Dr. Thomas Mercier and his wife Barbara captivated an audience of nearly 50 people with stories of their latest trip to Ukraine at Monday night’s Mattituck Laurel Civic Association meeting at Veterans Memorial Park in Mattituck.
“We didn’t see any war, we didn’t see any damaged buildings, but we did hear air raid sirens every night,” Dr. Mercier said. “Which was scary because we had no place to go. We were just there, we couldn’t escape.”
The couple were honored at the meeting with a Health Care Heroes award in recognition of their volunteer efforts with Crisis Response International in Ukraine earlier this year shortly after the war broke out, as well as for their longtime dedication to the North Fork. Dr. Mercier is a retired pediatrician and Ms. Mercier is a retired nurse.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski presented the award.
“I’m here with the proclamation, but it’s really an honor for me to thank you for the work that you did to help other people,” Mr. Krupski said. “I mean, to go to that length is really extraordinary.”
Dr. Mercier and his wife flew to Krakow, Poland in March where they were then bused to the Ukrainian border.
They spoke for around 25 minutes Monday evening about their experience in Ukraine as well their journey within the North Fork community. The couple also answered questions from the audience.
“We have experienced the heartbeat of caring people where we live,” Ms. Mercier said. “We’ve seen this community on every level. We got to go [to Ukraine] but I will tell you that I know that we were carrying the heart of a community of caring people.”
Many of the audience questions centered around how people can help those affected by the ongoing war, which now stretches past six months.
“I would just encourage [if] there’s something on your heart to do, just do it,” Ms. Mercier said. “Just do it…it might be the slightest little thing; it might be something a little bit big, you won’t regret it that’s for sure.”
The couple suggested organizations that they have worked with in the past like Arise Ukraine, the ministry the couple went with on their first trip to Ukraine in 1995, Dr. Mericer said. They also suggested Doctors Without Borders, Samaritans Purse and others.
In an interview, Ms. Mercier also encouraged those with the resources and means to consider taking in refugees here in the United States.
“Thats a huge thing — that many people are desperate to be sponsored,” she said.
The couple first opened their practice in August 1981 and treated generations of North Forkers until 2017 when they retired and turned over their Southold practice to Peconic Pediatrics.
The next Mattituck Laurel Civic Association meeting will be Sept. 26.