Austin based non-profit, Gnosis Project, continues efforts to help Ukraine warzones
(ABC 6 News) – The war between Ukraine and Russia is still ongoing and one man from Austin is finding a way to help people on the frontlines in life and death situations.
The Austin based non-profit Gnosis Project, founded by Michael Varhola, has made badges and are breaking the language barrier between English-speaking volunteers and Ukrainians to identify someone’s blood type if they’re injured, saving much needed time.
Role playing games, military service, and preserving world history are important facets in Varhola’s life. So much so, he’s managed to making a living off of all of them at point or another.
“We say that we’re not saving the world, we’re trying to make it a better place,” Varhola said. “I think encouraging understanding between people’s on different sides of the world. I think that makes the world a better place.”
After spending 8 years in the army, Varhola started a new company in 2001, Skirmisher Publishing, with an old friend he met through his father’s time in the military.
“We’re sort of like unexpected business partners to a lot of folks,” said Brenda Cass, Vice President of Skirmisher Publishing.
The pair wanted to help people, eventually founding the Gnosis Project in 2019 to break language barriers in smaller museums around the world.
“We started that in response to our realization that a lot of small, underfunded museums aren’t able to get their message across,” said Varhola.
Just as Gnosis Project got it’s footing together after COVID-19, the world had other plans when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Varhola knew it was time to fulfill a promise he made to himself.
“And when that invasion happened, we didn’t want to sit on the sidelines of history. When didn’t want to not try to play whatever role we could,” said Varhola.
“Mike’s pretty distressed by all of it and I remember this conversation and he’s tells me ‘There’s always been this part of me that said if there’s ever a situation like this and I had the opportunity to help stop the spread of tyranny. I would hate it if that opportunity passed and it made a liar out of me,” said Cass.
That’s when these blood type badges were created, a help to combat medics get injured civilians and soldiers help quickly. Varhola traveled into the warzones to help where they could.
“Knowing that there are needs that won’t be fulfilled if we don’t do them, I guess it’s just a moral obligation and a sense of duty and a sense of responsibility,” said Varhola.
Although the war is across the world, the violence, destruction and the need to help is felt in Austin too. Varhola is going back to Ukraine early next year to help people in a new way.
He will be giving out free children’s books to help kids identify improvised explosive devices in warzones along with providing food and supply runs.