Texas policeman trades in vacation to help Ukrainian refugees
Heroism is defined as "conduct ... exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end." That describes a lot of police officers doing their work day to day, putting their lives on the line to protect others. But sometimes it's a surprising act of selflessness that truly defines what a hero can be.
That's the case with Pawel Nabialek, a lieutenant with the Fort Worth Police Department. After planning to take a vacation to the French Riviera and watch a soccer match in Barcelona, he decided to change course after hearing about what was happening to Ukrainians with the ongoing invasion from Russia. He used his three-week vacation to travel to Poland instead, where he would be able to help women and children trying to find refuge from invading Russian forces.
Speaking with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nabialek just couldn't get behind taking a relaxing vacation with so many people in danger. "How can I take a picture on a French beach when there is a war in Europe?" he asked.
Ever since his arrival in Krakow last week, Nabialek has been busy, delivering emergency first aid supplies to those in need, along with tourniquets, knives, and other equipment. He takes these supplies to the Ukraine border, where he hands them to awaiting soldiers.
But his work was far from complete. With the assistance of a car he rented, Nabialek made his way to a refugee center, where he offered to take women and children to safety as a registered driver.
Upon picking up a family consisting of a mother, her sister, and her son, Nabialek took great care in convincing them he meant no harm. "They were shellshocked," he explained. "They had PTSD from the bomb alerts going off."
With his passport in hand, he was able to convince the family he was a police officer, and they asked if he could take them to a farm in Warsaw, where the mother had set up a work arrangement. However, calling ahead and speaking to a farmer in Polish, Nabialek felt like something was off, mainly due to "bad vibes."
"After 13 years as a police officer, I said, 'Guys, I can't leave you here,'" he explained, sensing some hostility from the farmer. "He was talking about the family like they were subhuman."
Instead, Officer Nabialek opted to take them to a hotel room in Warsaw, explaining that other organizations would be able to help out the family in their time of need.
Though he was able to keep them from harm in their time of need, officer Nabialek could tell that they had been through hell. "They were so tired," he said. "They hadn't slept in days and days." He comforted the family further by telling them that Poland and the Polish people were very quick to help any women and children coming from Ukraine.
Nabialek isn't helping people on his own. He has help from his uncle, who's handling deliveries such as beans, rice, and other food into Ukraine.
It's also worth noting that he's received support from other police officers across many areas, as well as the Tabernacle of Praise Church in Kennedale. He's asked others to donate to a GoFundMe page he recently set up (which currently has just over $6,200 of its $10,000 goal). He also asked those interested in helping out to donate to charities within Poland that work directly with Ukrainian refugees.
The selfless actions of Nabialek and his family in this time of need have been overwhelming. Though he's keeping safe by not crossing the Ukrainian border himself — a promise he made to his family — he'll continue to do whatever it takes to keep women and children safe during this troubling time.
"If the men are going to stay and fight, we should take care of their women and children," he added.
We salute Pawel Nabialek and those who are going out of their way to provide assistance, especially after originally setting up to go on a vacation to rest. That's truly the definition of a hero in our eyes.
Michael A. Letts serves as founder, president, and CEO of In-Vest USA, an organization that currently provides hundreds of communities with bulletproof vests through donations and a number of fund-raising organizations. You can read more about their progress — and how you can contribute — on the official page.
Want to learn more about becoming a First Responder? The First Responder Academy is your first step to becoming virtually trained! Find out more about enrollment, classes, and certification on the official page!
Image: Airman Connor J. Marth, public domain.