In late September, Rachael Ray told me about her next trip trip to Ukraine, the latest of several visits she’s made to the war-torn country since it was invaded by Russia last February.
On Thursday, Dec. 15, “The Rachael Ray Show” (2 p.m./Ch. 7) will devote its entire hour to Ray’s Thanksgiving-week visit to Ukraine as cameras recorded what she saw — and who she met with, helped and listened to — as the country heads into the frigid winter months with the war still raging on.
“It was beautiful and tragic and heart-wrenching as always,” Ray said. “It’s already so bitter-cold there … and right now we’re hoping we can raise money to buy the gear they need to battle the 20-below winter so they can continue fighting.”
Ray made several stops during her time in Ukraine, including a meeting with the mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, and returned to St. John Bosco, the country’s largest orphanage and vocational school, to teach classes in the kitchen she helped build out.
“The mayor stayed hours late with us in the center of Lviv so that he could share with his his presentation for ‘Unbroken,’ a program he’s been working on for almost a solid decade now,” she said. “It’s a plan to unify a huge medical center and marry it to some specialized housing to treat children who are victims of the war, and to psychologically treat people of every age for PTSD and the psychological ramifications of losing their productive, happy lives and being displaced.
“There are also trauma centers and a state-of-the-art orthopedic center,” she said, “and a maternity center for moms expecting newborns and for all the folks who’ve lost limbs — and rehab centers for plastic surgery specialists to held re-build and reconstruct war-torn humans.”
Ray also talked about her efforts to help Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and to supply them with necessary materials and medical equipment in tandem with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
“I basically buy and pack-out First Aid kits for the front-line troops — male, female, old or young,” she said. “[The kits] have 17 components, all to NATO standards … they have tourniquets and a gel that, after the tourniquet is tied, keeps enough blood flowing to the wound so that they don’t lose organs or limbs; it gives them an extra bit of time.”
She said that medical equipment is also needed for small children and babies.
“For whatever reason there are an enormous amount of kids that have developed cataracts since the beginning of this phase of the war,” she said. “We spent a lot of time at St. John Bosco and in hospitals and in the mayor’s office collecting more detailed information on what we need for our next trip there. Right now, the two big-focus items are protective clothing for the winter months and the eyesight needs of kids at the children’s hospital … specifically two machines that will facilitate removing cataracts from itty-bitties … and we’re working on [getting equipment for] treating tiny surgical wounds because they’ve never had bullet wounds in babies before.”
Ray said she expects her next trip to Ukraine to likely be in early March.
“We have so much filming to do,” she said. “It’s going to be the longest I haven’t been there … and it’s already freaking me out. I have nightmares about it. It haunts me. Once you’re in, you’re in. I’ve met so many thousands of people and fed so many thousands that it’s part of me now — I can’t turn it off.
“I am a person of service and have been that way since I was 12,” she said. “This is who I am and who I will be until I’m gone. It’s the reason I was born. I’m a citizen of the world and that’s all I want to be; everything else is gravy. I love making TV shows but the thing I love most about our show is when we show people how many good works are being done by their neighbors and in their communities.
“I will not abandon these people [of Ukraine],” she said. “I will keep going there until I’m dead or the game is over.”
This story originally appeared on NY Post