Worthington's sister city, Crailsheim, Germany, reaches out to help Ukrainian refugees

Worthington's sister city is helping to provide money, food and goods to those displaced by war.

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Volunteers in Crailsheim, Germany pack milk powder to go to the Ukraine.
Ute Bartels / Special to The Globe

Editor’s note: Ute Bartels is a journalist for the Hohenloher Tagblatt, the newspaper of Crailsheim, Germany, the sister city to Worthington. She offered to share with The Globe's readers a glimpse of what is happening in Crailsheim as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

CRAILSHEIM, Germany — The war in Ukraine shook the Germans to the core. Firstly, because no one would have expected it, and secondly, because Ukraine is so close. It is a good 1,000 kilometers from Crailsheim to the Ukrainian border — Detroit is farther away from Worthington.

Ukraine is also so close because there are many connections within the European countries. For example, the week before the start of the war, the Crailsheim Merlins basketball team played a European Cup game in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

So, we watch in horror as bombs fall in our neighborhood and cities are destroyed.When the war started, the Merlins immediately sent their team bus to collect refugees at the border and bring them to Crailsheim. This resulted in a variety of contacts with other organizations and aid groups. In Lviv, in western Ukraine, there are 90 aid organizations alone that cook and take care of the refugees who are passing through the town.

The Merlins then called on their sponsors and fans for donations. Within a few days, aid supplies worth 50,000 Euros and 60,000 Euros were collected. Medicines could be bought with the money, especially insulin and painkillers, and Crailsheim doctors issued the necessary prescriptions for them.


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The church community of Johanneskirche collects household items and furniture for a Ukrainian family who arrived in Crailsheim and was given a flat without furniture. The priest, Uwe Langsam (left), went into the church where the church choir was rehearsing and, within hours, the flat was furnished.
Ute Bartels / Special to The Globe

There was also bottled water, food and powdered milk. However, the milk was only available in a 1-ton pack. Therefore, helpers were organized through social networks. Within an hour, 15 people from Crailsheim were onsite with foil devices to repack the powder into more handy 2-kilogram packages.

These aid supplies were then brought by train to the eastern border of Germany. There, the goods are collected and brought on a “railway bridge” through Poland into the war zone, since rail is safer than road or air. These deliveries are coordinated with the Ukrainian government and are only routed on the rail routes that are safe there. They are then distributed in the country by the Ukrainian authorities.

The relief supplies from Crailsheim go directly to Kharkiv, a heavily contested city in eastern Ukraine. It is the sister city of Nuremberg, there are direct contacts to the local hospital. And this is only an example. There are church communities, clubs, private helpers organizing money and goods to be sent to Ukraine; and many organize help, money and shelter for the refugees on their way or already here.

Even the city of Crailsheim and other organizations collect items and are setting up fundraisers. All of Germany is doing it — as an opportunity to do something and not just sit around. Millions of refugees — women and children — have now left Ukraine. Ukraine has 44 million inhabitants, so there are a lot of them. Many of them want to stay in the immediate neighboring countries to be close to their husbands who have to fight.

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In Crialsheim, aid goods are packed to go to a place where all goods from Germany are collected. From there, freight trains will carry the items into the Ukraine -- several a day. On the fork lift is Joachim Wieler (of the Crailsheim Merlins), while Bernhard Lotz is guiding him toward the truck.
Ute Bartels / Special to The Globe

The Crailsheim sister city of Bilgoraj, which is practically on the Ukrainian border, is affected by the refugees. They live there in camps, in gymnasiums or with private individuals. Many help. Crailsheim also helps with goods and money. Bilgoraj, for its part, has a sister city in Ukraine. Their hospital is supplied from Bilgoraj.

You can see how important the partner cities are in such times — and where, when you look at the beginnings of the partnership between Worthington and Crailsheim. I believe that the willingness to help is so great because the help we Germans received after World War II is still in the collective memory.

But more and more refugees are coming to Crailsheim, too. Several gyms have been cleared and turned into welcome camps. From there, the refugees will move into apartments or stay with Crailsheimers. We too have put our names on a list of people who want to make their guest rooms available. And if you’re asking what can be done from Worthington: I think donating to aid organizations under the keyword “Ukraine” is never wrong. Surely, Unicef has something like that. There is also a great organization here called “Doctors Without Borders”, these are doctors who use their vacation time to help in crisis areas. I know they have sent many doctors to Ukraine.

What everybody can certainly do — and that is perhaps even more important in the long run — is to be critical of what people say and check the facts. Don’t believe in propaganda. Uphold democratic values and institutions. Don’t be blinded by appearances. Because a Putin who simply attacks a foreign country, who has war crimes committed, who only cares about his wealth and his friends and not about the well-being of his people, has only gotten this far because he was allowed to. Because he is unscrupulous. Because he has infiltrated the Russian population with propaganda for years. Because he banned all opposition and free press.


It starts with little things like accepting democratic elections and ends with pressing the button of the atomic bomb. Let’s hope it never comes to that. If you ask us about the worries, yes, we fear that Putin simply presses the red button. The Russian rockets fly as far as Berlin or Crailsheim. Although I don’t think that will happen, you never know what Putin will do when he can’t get out of the situation without loss of face. He just might in a suicidal kind of way.

But this is a more realistic concern: That something happens to the Ukrainian nuclear plants — Chernobyl is in Ukraine and irradiated Germany in 1986 when it exploded. That’s how close Ukraine is.

Worthington to collect donations

By Julie Buntjer
The Globe
WORTHINGTON — Worthington-Crailsheim International President Jason Johnson confirmed Monday with two local banks who are willing to accept monetary donations to be shared with the city of Crailsheim to help with Ukrainian refugees.

Both Worthington Federal Savings Bank and First State Bank Southwest are accepting donations. Checks should be written to Worthington-Crailsheim International, and funds will then be issued by that organization to Crailsheim.

“Worthington-Crailsheim International supports relief efforts for our sister city of Crailsheim, Germany as it provides aid to Ukrainian refugees, both in Crailsheim and in its other sister city of Bilgoraj, Poland,” Johnson said. “This is what our program and partnership was built on 75 years ago, and it’s heartwarming to see the humanitarian efforts paid forward by the citizens of Crailsheim.

“We support the goodwill efforts of our communities to aid in what is a devastating situation in Eastern Europe,” he added.

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