COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — As far as Dale Perry was concerned, he had to help Ukrainians fleeing their country, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.
He had the resources. He had the support. He had the know-how.
But most of all, he had the desire. He had the heart. He had the compassion.
“How could I not?” he said in a phone interview with The Press.
Perry, who grew up in Coeur d’Alene and has family here, is a managing partner of Energy Resources of Ukraine and founder of the Foundation for Equity and Justice.
In recent weeks, he has been on the southern-most border of Ukraine, overseeing delivery of supplies — medical, shelter, food — for men, women and children whose home country is under invasion by Russia.
His own company had to get its 30 employees out of Kyiv.
“He is fighting for the country he has tried to bring energy to for a reasonable cost,” wrote Diane Turner, his sister. “I cannot begin to think what he is feeling and experiencing right now, but I know I am so proud of him."
He arrived at the Kroscienko border checkpoint on Feb. 27.
Perry and his team have purchased and delivered over $2 million in aid into Ukraine. He buys what he can in Poland, gets it to the border for distribution with a few trucks. Over $200,000 in donations to his foundation are also supporting the effort.
It's a small operation, he said, but nimble and able to respond quickly.
“I’m feeling like we did the right thing, we did well for people and now it’s time for some of the big guys to come here,” Perry said.
At some point, he hopes to transition back to his main business — supplying natural gas — which is badly needed as it's still winter in Ukraine.
Such supplies are about $3 million per day. No guarantee of payment as things stand.
“I’m not sure who’s going to pay us,” Perry said, laughing.
But he perseveres.
“We will continue working to deliver aid into Ukraine and look for the best ways to support its people as the situation develops," Perry wrote.
"Most importantly, with my ERU team and our foundation, we are fully committed to helping rebuild Ukraine,” he added.
A recent video he posted showed men sorting supplies of tents, air mattresses and sleeping bags at the border. It is night and there is snow on the ground.
Perry often refers to it as “no-man’s land.”
“That’s 2,000 people that won’t be sleeping in the snow,” Perry said as he records what’s happening.
At one point, the line of cars and people leaving Ukraine to Poland was nearly 20 miles long.
In the background of the video with Perry narrating, a line of women and children walk in freezing temperatures, headed to Poland where they hope to start a new life.
Men have to stay behind.
“They will fight to the end,” Perry said.
Most carry one suitcase, maybe a backpack. Where they are going, Perry can't say for sure.
“Thousands and thousands of people walking to where they won’t have their life put at risk,” he said.
He knows this: They need help, now, and money is the best way to do it.
Donations to support his efforts keep coming.
“Thank you for all you have done and continue to do,” wrote Paul Kanuer, who donated $100 to Perry's effort. “I cannot imagine a more worthy cause to offer my support and just wish I could send so much more. It's just one small dent to relieve the suffering of millions of innocent fellow human beings."
Cheryl Hughes and Mac Noyes donated $250 and wrote, “Thank you for giving us a way to directly contribute to the support of the Ukrainian people. Keep up the good work, and stay safe!”
“I want to support the Ukrainian people and pray they prevail against Putin,” wrote Peggy Schmidt, who gave $25.
Perry flew to North Idaho over the weekend to spend time with his family for a few days before heading back to Poland and the border.
Most recently, he wrote: “The need for aid to Ukraine grows every day.”
One report said 200 aid trucks are being sent each day to Ukraine, but 1,000 trucks are needed.
He said his company will continue to supply Ukraine with natural gas on a daily basis, so Ukrainians have heat. He said they will keep trying to purchase food, consumables, and supplies and get them to their small border point.
The challenge grows.
"The honest truth is this is becoming ever-harder. Daily shopping trips are difficult to fill the trucks," he said. "Our recent attempts to purchase from wholesalers resulted more in offers to clear expiring (probably) products such as condiments and instant coffee."
While hopeful, he is not optimistic when he is asked about what will happen next with Russian's continued attack on Ukraine.
He fears the war could escalate.
“The last time we ever had a war like this when we had one person who was a mad man with such an arsenal,” he said.
He does not hold ill will toward Russian citizens. Most are good people. They don't want to be at war.
"I know too many Russians,” Perry said.
The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 News Partner. For more news from our partners, click here.