It started with a question over a year ago: "Bruce, do you have any connections with Ukraine Police?" BPS Sergeant Dana McCallum whose duties include maintaining equipment needs for the Brandon Police Service, was in the process of acquiring replacement body armor for our officers. There is a five-year manufacturer's warranty on body armor regardless of use and condition. Sgt. McCallum had 28 gently used vests that were free of trauma and in perfect condition set for destruction due to an expired warranty. Being very aware of the lack of supplies and equipment in Ukraine in the midst of war, Dana wanted to explore the possibility of donating these vests to police officers in Ukraine. I expressed to Dana that her idea was fantastic and assured her that through connections I had made during a police missions trip to Ukraine in 2019, I could facilitate the process. BPS did not have a budget to pay any of the transport expenses so I thought that would be the biggest hurdle; I was so naive. A yearlong journey would reveal that funds were the least of our obstacles; the transport of the BPS vests would require many personal connections, several documents, and persistence in overcoming miscommunications and hurdles.
Many phone calls to individuals and organizations over several months left me with broken and unfulfilled promises with no clear way forward in sight. Money was an issue, but the classification of the protective body armor vests as "arms" was the greater concern. Airfreight into Kyiv, Ukraine, was not an option; Warsaw appeared to be the most feasible drop location followed by land delivery to Kyiv. However, the weight of the vests meant shipping costs would be several thousands of dollars. As a result of a personal connection established through a past speaking engagement, a friend of mine representing a Christian organization in Western Canada, offered to cover the thousands of dollars in shipping costs. This individual and their organization requested to remain anonymous. Just when I thought the plan was coming together to get the vests to Warsaw, another hurdle emerged.
Poland has recently tightened their regulations on the transfer of military equipment including vests. Armor vests according to Polish law are considered goods of strategic importance. They are included in the list of armaments published by the Minister of Development and Technology in Poland (EU). This means that the export of such goods, including in transit outside the territory of the Republic of Poland, requires a written consent of the trade control authority, i.e. the Minister of Development and Technology. To get the BPS vests through Customs in Poland would require an entity using a national general authorization to trade in arms and there are only a few of them in Poland. I was able to connect and establish a rapport with the Director of Misja Dobro Czynic (Good Works Mission); namely, Radek Gasza. Radek and Misja Dobro Czynic operate within the sphere of the Evangelical Churches of Poland. In the months to come, Director Radek Gasza would truly live up to the name of their organization through their many good works.
Through Radek, I received a referral to KI TEC and a man I will reference as Mariusz Adach (identity protected). KI TEC is a trade control authority that possesses the necessary concessions to deal with arms in cooperation with the Minister of Development and Technology of Poland. I did some background checks to verify that KI TEC is a legitimate company in Poland. I cannot stress enough how divine intervention was the key to every connection and every transaction. God was helping me every step of the way from the connections in Western Canada, to the Evangelical Churches in Warsaw, to the company in Poland who would acquire the vests from Customs. Throughout the process, I was trusting in God through my requests for donation letters, first from BPS Police Chief Wayne Balcaen and then upon his resignation, from BPS Acting Chief of Police Randy Lewis. Much credit goes to Ret. Police Chief Wayne Balcaen who made several phone calls after receiving my initial request in order to establish that a donation of body armor from Canada fell within legal parameters.
Upon the arrival of the vests in Poland a few months ago, I received communication from a representative of KI TEC. He indicated that the donation letters were insufficient to release the vests from Customs to KI TEC. A written contract was required between BPS and KI TEC specifying the donation of vests were to KI TEC so that they could take custody of the vests. The contract required a commitment to pay for any Custom fees and taxes. Once again, God showed favor and Director Radek Gasza offered to cover all these fees through a donation by Misja Dobro Czynic. With only an email and no written contract confirming this offer in hand, I presented my A/Chief of Police Randy Lewis with a Donation Agreement requiring his signature to cover any additional custom fees and taxes. I promised that if the agreement fell through by Misja Dobro Czynic failing to cover the additional fees, I would personally pay the expenses. A/Police Chief Lewis trusted me at my word and he signed the Donation Agreement.
There were many times that my wife and I prayed together, and many more times I prayed alone for these vests to reach the Ukraine National Police. Prayer continued after I was informed that police chaplains had travelled to Warsaw to take custody of the vests but were denied access by KI TEC due to their legal obligation to personally deliver the vests to the National Police of Ukraine. Weeks later, prayer continued after receiving an email from KI TEC informing me that they had attempted to place our vests into the hands of the National Police of Ukraine, only to be turned away from the National Police Headquarters by a police officer who refused to accept that the donation was legal and legitimate. In weeks to come, I learned that the National Police of Ukraine are intentional in their efforts to curb any actions that may be perceived as corrupt. Even during my time with the Ukraine Police in 2019, I observed how important it was to them and each officer to break free from the past stigma that police in Ukraine are corrupt. Community policing that seeks to establish the trust of the citizens is of paramount importance to current police operations in Ukraine. Restoring the faith of people groups within their jurisdiction is high on the priority list of the National Police of Ukraine. Police chaplaincy has come alongside community policing initiatives to rebuild trust and relationships between police and community since 2019.
Police chaplaincy, under the direction of Head Chaplains Yaroslav Malko and Pavlo Tsarevskyi, is embraced and supported by superior officers and the rank and file of the National Police of Ukraine. Yaroslav founded police chaplaincy in Ukraine through many collaborative efforts including inviting Canadians such as TO Chaplain Hillar Alkok and myself to accompany his team from Mariupol in 2019 to travel throughout Ukraine to unpack police chaplaincy to police officers and communities alike. Pertaining to the delivery of the BPS vests to the National Police of Ukraine, Yaroslav ensured the proper authorities were convinced the donation was legal and encouraged them to accept the donation of the 28 gently used body armor vests. Focusing beyond the donation of the BPS vests, it is clear that police chaplaincy in Ukraine is establishing bridges between police and community. Individually, police chaplains are providing emotional and spiritual care to police officers to strengthen them morally, emotionally, and spiritually.
There are more details to the story of the journey of our Canadian donated police vests, however, I think I have established that the process required cooperation from several persons, persistence in overcoming obstacles and language barriers, and God's favor and intervention to get the task accomplished. On October 11, 2023, the vests were delivered into the hands of the National Police of Ukraine. I received the photo at the top of this story from my friend Yaroslav confirming the donation with five police officers wearing our vests, and the remaining vests in opened shipping packages awaiting distribution. To the right is a letter addressed to BPS Acting Chief of Police Randy Lewis from the National Police of Ukraine Deputy Head Hennadii Fedoriuk offering appreciation and explaining the implementation of the vests.
I am thankful to all persons involved in this project: Dana who made the initial inquiry, our two BPS Police Chiefs, a friend representing a Christian organization in Western Canada, Director Radek Gasza, KI TEC representative Mariusz Adach, and Yaroslav Malko. My greatest appreciation is to God for all His intervention and His faithfulness to answer our prayers and complete what was started; Philippians 1:6 "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished ..."
Warmest regards and blessings,
BPS Chaplain/Constable Bruce Ewanyshyn
ICPC Director of Region 1