t understand much of Ukrainian, but I understood that they just want the building materials and will rebuild themselves. While inspiring, I’m not sure how true that may be because the farmland all around the village, on which they rely for a living, has been ruined for decades. The smell alone was toxic, and I was unsure when the air would be safe.
With the village leaders (a woman this time), we toured around the rest of the village, where I saw a boat sitting in the middle of the street and a ruined honeybee colony. The next house was in much worse shape than Valentina’s and was well beyond repair, so they had yet to bother with any cleanup.
The air was so dank and horrific I used my shirt to cover my nose and mouth and watched carefully where I stepped. There was very little salvaged from the house, but a well-fed dog whined as I passed by. I felt the same way. The smell became overwhelming, and I realized I might be breathing in toxic chemicals, not to mention walking around in it, so we left off touring the flooded homes to do something to actually help these folks and install the water tank.
It reminded me a bit of the public works projects I often see, where it appears a couple of folks are doing all the work. Everyone else is standing around, but I have a new perspective now. Everyone had a role in driving, manual labor, or engineering. And everyone did their part when it was time. Village members made their way over to offer their help or just opinions. It was a relaxed atmosphere. I filmed everyone getting some big stones to serve as the roadblock to keep anyone from driving over the flaccid bladder of the water tank lying on the pavement, waiting to be filled with H2O. We had a little world-central kitchen food the Red Cross folks had brought in, which was welcomed (support those guys if you can). We were on high ground, away from the flooded area and toxic air.
All was peaceful and tranquil when we heard what sounded like thunder. I know by now that it was not thunder. Mark, our group’s retired marine and military expert, commented that it must have been a big blast to carry all that way.
A few minutes later, I wandered off to a field to record a video diary and noticed plumes of smoke on the horizon. They grew bigger and whiter as the day wore on, and Mark was afraid the Russians may have bombed a Ukrainian ammunition dump. Turns out, it may have been the other way around, as I read later. I hope so.
Either way, the realization that most likely people (be it Ukrainian or Russian, it’s a tragedy in my eyes) died when I heard that first thunderous boom sobered me even more.
On this day, in this small village tour with the Red Cross, we were told we didn’t need our body armor, and I think that was a correct call. Though visible and within hearing distance, the bombing was far away and was likely a targeted missile. However, we read in reports that a 27-year-old man had been killed in his home in Kherson, the town we visited the day before. I’m not 100% sure of the odds, but it feels a bit like getting struck by lightning. Your odds of getting hit are stronger in a raging thunderstorm, and the thunderstorm rages constantly in Kherson and near the front. The further you are away from the front, the less likely you are to get struck.
I’m torn between showing war and devastation or the normalcy we feel most of the time in most of the country. Both are true, and both are realities. I don’t want to glibly pretend that life is pleasant in Ukraine or that it’s constant fear and danger here. I simply wish to show the reality as I experience it, not on the front lines, but as a DIY travel journalist embedded with volunteers.
As we drove to Mykolai to spend the night before returning to Kyiv the next day, I reflected on the last three days and how I’d changed.
I was no longer nervous or afraid… now I was just profoundly sad yet somehow content… and an odd mix that adds a new perspective to the cliche of “mixed feelings.”
And I wondered how it would have been such a great road trip if only no war had been raging.
KHERSON OBLAST – Is a “state” in Southern Ukraine, partially controlled by Ukraine and partially Russian Occupied. The city of “Kherson” is fully controlled by Ukraine after several months of Russian occupation in 2022 and is about five miles from the “front.”
June 9th, 2023 – Day two of my trip, I was so tired that I spent 15 minutes thinking I was locked IN my apartment share because I was pushing a pull door. I was JUST about to call the apartment owner when I figured it out. Thank goodness. The language barrier is terrible enough without her thinking I’m just plain dense. So don’t expect this written account to be anything one would write home about.
Still, making my way from Krakow (Crack-of for the pronunciation police) to Przemyśl almost a year after our filming here was moving. Leaving Krakow by train was NOT easy. I got yelled at twice at the Krakow train station, once by the ticket agent and another by the security guard. They were angry I spoke English and didn’t know where I was going. I suppose. Touristy places always have a resentful local or two, and I get it; I’m the same way in NYC. Still, I don’t yell at people who ask me a question. I wonder if they realize how much their salary depends on travelers like me.
But Valentina came in to save the day. Valentina (Pictured with me) is 1/2 Polish and 1/2 Italian. She was traveling to visit her grandparents for the summer, something she’s done summer after summer for many years. She also spoke good English, helped translate for me, and ensured I got on the correct train because the information was sparse. We were in the same car coincidentally, so I paid her back by helping her with the luggage.
But boarding the train at Krakow was the biggest disorganized circus I have EVERY seen. And so unnecessary too! Everyone has an assigned seat; what’s with the stupid chaos? Is this a roller derby match or an MMA event?
I have a nice shin injury from a roller suitcase slamming me during the scrum. People filed onto our car from both ends, meeting in the middle in a too-narrow aisle that would not allow either to pass the other with luggage. We were at a standstill for a good five to ten minutes with no one willing to back down before I jumped in, in English, and began ordering people around. They listened to me?! and thanked me! I couldn’t believe it. Then they asked ME where to get off for THEIR stop, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s enough now… this is my first time taking a train from Krakow to Przmesyl. And maybe my last.
Also on the train were two very sweet Ukrainian refugee women (sisters or maybe a YOUNG grandmother and daughter) with a young baby in tow. Unlike the Polish ticket agent and Security Guard, they were exceedingly helpful in getting me on the right train. They said they were worried they had “lost me” when they saw me on board afterward.
So by the time the train was halfway to Przemyśl, I felt I knew 1/2 the car, though hardly anyone spoke English, and just an hour earlier, I knew NO ONE. That’s travel. That’s why I love it.
The World Central Kitchen Volunteers are gone at the Przemyśl train station. In fact, I didn’t see a single volunteer of ANY organization welcome the exhausted and on-edge refugees who were on the train from Krakow and, like me, heading back to Ukraine. There is a war still going on, you know? In fact, it’s worse than before in my observations thus far. People are STRESSED to the limit.
Elderly women and ladies with tired children dragging their massive suitcases up and down flights of stairs disheartened me. I saw two disturbing bouts of distress, one from an elderly lady upset about something with her, I assume, adult daughter… and another young girl, 8 or 9, I’d say, also scarily upset and causing a scene and evidently super stressed with her family about something. The psychological toll of this horror show has yet to be played out, but I saw a sneak preview today, and it was NOT good.
I missed Anastasia’s language skills several times today, not just on getting from Point A to Point B but also on more practical matters. I had to buy dental floss at the Pharmacy and test my charade skills. Deodorant was fun too. Thankfully…. all stocked up on toilet paper, but I’ve got the perfect charade move ready to go should I need to get some.
Walking to the San River, I met a colorful “anti-war” protestor on the bridge. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand precisely how the war might be ended (since Russia is 100% in charge of that situation) as his English was minor and my Polish was nil. Not suitable for such a complex subject.
If Mr. Ant-War Protester has any good ideas on how to end this madness and ensure that this NEVER happens again (we know that won’t happen if Putin wins), I’m all ears because witnessing people mentally breaking down is not fun to watch; not to mention the physical toll I’m ABOUT to see first-hand.
Still reminiscing in Przemyśl (Shey-mish for the pronunciation police) has been fulfilling. I wish I could stay longer, but I hope to see it again on the return trip in a few weeks.
Tomorrow, I’m off to cross the border back to L’viv for a few days before continuing into Kyiv. Nervous and excited, of course. I have some plans. It will be very different this trip. More on that later.
Sorry for the stream of consciousness, but I don’t have time to write correctly. I have more push doors to try to pull open.
RAW TRAVEL WINS TWO TELLIES FOR “STEADFAST IN UKRAINE” – For Ten Seasons I resisted nominating Raw Travel for any awards, for a variety of reasons I won’t get into. However, I felt it was finally time to allow the people who worked on the very special “Steadfast in Ukraine” to garner some well-deserved recognition. Some shows may be titled “Solo in…” but they are anything but. Television is a collaborative medium, and thankfully so, as I enjoy nothing more than working with fellow creators to hopefully create something of value.
Congratulations to Creador Pictures (Editing), BtOVEN Music (Sound Design), Chaliwa Music + Sound (Audio Mix), Anastasia Zui (Videographer) Julia Avramenko (Consulting Producer), for winning the Silver in “TV – Travel & Tourism” and the Bronze for “TV – Video Journalism.”
Also, a shout out to fellow Telly Award winner Mickela Mallozzi of “Barefeet with Mickela” who convinced me to apply, proving she’s broad-minded and big-hearted enough to know it’s all about “coopertition”, not competition. Press Release Below:
RAW TRAVEL’S “STEADFAST IN UKRAINE” WINS AWARDS Visit to Ukraine During Wartime Wins Two Telly Awards in Two Categories
NEW YORK, NY: May 31st, 2023– AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), producers of the nation’s most-watched travel show, Raw Travel®, announced their episode “Steadfast in Ukraine,” featuring a visit to wartime Ukraine garnered two Telly Awards. The episode won a Silver Telly in the Television, Travel and Tourism category and a Bronze Telly in the category of Television, Video Journalism.
The special episode featured Executive Producer, Writer, and Host Robert G. Rose as he and Ukrainian refugee videographer Anastasia Zui traveled from Poland to film in Western Ukraine. Anastasia, a talented cinematographer and regular member of the Raw Travel crew, is a twice-displaced refugee from the Donbas region. In the episode, she continues from Lviv to Kyiv to reunite with her mother for the first time since fleeing the country with her young brother. At the same time, her father serves in the military.
The episode also documents the difficulty and misery of crossing borders during wartime and an impromptu “off-camera” interview with an anonymous escapee from then-Russian-occupied Melitopol. There is also a life-affirming on-camera exchange with a recently injured Ukrainian soldier and an emotional visit to the ever-expanding Lychakiv Cemetery, where recently killed soldiers are buried. All set among the unpredictability, suspense, and drama of air-raid sirens as Russia fires missiles into Ukraine.
But the show’s primary theme is the Ukrainian people’s steadfast, optimistic, and hopeful spirit as they bravely fight for survival and freedom.
In addition to Anastasia and Robert providing videography and direction, the episode was edited by Renzo Devia, Executive Producer at New York City-based Creador Pictures, and sound designed by New York City-based BtOVEN Music. The episode was audio mixed by Chaliwa Music + Sound in Miami, Florida. Julia Avramenko, a Ukrainian television professional living in New York City, provided Consulting Production services.
“Winning awards is never our objective, especially in this case,” says Robert G. Rose, Producer and Host. “However, I felt it was important for the creatives on this special episode to be recognized for their work and professionalism, especially under the circumstances. I’m grateful for the Tellys for recognizing their achievements,” Rose continued.
Raw Travel is currently in its Tenth Season of broadcast syndication and can be viewed in 180 U.S. cities in over 96% of US TV homes. Viewers have thus far helped raise over $20,000 to support grassroots organizations such as Care4Ukraine.org and Keep the Kids Learning, two organizations led by Joseph Nichols, an American logistics professional living in Ukraine. Viewers may visit RawTravelGiveBack.com to learn more and donate.
Multifaceted Media Campaign Poised to Help Ukraine for the “Long Haul” –
NEW YORK, NY: June 1st, 2022 – AIMTell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), producers of the nation’s most-watched travel show, Raw Travel®, announced “Let Freedom Ring inUkraine” to help Ukrainian refugees. The multi-platform and multi-faceted initiative will provide grassroots, long-term financial, and tangible assistance to externally and internally displaced Ukrainian refugees and citizens affected by the Russian invasion.
In June, producer, and host, Robert G. Rose will be filming in Paris, France, and then at the border of Poland and Ukraine with Raw Travel videographer and displaced Ukrainian refugee Anastasia Zui. Conditions permitting, they hope to go into Ukraine embedded with “Keep the Kids Learning” and “Help 4 Ukraine,” two small, independent organizations founded by American logistics engineer Joseph Nichols, living in Ukraine, and other Expatriates. The grassroots organizations are dedicated to helping keep Ukrainian refugee children and teachers in school and moving needed medicines and medical supplies from the US and Europe into Ukraine.
On July 2nd and 3rd,2022 just before USA Independence Day, Raw Travel will premiere a special episode entitled “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine.” The special will feature updated, relevant Ukrainian segments that showcase the country before the 2022 invasion, along with updated narration and ways viewers can help. The episode will re-air on August 27th-28th.
“Raw Travel offered valuable context to viewers when filming in Ukraine and the border areas of Russian-occupied Georgia in 2019,” said Robert G. Rose, Executive Producer and Host of the series. “Given our past coverage of Russian aggression’s consequences in both Georgia and Ukraine, we feel we can offer a unique perspective,” Rose continued. “I think we can show a different, potentially more uplifting angle of this tragedy that may inspire people to help the many good folks and organizations helping Ukraine on the ground, long after the raw emotion of Russia’s 2022 invasion has subsided, but the need persists.”
The “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine” effort has already begun in a limited capacity
with on-air billboards and social media posts encouraging viewers to visit
RawTravelGiveBack.com. The special web page is a constantly evolving, dedicated entry point for concerned viewers. There, they can get updates about Ukrainians featured in the show and donate directly to vetted organizations or buy specially designed Raw Travel “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine” merchandise (shirts, mugs, glasses, etc.) benefitting the efforts of these organizations.
Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism and voluntourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a unique way. Each weekend the show is seen in 174 U.S. cities on major broadcast affiliates and several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe…). It can also be found on several major airlines. AIM Tell-A-Vision Group produces the show and oversees its domestic and international distribution. Visit RawTravel.tv for more information.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) Group is an independent production, content, and distribution company founded by media veteran and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. Since 2000, AIM TV has been producing and distributing positive, compelling content that reflects a mission of presenting “Media That Matters.” Visit AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
ABOUT KEEP THE KIDS LEARNING AND CARE 4 UKRAINE
Joseph Nichols is a US Citizen and logistics expert that has lived and worked in Ukraine since 2014. He and other US Expatriates are raising money for medical supplies and medicines distributed to Internally Displaced People (IDPs – Ukrainians displaced within Ukraine). They are also purchasing computers, books, and supplies to set up learning centers in Lviv, Ukraine, for children that the conflict has displaced. They have established transport lines across the Ukrainian/Polish border into most areas of the country and have received donations of supplies, equipment, and medicines. They are also offering space on trucks to other aid groups. Visit https://gofund.me/13be73ab and https://gofund.me/06fa1840 for more information on Keep The Kids Learning and Care 4 Ukraine.
I’m including below the latest update from Joseph there, who is planning a trip back to the USA to gather medical supplies, etc. to take back. I hope to catch up with him in person or by zoom. My trip to Ukraine has been delayed a bit until early June, but it’s still on.
Thank you for all your support once again!
Here’s the latest update from Joseph at Care4Ukraine / Keeps Kids Learning.
As you might know, the areas we are starting these “pop-up” classrooms are located in the western region of Ukraine. Not only have IDP’s relocated from where the intense fighting is concentrated to cities like Lviv, Ternopil, and Uhzgorod, but also to the smaller villages. Recent attacks in the west have knocked out power in many places and our sister-site on GoFundMe – “Care4Ukraine” is beginning to address needs of IDP’s in these areas. Many refugees are returning to Ukraine as the war drags on. Issues like the higher cost of living and separation from family takes it toll, and the choice to return begins to look better than being a refugee in a foreign country. It is now estimated that there are eight million IDPs in Ukraine, economic output is down more than 50%, and the conflict is growing more intense each day.
Thank you for your help. Joseph
UPDATE May 2nd, 2022 –
ROB INTERVIEWS JOSEPH NICHOLS OF “KEEP THE KIDS LEARNING” FROM UKRAINE – Rob caught up with Joseph via zoom, while Joseph was making a quick trip to Chicago to pick up some medical supplies to take back to Ukraine.
200th Episode in 2023 Will Mark End to Remarkable & Unlikely Run
NEW YORK, NY: March 30th, 2022 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), producers of the nation’s most-watched travel show, Raw Travel®, announced today that their upcoming Season 10 (2022-23) set to debut this September, will mark the show’s final full season of original productions. The show’s last season is scheduled to end in September 2023 with the production and broadcast of its milestone 200th episode.
The producers are currently editing the back-half of its ninth season (2021-22). Still, they have already begun filming for Season 10 and planning for the show’s finale season, which will feature a season-long celebration.
The celebration will include “Look-Back” promos, trip and gear giveaways, and culminate with a big celebratory event in New York City to celebrate the show’s unlikely ten-season run.
The producers also announced that the show will continue in syndication with re-runs until at least September 2025, with Seasons 11 and 12 mining their library of 200 (primarily evergreen) episodes. Incumbent stations will have first-right-of-refusal to carry the library content. The library will also feature never-before-seen digital and broadcast content such as international segments, producer commentary, did-you-knows, behind-the-scenes, and refreshed content when appropriate.
“This has been a surreal ride, and it’s far from over, but I see an exit ramp,” said Robert G. Rose, Executive Producer and Host of the series. “We felt strongly about presenting a new kind of travel show focusing more on travel than celebrity while communicating the importance of social responsibility wherever travel takes us. We haven’t achieved all our objectives, but there is time yet, and I can say the show long ago far exceeded my expectations. We’re excited about the future and producing our most memorable and important season to date with Season 10,” Rose continued.
Highlighting the importance of the show’s final season, the producers are planning a trip to the border of Poland and Ukraine to film a “Giveback” themed episode on the Ukrainian refugee crisis. They hope to showcase how travel and tourism, combined with giving back, can create a more fulfilling travel experience. They are also raising funds from viewers and fans to help refugees. Raw Travel visited and filmed in Ukraine twice in 2019 and offered valuable pre-war context to viewers. More information on their efforts to help in Ukraine can be found at RawTravelGiveback.com
Raw Travel’s milestone Season 10 begins September 19th, 2022, and the final broadcast will occur the weekend of September 16th and 17th, 2023.
An Important Message from Raw Travel Videographer Anastasia Zui
UPDATED November 20th, 2022
Nov. 20th, 2022 – We recently met up with Joseph of Care4Ukraine.org in Kansas City as he was loading up on supplies to try to help Ukrainians through what will be a brutal winter. In addition to medical supplies, Joseph picked up solar-powered generators and water filtration kits. This is much needed with Putin targeting Ukraine’s power grid and Ukrainian winters so brutally cold.
2. Donate to our Go Fund Me page HERE – All proceeds go to our friends at Care4Ukraine.org who are helping refugee children stay in school and getting medical supplies to the front lines.
3. Donate directly to Keep the Kids Learning & Care4Ukraine.orgHERE – and read more bout their mission at Care4Ukraine.org
4. Read about our unique connection to Ukraine and our efforts to help our friends below. Please tell your friends.
5. Watch – Our trailers from “Visiting Ukraine in Wartime” and “Steadfast in Ukraine,” the first episode in our series of episodes filmed in Ukraine last summer. Please share and help us spread the word.
6. Follow Raw Travel and Care4Ukraine.org on social media @RawTraveltv and learn about Ukraine and other ways you can help. Such as offering moral support to the people in Ukraine, fighting disinformation and Russian propaganda, learning about the history of Ukraine’s relationship with Russia, and more.
RAW TRAVEL HELPS ANASTASIA BUY A TRUCK FOR THE TROOPS – Posted October 15, 2022
I am very excited that Raw Travel was able to help our videographer Anastasia help her father’s platoon obtain a truck to continue Ukraine’s victory against Russian Occupiers & Terrorists. And I’ll also say a big thank you to everyone who has donated at RawTravelGiveBack.com to help us on our humanitarian mission of educating refugees at “Keep the Kids Learning” and donating medical equipment to “Care4Ukraine“
READ ABOUT MY TRIP TO UKRAINE IN WARTIME – Posted July 3rd, 2022 – I’ve just returned from filming in Przemyśl, Poland & Lviv, Ukraine. It was an intense shoot full of mixed emotions. We met many volunteers on both sides of the border, committed to helping Ukrainian refugees, including many Americans from places like Massachusetts, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, California, DC, and more. We witnessed firsthand the great work organizations like World Central Kitchen, Unicef, and The Red Cross are doing.
I also witnessed first-hand the fear and trauma Ukrainians must go through daily as air-raid sirens forced us into bomb shelters at various times, day or night.
We met a particularly inspiring soldier, BMW (nickname), fresh from the front, who was recently injured and thankful for American support. He was on injury leave. He’d recently had three fingers blown off by a missile attack near the front.
He assured me that he felt his American donated flak jacket saved his and many fellow soldiers’ lives. His wife and children were with him. Their gratitude and his bravery were palpable. He was heading back to the front the following week.
I met several refugees. One recent arrival was a young man of 17, on his own for the first time in his life and seemingly unmoored. The rest of his family remained behind in the fighting. I think our visit cheered him a bit.
I met another from Russian-occupied Maritopal who had recently escaped (bribed his way out).
Still, since his family remained behind, he couldn’t be on camera for fear of retribution. The stories he relayed to us off-camera (but with audio rolling were horrific).
Thanks to reconnecting with our friend Diana Borysenko of Diana Western Ukraine Tours (Season 7’s “Lovely Lviv”), we were able to revisit the Saints Peter & Paul Church where local soldiers’ funeral services are held.
Unlike in 2019, there are many more photos on the Memorials to accommodate the 200-300 soldiers perishing daily (reportedly at the time of our visit) and their tragically orphaned children.
This is the moment in the trip when officially my heart began to break.
Diana then drove us to the famous National Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, where they’ve recently had to add a massive Mars Field to accommodate all the freshly dead Ukrainian soldiers.
This part of the day was perhaps the most challenging of the entire shoot.
We witnessed grieving mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends, sisters, and brothers at freshly dug graves. Tough.
But there were good times too. Many. I was both surprised and inspired by the number of people committed to living life with as much Joy de Vivre as possible under such conditions and in between the occasional air-raid sirens.
In the end, we saw a country and people committed to pulling together for victory. It wasn’t all grief, fear, and sadness all the time. Ukrainians in Lviv seemed committed to showcasing some sense of normalcy. There were street performances daily, with joyful people dancing, clapping, and singing.
The line to cross back into Poland via car was days long, and the train tracks had been bombed so it was running behind as well. I had been told an on-foot crossing would be the fastest. I caught a ride from Lviv to the border with Poland with two friends of a friend back in NYC, who wouldn’t take a dime for even gas
I returned across the border on foot with thousands of Ukrainian refugee mothers and children escaping the war. We stood in line for 3.5 hours trying to get out of Ukraine.
Fortunately for me, as a US Passport holder, I could get into Poland much more quickly (in a matter of 20 minutes or so). Still, the poor Ukrainians had to stand out in the brutally hot, unprotected, blazing sun for God knows how much longer to get into Poland. Why there was no tent in the “no man’s land” section after leaving Ukraine to get into Poland is anybody’s guess but it was inhumane on this brutally hot day. I hope this has been fixed.
On the Polish side of the border, I caught a free ride to town with a kind Polish volunteer from Warsaw. He was working on his day off to help people like me and gave me a free ride into town to catch my bus from Przemysl. I took a relaxing bus back to Krakow to catch my flight home the next day (where Austrian Airlines promptly lost my luggage for almost a week).
Having caught covid in Paris and possibly breaking a toe or two (long- story and non-war related), I felt every bit of my age on this trip. Because I caught covid in Paris, I had to isolate and delay my trip to Ukraine by over a week. I was disappointed I couldn’t go deeper and stay longer as originally intended.
Still, I would not trade the experience for anything. Up until the last minute, I was trying my best to figure out how to extend the trip to get to Kyiv as initially planned. But alas, overland travel in Ukraine is slow and unpredictable. I had to be back in NYC to attend to business.
However, Anastasia, our uber-talented Ukrainian refugee Videographer, traveled to Kyiv to film a little and, most importantly, reunite with her mother, albeit briefly, before returning to Paris.
The unsung hero of the trip is the drone we brought from the USA to Ukraine that will help some Ukrainian soldiers surveil Russian troops more safely.
There’s a lot to tell, and we will tell more soon and in episodes in our upcoming Season 10 beginning November 2022. If you’d like to check out many more photos from our trip please visit our Flickr album at the link here – https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzZrcr
You can read more about our efforts to help our friend Joseph, an American in Ukraine and his efforts to keep refugee kids learning and get basic but life-saving medical supplies to the front. Find out more about his efforts at Care4Ukraine.org
I’m happy to say I caught up with Joseph in Nashville in early August as he was in the US to briefly pick up some supplies to take back. That interview will also be featured in an upcoming episode in Season 10 (our final all-original episodes season).
God bless, and God bless the people of Ukraine! Slava Ukraine! Rob
RAW TRAVEL’S CONNECTION TO UKRAINE
Raw Travel has deep connections in Ukraine, having filmed three episodes in Lviv and Kyiv in 2019.
Anastasia, our Ukrainian videographer, and her family are two times refugees, having already fled Donbas for Kyiv. She and her younger brother are now separated from her parents, who remained behind.
In addition to Anastasia, we have several friends from Ukraine who are either exiled refugees or are serving their country fighting. Ukrainians aren’t the only ones drastically affected by this war.
Our musician friends from Russia who have helped craft music for Raw Travel are also refugees because they cannot return to Russia for fear of arrest. They must also find a new country to call home.
We want to help Ukraine heal. In June, we will be traveling to the Ukrainian border to film an episode focusing on giving back. The money raised on our Go Fund Me Page “Raw Travel Helps Ukraine” will focus on grassroots giveback segments in the show, which we hope will represent the Raw Travel ethos of socially responsible travel.
One of the organizations we have identified to work with is Care4Ukraine.org – run by Joseph Nichols, a US Citizen who has been working on engineering projects in Ukraine for eight years and teaching English. You can find out more about their fundraising campaign here – Care4Ukraine.org
We’ll be showcasing other needs and organizations during our filming of course. War is, of course, unpredictable but you can be assured that if we cannot film and use the money outlined above for reasons beyond our control, we will proceed to donate to a legitimate charity that we feel is best helping Ukraine.
You may also buy directly at Raw Travel Merch and approximately $10 of each item (shirts, coffee mugs) will go towards fundraising.
If you donate through our Go Fund Me and would like to take advantage of the merchandise on offer, please message us directly there with your shipping address and we’ll order it for you.
Thank you for your support. Stay tuned here and to social media for progress updates.
Unfortunately, regardless of when this war finally ends, there will likely be a need for humanitarian relief for some time to come. Please stay tuned to this blog and our social media posts for details.
God bless you and God bless the people of Ukraine.
4/20/22 – UPDATE FROM CARE4UKRAINE:
This update is from Joseph from Care4Ukraine (Formerly Keep Kids Learning). As the situation on the ground is changing dramatically, so is the mission. He’s now switching to a more urgent need for medical supplies. We are hoping to meet Joseph in Chicago at the end of the month and roll with him in late May/early June in Poland/Ukraine as he continues his excellent work. Please stay tuned and please help him if you can. Below is slightly edited for brevity and clarity only – from Joseph sent the day Lviv had been bombed:
FROM JOSEPH – I am sure you know that Lviv was more directly impacted with a missile attack today. Normal kids “classes” will be cancelled today. A space was found in Ivano-Frankivsk and one in Uzhgorod along with a number of volunteer teachers.
There was a bit of growing complacency in the IDP population as the number of refugees returning from Poland has been increasing. The number of people returning to Kyiv and Chernihiv has been growing as well. This reverse exodus has been attributed to a sense of security, though regional administrations have been urging people not to return.
Refugees in Poland are having to deal with the sticker shock of EU prices, lack of housing, and the expected refugee fatigue that has begun to surface.
In the IDP population there are three camps that appear to have formed.
The first is comprised of those with above average resources (e.g., money, relatives with large homes, vacation homes) and freedom of movement.
Second, those that were able to secure housing early – but will soon have exhausted funds. The third group are those dependent on aid, charity or have become transient.
It is this third group for which we have most concern. The human-trafficking sharks are circling as well – very nasty people. Keeping an eye on the 15 – 17-year-old’s is important.
Most are just families of women and children. Many have left older parents behind in the care of elder children. As always, these are just observations based on data that is at best….. fragmented.
As the Kids Learning Program develops, I am going back to my roots (medical equipment/healthcare facilities management) and getting aid delivered to more eastern regions. As previously mentioned, getting medical and communications equipment deployed is becoming a priority; as is medical supply deliveries. I will arrive in Chicago on 30 April to assemble donations from various hospitals and public health services that are culling recently expired/ soon-to-be expired disposables, and basic equipment, for shipment to Ukraine via Poland.
Based on what I’m being told, we can expect some very rough months ahead for Ukraine, and these supplies need to be place.
UPDATE May 2, 2022 – ROB INTERVIEWS JOSEPH
Rob caught up with Joseph via zoom, while Joseph made a quick trip to Chicago to pick up some medical supplies to take back to Ukraine.
UPDATE 5/21/22 – Here’s an update from Joseph of Keep the Kids Learning / Help 4 Ukraine in Lviv, Ukraine. Joseph is looking for school space and giving an update on how the economy is hurting most in non-heavy day-to-day combat locales like Lviv, Ukraine. It’s not just OUR grocery or gas bill that has gone up. Putin has singlehandedly wrecked the global economic recovery; as usual, the poor or vulnerable suffer most. You can bet your depleted 401K’s last dollar that the world’s richest man (Putin, not Musk) won’t miss a meal. But good always prevails, IF we are willing, and we are aren’t we? We’re heading to Ukraine next month to hook up with Joseph and show you firsthand the good people he and many others like him are doing. Thank you for your continued support. Visit RawTravelGiveBack.com for more information and thank you for your continued support.
UPDATE 5/22/22 – July 2nd and 3rd, 2022 – Raw Travel Episode 913 – “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine” will premiere in the USA. Here’s a sneak peek.