When North Lakes business Hey Caddy officially opened in March its owners were in Europe helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
The Mahlers, along with son Michael, were in Warsaw organising accommodation and other necessities such as technology for desperate refugees fleeing Russian attacks.
While disappointed to miss the opening Olga, who grew up in Ukraine, said she could not imagine being anywhere else.
While patrons explored Hey Caddy, the Mahlers travelled from Warsaw to the Ukraine border to deliver vital technology to blind people, including a journalist, so he could continue his vital work.
Olga migrated to Australia from Ukraine a decade ago and had family and friends caught up in the crisis, including her elderly blind parents, who were trapped in their home in Kharkiv, relying on volunteers who risked their lives amid gunfire to deliver food.
Blind from birth, Olga imagined the terror her blind friends and family were experiencing as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
Angry about what was happening - and with a partially blind friend losing his life fighting to defend Kiev, leaving behind a widow and young child - Anthony and Olga decided they would do whatever they could to help.
With no contacts or specific plans, Olga and Anthony booked flights to Warsaw, figuring a plan would evolve once they arrived.
At 3am on their first night in Warsaw, Anthony went to the lobby of their hotel to do some work for his businesses in Australia.
A chance meeting with volunteers from the charity A Demand For Action crystallised how their plan to provide temporary shelter could evolve to providing permanent solutions for the refugees.
Another connection with an old friend, blind advocate Laurel Wheeler, enabled them to co-ordinate technology and devices for refugees.
About Anthony and Olga Mahler
As a child, Olga attended the School for the Blind in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and close to the Russian border.
Earlier this year the school was bombed with the children sheltering inside and the principal badly injured.
“These personal experiences and a deep love of her country give her a visceral and unstoppable level of motivation to help,” Anthony said.
“Each refugee we help is now part of our family,” Olga said in March.
Olga and Anthony, a doctor who works at the Clontarf Bridge Medical Centre, spearheaded the 'Help Us to Shelter Ukraine’ project.
The project was managed by Olga and supported the short-term needs of about 20 blind Ukrainian refugees with food and accommodation, and helped them relocate to safe havens including Poland, Sweden, Germany and Spain.
In partnership with the Laurel Wheeler Foundation, donors to the campaign helped fund more than 50 second-hand laptops, 20 smart phones, six braille displays, magnifiers, canes and other vital equipment for blind Ukrainian refugees in Poland and displaced Ukrainians in Ukraine
As well, Anthony and Olga provided essential food and personal care items to refugee centres, along with medical equipment and supplies to treat the refugees, and co-ordinated delivery of critical technology such as phones, laptops and Braille readers to blind refugees and other blind people still in Ukraine.
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