Kurdish 'war child' provides aid to beleaguered Ukrainians
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – American-Kurdish businessman Emad Balak was sitting in his office in the Kurdistan Region when he saw war break out in Ukraine. He promptly packed his belongings and decided to do his part to help Ukrainians.
When Ukrainian civilians began fleeing their country in their millions, Balak began a four-day journey to reach the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, a city he had called home for eight years.
"I was not scared but more worried about how I would manage to get into the country," he said, according to Reuters.
During his trip by plane and then by train, the 45-year-old thought about how he could use his businesses, including a restaurant and an e-commerce company, to help Ukrainians suffering from war.
"Fighting is not only about holding a gun. Because of who I am, I am more useful getting support, finances," Balak said. "Growing up during war times in Iraq gave me some sort of resilience. I grew up being able to adapt to tough situations."
After a childhood in Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq War, Balak and his family fled to the Netherlands. He later settled in the United States before returning to the Kurdistan Region in 2012.
Two years later, he decided to start investing in Ukraine shortly before ISIS seized large parts of Iraqi lands and dragged the Kurdistan Region into a war and a severe economic crisis.
Balak considered Ukraine a safe and promising place to invest.
Now Emad delivers food, basic goods, and clothing to Ukrainian civilians and security forces using his companies and his political and business contacts in Ukraine and abroad.
After arriving in Kyiv on Mar. 8, he began preparing free meals for the security forces, and civilians in his restaurant collected donations, especially from the United States.
Using his e-commerce company, Zibox, as a relief aid management tool, Balak organizes the transport of goods to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where local authorities help deliver aid to those in need.
"I am nervous about everything coming to a halt now," he said. "But what I tell people to reassure them is that I myself am a war child. But look, I managed to rebuild my life."