“We need our sky closed!”
That’s what desperate Ukrainian refugees are telling former New York Gov. George Pataki, who is on a humanitarian mission touring the war-ravaged country and its border with Hungary.
No matter their personal woes and needs, Pataki said Ukrainians, to a person, first say they want the US and NATO to set up a No-Fly Zone to stop Russian invaders from bombing their country into oblivion.
“That’s the first thing they say. Close the sky. We need our sky closed. Why aren’t you closing the sky?” Pataki told The Post in a phone interview Friday from southern Ukraine, 90 minutes from the Hungarian border.
He said he was awed by the spirit of the Ukrainian people while enduring horrible circumstances in a war-torn country.
“To see the strength of the people — many mothers away from their husbands who are fighting the Russians — is truly inspiring,” Pataki said.
Pataki, who has family ties to neighboring Hungary, said the humanitarian needs are great.
Complicating matters is the coronavirus pandemic. Only about a third of Ukranians have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
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He said doctors in Hungary are testing some of the Ukrainian refugees for COVID-19 at the border. More doctors are needed to deal with the humanitarian crisis, he said.
“They have real issues with COVID because of the low vaccination rate,” he said.
The former three-term Republican governor recalled seeing a mom with four kids who all were infected with the virus, and visited a pediatric hospital wing filled with COVID patients.
He said there is great need for medicine. One mom made a 12 hour to 14 hour round trip to and from Hungary to get medication for her sick kids.
The response from Hungarians has been tremendous. He said a group of young soccer players from Hungary took in soccer playing youths from Ukraine into their homes. The problem: no room for their moms.
Pataki said New Yorkers and Americans are responding to humanitarian appeals, and there will be coming announcements from groups who will contribute medical supplies and prepared meals.
“The response we are getting from people in the United States is very encouraging,” he said.
Pataki’s trip was organized through his not-for-profit Pataki Leadership Center in concert with the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. His delegation also included former Ambassador to Finland Earle Mack and industrialist Peter Brant. He also met with Ukrainian and Hungarian dignitaries.