By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One Minnesotan is seeing the devastation in Ukraine firsthand.

Mark Lindquist is an Air Force veteran, originally from Ortonville, who is volunteering with humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

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“Really, we are just a group of random volunteers who want to do good,” said Lindquist.

From a cafe in Kiev, Lindquist talks about what he’s experienced in Ukraine. He arrived in the capitol city early Monday morning.

“Today, we saw bombed out bridges. Today, we saw bombed out buildings, transit centers, gas stations, grocery stores, apartment buildings – blown to smithereens,” said Lindquist.

It’s a stark contrast to where he’s at now, which is a part of Kiev that hasn’t been touched.

Mark Lindquist (credit: CBS)

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Lindquist has been in the country since April 1 as part of his nonprofit’s humanitarian effort. He and others are making sure food and supplies get to Ukrainians who need it most.

“We used to say organized chaos in the military. Organized would be great. It’s more chaos,” said Lindquist. “And you are listening to 14-year-olds, 8-year-olds, talk about fleeing the war zone and missiles are dropping behind them. And they said, ‘we knew which direction to go because it wasn’t that way.’”

Sleeping on couches and floors, Lindquist and his team plan to continue to push east towards the front lines. In many ways, it’s his own personal story that inspired him to help people half a world away.

“I started out life in an orphanage in Seoul, South Korea. I was one of 15% of orphans in the early 80s who got chosen for adoption. How many new orphans have been created in Ukraine in the last 65 days? It’s been heartbreaking,” said Lindquist. “The Ukrainians that I’ve talked to and met all over the country are of one mind: we’re here for the victory.”

Lindquist said he’s working with about 10 volunteers right now and 10 more are expected to arrive soon.

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He said they are applying for visas to get their stay extended and he’s hoping to be in Ukraine for the rest of the year.

John Lauritsen