Bay Area family returns following spring break mission to Ukraine

Mission safely accomplished.

A Bay Area family considers their spring break humanitarian trip to Ukraine a success upon delivering critical aid and comfort.

"Part of it is a relief that we were able to get all the supplies in successfully," said Andy Kurtzig. "Lots of risky spots along the way."

Kurtzig, along with his wife, daughters, and son packed up suitcases full of safety equipment, medical supplies, and medicine at their San Anselmo home before flying to eastern Europe for a week.

They spent part of their trip at a border camp in Slovakia where hundreds of refugees, primarily women and children, arrive daily by the busload.

Ukrainian men are forced to stay in the country and could be forced to fight in the war with Russia.

"These families are really forcibly kind of torn apart and that’s hard," Sara Kurtzig said. "That just upsets me so much."

Tent by tent, they got to see other generous donations helping people and pets, including clothing, toys, and food.

Andy Kurtzig, who’s CEO of San Francisco-based JustAnswer, a service that helps connect people with experts, employs more than 250 in Ukraine. He was determined to reunite with those workers bringing along desperately needed items to keep them safe during the war.

Body armor, tourniquets, first aid kits and lifesaving medicine were just some of the requested donations delivered to them.

"Just seeing them and connecting was wonderful," Kurtzig said. "And then being able to give them all the supplies was joyful and seeing the happiness."

That feeling is something that he says is scarce now.

At the border camp, Sara Kurtzig and her daughter, Jamie, delivered cards created by American children filled with message of support, love and hope.

Jamie, who’s diabetic, also collected insulin to provide to others like her, including one of her father’s employees.

"It was really cool to be able to help someone," she said.

But even with the heartfelt gestures, it is still dangerous amid a war that’s unpredictable.

Andy Kurtzig waited more than three hours at the Ukrainian border as he attempted to get back to Slovakia to reunite with his family at the camp. His car was searched several times as air raid sirens blared and as he witnessed mothers and children walking across the border.

He says those moments make him reflect on what he experienced, felt and saw during his week-long trip.

"I think the most eye-opening thing is everybody’s bravery and how strong they are," Kurtzig said. "Looking them in the eyes and seeing their commitment and their pride in their country and their commitment to winning."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU