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Amid suffering and despair, a NKY guy in a chicken suit brings hope and cheer to Ukrainian refugees

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

Though reeling himself from the extreme suffering, despair, and hopelessness he saw at Medkya, at the border of Poland and Ukraine, Ben Dusing brought moments of cheer — and plenty of smiles and hugs — to refugees young and old fleeing from atrocities of war in their homeland.

The Chicken Man and a Ukrainian child. (Photo by Vanja Sokic, etrafica.com)

Dusing, who is under “temporary suspension” from the practice of law, decided to use his “downtime” productively — by going to Poland as a volunteer to help with Ukrainian refugees. As a youth, he spent a year in Russia and his language skills came into play as he was quickly pushed to the front of the line by volunteers engaged with the reception centers in Medkya.

As trivial as it may seem, Dusing’s chicken suit did it — and, in fact, made him a sensation in a Croatian newspaper writing about the volunteer effort. While he is prevented by an order from the Kenton County Family Court from wearing the chicken suit around his own children, it was the thing that the volunteer coordinators wanted most. They pushed him to the front lines to provide some cheer for the grief-stricken children — and it worked.

He was joined by a guy in a Santa suit, and by an Italian who brought a piano and played and sang Ukrainian songs he had learned especially for the occasion, and by thousands of fellow volunteers.

“This is horror,” one volunteer told the Croatian newspaper. “But it’s better to help and do what I can than to sit at home watching the news.”

Costumes were encouraged as a way to greet and cheer the refugees.

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From a Croatia newspaper: They have travelled half the world to help refugees:

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There were thousands of volunteers at the border, dealing with millions of refugees. Most of the refugees were women and children. Their husbands and fathers stayed at home to fight. They came to an uncertain future, temporary housing, and relocations.

“We were a bunch of global amateur do-gooders,” he said, “doing our best to make their lives bearable. It was an emotional experience to have adults cry for long periods of time on your shoulder.

“I could only do it for a few hours at a time before taking a break to go and cry.”

Dusing has 90 days to respond to the Supreme Court of Kentucky’s “temporary suspension.” That response is in the works. But the day he boarded the plane for the long trip to Krakow, Poland, he was bombarded with a number of lawsuits, one of which seeks to have his name removed from the ballot as a candidate for Kenton County Family Court and another of which asked the courts to remove visitation with his three oldest children. He says responses to the lawsuits are in the hands of his attorneys.

In the interim, he took with him hundreds of bedsheets donated by NKyians that were passed on to the grieving refugees fleeing their homeland with little in tow but their loved ones.

Bringing a smile to a child’s face.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “I was not remotely prepared. These are desperate, shell-shocked, lost, despairing women and children grieving unimaginable losses forced to flee their homeland with no present hope of going back anytime soon.”

Dusing easily made friends among the volunteer corps in the “global village” in Medyka. They worked shoulder-to-shoulder and around the clock to relieve as much suffering as they could. He was impressed with the compassion, charity, and empathy of those volunteers.

The Chicken Man was embraced by one and all, even got hugs from the border guards. But Dusing doesn’t take personal gratification in that — and, in fact, presented the Chicken Man suit to a fellow volunteer and new friend, Mike Perkins from the UK. So that the Chicken Man will live on for refugees at the Poland-Ukraine border — and continue to represent faith and hope and the promise of a new life.

A grandmother from Mariopul made her way — alone — to the border crossing, an incredible feat. And she wanted a hug from the Chicken Man. She said “thank you” and a lot more. Through tears.

“I saw how much a man in a silly suit could make a difference, especially to kids, in a special way,” he said. Now, someone else will carry it on. “If a chicken suit can make a difference, then it needed to stay where it was needed.”

Dusing arrives home to the reality of his own situation, which he is determined to address, but he does so as a man who has witnessed the atrocities of war and its affect on the innocent. And he is forever changed by his new perspective.

And Mike gets the chicken suit.

See Ben Dusing’s Medyka Chronicles on Facebook here.

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One Comment

  1. Lorrie Miller Hill says:

    Love, love, love this story! So great to see a man making lemonade out of lemons handed to him by the KY courts. Hopefully the chicken suit that was left behind will continue to bring a ray of happiness to those suffering so greatly from this war.

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