Friday, February 24, 2023

One-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine; Another amazing day; I hit $1 million; Three more Zoom calls next week; Updated slide deck; One of the wildest coincidences ever; Pictures and a video from my trip to Ukraine a week ago; More, better ambulances; Donation information

By Whitney Tilson

I am dedicating today's e-mail to Ukraine because today is the one-year anniversary of Russia's unprovoked invasion.

While Russian forces have been largely repulsed thanks to NATO and the leadership of the U.S., Ukraine and its people have suffered tremendously as Russian forces have leveled entire cities in the eastern part of the country, with no regard for civilians, and its soldiers are committing mass murder, rape, and torture.

I am inspired by the courage, resilience, and spirit of the Ukrainian people, who are fighting for their existence.

And from a high-level perspective, I believe this is the greatest geopolitical challenge the U.S. and the West have faced in decades. We must not let Putin win, and we must do everything we can to help Ukraine expel the invaders.

This is why I'm on a personal mission to help alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people and help the Ukrainian forces defeat the Russian ones. The fastest way to end the humanitarian crisis is for Ukraine to win the war.

Here's an update I just sent to my Ukraine e-mail list (to join it, simply send a blank e-mail to: [email protected])...

1) Yesterday was another amazing day, which is giving me the energy to keep going despite feeling more exhausted than I was at the end of the 24-hour World's Toughest Mudder!

Most important, my friends, family, and readers continued to give generously, which brought the total to $450,000... And then, out of blue, an old friend from out of town committed $550,000 and wired it, bringing my donation total to more than $1 million!

Thank you!!

2) I've been getting a great response to my Zoom calls and really enjoy meeting people and putting faces to e-mail addresses, so I've scheduled three more for next week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to answer questions and share the crazy stories (with pictures) from the past week I can't share publicly.

The times will be:

  • 6 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, February 27
  • 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, March 1
  • 12 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, March 3

To join, simply click this link for all three.

These calls are open to anyone, so please invite any friends who you think might be interested.

3) I continue to update and expand my slide deck – here is the latest version.

4) This has to be one of the wildest coincidences of my life...

I was only in Lviv for a few hours last week, stopping first at a hotel to have lunch and deliver part of our half-ton vanload of cargo to one charity, and then we drove 10 minutes to a warehouse to drop the rest of it off for the other two charities.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw a sign and realized that this was the warehouse of the Howard Buffett Foundation and the person meeting me, Yuliya, was the head of the foundation in Ukraine!

Regular readers know how much of a Warren Buffett fan I am, and I had even recently sent him an e-mail complimenting him on his son's great work in Ukraine, which I wrote about in my January 18 e-mail:

Three cheers for Howard Buffett, son of my hero, Warren Buffett, who's been to Ukraine four times since the war started and is supporting their fight in a big way with his $529 million foundation.

He met Zelensky in June (Ukraine's Zelenskiy meets philanthropist Howard Buffett, discusses rebuilding), bought $30 million of electric generators a month ago (Howard Buffett Foundation to supply Ukraine with heavy-duty generators), and wrote this beautiful opinion piece for CNN: From the U.S. to Ukraine, farmer solidarity is universal.

What are the odds that in a country larger than France, with hundreds (thousands?) of NGOs, I would, by random coincidence, end up there?!

Howard has been buying tens of millions of dollars of generators for Ukraine, helping offset the power outages resulting from Russian attacks on the country's infrastructure (see this 60 Minutes story on this that aired last Sunday: Electricity, heat and water under attack in Ukraine).

Here's a picture of Yuliya and me in front of a bunch of smaller generators (Yuliya said they cost $8,000 to $10,000 and can power things like a field hospital or community center):

For comparison, here's a much larger generator that costs roughly $50,000 including shipping from Bulgaria – donated by a friend I asked – being dropped off a week ago at a major hospital in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine's eighth-largest city, in the east:

5) The wonderful charity, MOAS – which has received and is operating the ambulance I bought from Jesse of DIAC Medical – sent a van and a driver to pick us up at our hotel in Poland near the border on Friday morning. From there it was a 10-minute drive to the border station, where there was no line for passenger cars (versus a mile-long, full-day line for trucks). We quickly passed through first the Polish then Ukrainian checkpoints and soon were on our way to Lviv, the seventh-largest city in the country with a population just over 700,000, which was 90 minutes away.

I've never been in a country at war, so I wasn't sure what to expect...

On the one hand, Ukraine is a huge country... and all of the fighting is in the east, about 800 miles away. Here's a map showing our starting point (Hotel Trojka) and the driving route one would take through Lviv and Kyiv all the way to the battleground city of Bakhmut, which is hell on earth right now (that's where the ambulance I donated is operating):

So even though western Ukraine is very safe and far from the fighting, I certainly expected to see some signs of war: empty roads, streets, and stores, soldiers... military vehicles, and checkpoints... and so forth.

But there was nothing. It was about as exciting and scenic (it was a gray, cold day) as driving from New York City to Philadelphia and back...

Here's a 55-second video of three clips I took with my GoPro – the last few seconds are of us hearing an air raid siren while we were having lunch, but everyone ignored it as it was just a routine test.

And here is a collage of pictures I took with my GoPro (which isn't much of a camera, but for security reasons we had to have our phones off – not just in airplane mode – the entire time we were in Ukraine):

6) Jesse found a very cool used Mercedes Unimog ambulance and showed it to Chris, the founder of MOAS, who immediately saw that it would be perfect for the awful muddy conditions on the front lines, so I added that to the list, bringing the immediate total to 11 vehicles. Here's a picture of it:

7) Totally out of the blue, a buddy of mine in London, R.M., introduced me to a buddy of his, N.C., who happens to have a reason to be in Kyiv roughly five weeks from now, so when N.C. saw my e-mail that R.M. forwarded him, he had the brilliant idea: "Wouldn't it be cool to drive an ambulance to Kyiv instead of taking the train?"

That was indeed a great idea, so I put him in touch with Jesse, who found a used Mercedes Sprinter van that he can refurbish and equip in time, and the deal was done: MOAS is going to get a 12th vehicle!

8) Of course, let's not forget the 15 Land Cruisers, which are on order from Dubai, arriving in three months. Jesse cleverly ordered 18 and has given me first option on the extra three if I can raise the money for them ($117,000 each).

That's $7,000 more than the $110,000 price I had initially mentioned, but there's a good reason: Jesse made Chris aware that for a bit of extra money he could buy Land Cruisers with an extended roof – here's what they look like:

That's a no-brainer because there's much more room for equipment and, most important, doctors can stand up and do procedures to save patients' lives on the often long and bumpy trip back to the field hospital.

9) Lastly, if you haven't donated yet and would like to, you can do so to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors ("TAPS"), a well-established U.S. 501(c)(3) charity founded and run by Bonnie Carroll, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

TAPS's tax ID number is: 92-0152268.

There are three options:

a) You can make an online donation here quickly and easily (check the box for "Make this an honor or memorial gift" and enter my name).

b) Or, here are the wiring instructions:

TAPS Ukraine
Capital Bank, MD
2275 Research Blvd, Suite 600
Rockville, MD 20850
Routing Number: 055003340
Account Number: 118572768
Memo: For Ukraine ambulances

c) Or, you can make a check out to "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors" and mail it to:

Bonnie Carroll
3033 Wilson Blvd., Third Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
Memo: For Ukraine ambulances

I'm truly grateful for any support for this endeavor... and so are all the wonderful people involved in this humanitarian mission. Thank you!!

Best regards,


P.S. I welcome your feedback at [email protected].