'War Uber' Barry Nelson returns to Manitowoc after two-month stint in Ukraine

Home early after he says co-workers targeted by Russians
Posted at 1:21 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 14:21:51-04

MANITOWOC (NBC 26) — Barry Nelson is back, and with him he brought back some big stories. Like a piece of scrap metal straight from the battlefields.

“These things motivated us to bring in more food, to bring in more aid," Nelson says motioning to the artillery. "There’s an irony that Russians are killing Ukrainians over bread and we’re bringing loaves in. To me, this is kind of symbolic of the things the Russians were providing, death destruction, and then, again, some of the... things we were able to provide.”

While he was overseas, the 'War Uber' founder did just that, bringing in donations whether it be food, tourniquets, or clothing. It was his second time around, and even after seeing more hardships and hearing first-hand accounts of tragedies, Nelson still has that positive attitude.

“I'm super confident because as they're getting these heavier pieces, I mean, they're putting them straight to use. There's not a lack of will," said Nelson.

Jonathon Pylypiv, one of the founding members of the 'Wisconsin Ukrainians', feels the same way. He and Nelson have been working closely to get supplies and donations from Northeast Wisconsin to Ukraine.

Nelson didn't want to leave, but he knew for his own safety it would be best. He explained his two British co-workers were targeted by the Russians, with their names, pictures, date of births and passport numbers released on television.

"They're calling us mercenaries, you know, and were targeted," Nelson said. "There's supposedly a bounty on our heads, how much I don't know. So, putting us on hit lists, it’s just supposed to scare us and it did. My time was winding up anyways, but it was hours and days versus a week or more."

It was tough for Nelson to leave, but there's still a lot of work that can be done from over 5,000 miles away. Pylypiv said the 'Wisconsin Ukrainians' has a network of people in their homeland willing to help.

"They're really great at getting those items to where they need to be,” said Pylypiv. "A lot of things that we're doing continue to build, because we know that the needs are, you know, what they are currently, but they keep adapting. “

As for what us here in Northeast Wisconsin can do: Pylypiv and Nelson said keep donating and don't give up on the Ukrainian people.

“With 'War Uber', more than $50,000 was raised from our community that directly translated to Ukrainian money, that I would then take and go shopping, and buy supplies, that then we would shuttle directly to the war fighters who are defeating the tank column," said Nelson, referring to Mariupol. "As silly as it sounds, folks in Appleton, Manitowoc, Green Bay, helped to some degree, defeat this Russian state column.”

Even though it might not be the first thing we see on our TV screens anymore, the conflict is far from over.

“If you think about the fact that the worst thing you want to do is let off the accelerator in supporting them, we will end up in a standstill," said Nelson. "We'll be doing this again in 5-10 years. So let's finish this now.”

The Wisconsin Ukrainians are hosting a bake sale at St. Matthew's Orthodox Church in Green Bay Saturday, May 14. Profits go directly to the humanitarian crisis. Continue to follow the group and 'War Uber' to find other ways you can help.