Q&A | Helping Ukraine: Family Time with a Higher Purpose

Geiling siblings and Ukrainian patients
Geiling kids: Harrison (left) age 16, Matthew (center) age 17, and Charlotte (right) age 15, with two Ukrainian patients in a children’s hospital in Lviv, Ukraine.

As Told to Steve Holt
Photo Courtesy of Greg Geiling

Greg Geiling ’94 in finance is currently Co-COO and managing director of Bayview Asset Management. He’s enjoyed a highly successful career. Family vacations are always something special for Greg‚ but this past summer he and his wife and three children took the trip of a lifetime.

Greg: We try to do a trip a year that’s focused on volunteering. It’s just an important part of how we’ve raised the kids. But we’ve never come anywhere close to what we just did on this trip to Ukraine. This was 100% driven by Matthew‚ so I’ll let him pick up the story.

Matthew: My great-great grandmother and grandfather emigrated from Ukraine. So‚ the current crisis is personal to me‚ and I wanted to do something. I started a fundraiser called Hits for Hope that raises money through New York City high school baseball teams. I started writing an economics paper about the massive wave of refugees arriving in Poland. And then I came across an organization called Ukraine Friends‚ and I decided to actually go to Ukraine‚ see for myself what’s going on‚ while also helping out in any way I can. In mid-June I spent about a week in a Ukraine Friends warehouse‚ packing up 54 duffel bags filled with military first aid equipment and supplies for refugees. The next week‚ we traveled to Poland and Ukraine to help distribute the materials.

What were some of the most memorable things you saw?

Matthew: In Lviv‚ we delivered backpacks filled with board games‚ card games‚ and food to a children’s hospital. I spent a couple hours with an 11-year-old boy‚ Nikita‚ who’d been hurt in the war. Despite not sharing a language‚ we were able to play charades‚ and Uno‚ and just enjoy each other’s company‚ which is really‚ really powerful. We still text every now and then.

Greg: When you’re at the borders and the refugee centers‚ you don’t see men getting off the buses‚ just mothers and grandmothers and kids. All their conversations were about “Dad’s still there‚” “Dad’s fighting‚” “We haven’t heard from Dad.” We should have expected that‚ but it really struck me. You also realize that because these people had to leave so quickly‚ they still have the mindset that “I’m just getting out of danger for a couple of weeks‚ but then I’m gonna go back.” It hasn’t really sunk in yet that they’re not going to be going back for a while. You just feel even worse for them.

Was the Geiling family in any danger?

Matthew: We did drive past bombed-out buildings‚ but Lviv is in the West‚ and there was no Russian presence.

Greg: The vast majority of the fighting was happening on the other side of the country. Part of the diligence of the Dad was to make sure that we could do this in a safe way. There’s a definite military presence. But‚ I think because this is the city that’s furthest away from the fighting‚ it’s a place where a lot of Ukrainians have gathered. It actually just felt like a very active‚ bustling city.

Will you go back?

Matthew: I’m definitely looking to go back next summer.

Are you thinking about Lehigh?

Matthew: Definitely‚ particularly the business school. I’m interested in using economics to solve global crises‚ and help refugees.

Greg: I took him to Bethlehem and gave him a campus tour earlier this year!