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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Donated strollers provide some respite to weary Ukrainian parents.

A parent's love knows no bounds and that sentiment is on full display as mothers and grandparents trek through unfamiliar territories fleeing the war in their home country of Ukraine. The images coming out of Ukraine and the bordering countries of the refugees are heartbreaking. Despair, confusion and heartache are etched across the faces of loving parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers. Grief is palpable as seen in the videos and images on our screens, but some volunteers in Poland are helping families experience their first sense of reprieve since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Moms across the globe know what it’s like to care for a tired, scared or cranky child. They especially know how it feels to parent while you are also tired, scared or cranky. Not many of us understand what it feels like to parent through an active war, or while fleeing from your home country, but every parent can empathize with what these families must be going through. Several volunteers in Poland took it upon themselves to ease the literal and figurative load of the parents seeking refuge from Ukraine by leaving strollers on a train platform. Many of the strollers were filled with blankets and other things a parent may need, but wouldn't have had the space to carry while fleeing their country.


It’s currently estimated that more than 1.5 million people fleeing Ukraine have entered neighboring countries over the past 10 days. The number of refugees who have entered Poland from Ukraine is expected to reach 1 million in the coming days. Poland has been the recipient of the largest number of refugees since the invasion of Ukraine began.

The empathetic gesture by these volunteers in Poland stands in stark contrast to the war happening in Ukraine. News of this thoughtful act came from a photographer, Francesco Malavolta, after he shared a poignant photo to his Twitter account. He later shared another photo of fully decked out strollers waiting for tired moms and children along the border of Poland and Ukraine. The display of compassion from one human to another is soul soothing.


People from all over the world are trying to find ways to help the Ukrainian people. Outside of the strollers being left for weary refugees, there are people utilizing digital means to put money in the pockets of the people of Ukraine. Some people are buying digital goods from Etsy, while others are renting out Airbnbs with the sole purpose of spending their dollars in a way that directly benefits Ukrainian individuals.

While strollers stuffed with goodies won’t end the war or bring families back together, moms will be able to lay their babies down, giving their arms, backs and souls some respite.

Poland's Piotr Malachowski is one of the world's top discus throwers.

He has a solid Olympic record. He won a silver medal in Beijing during the 2008 games, and is also the proud owner of the fifth-longest discus throw ever: 71.84 meters (FYI, that's really far).

But at the Rio Olympics, the competition was intense. If Malachowski wanted to take home a medal, it would be one of the biggest challenges of his life.


In the end, he was narrowly edged out by a German competitor for the gold in Rio. But still, he was plenty proud to take home another silver medal for his country.

Malachowski warms up. Photo by Ranck Fife/AFP/Getty Images.

Now a two-time Olympic medalist, Malachowski was flooded with congratulations and well wishes after his final throw.

But one letter of congratulations stood out to him because it was from a mother desperate for his help.

Her name was Goshia, Malachowski wrote, and her 3-year-old son, Olek, was suffering from a rare form of cancer known as retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye.

Though the disease is treatable, Goshia wrote to Malachowski that the only way to save her son's eyesight was to take him to New York City for treatment by a top ophthalmologist. Needless to say, that would be far too expensive for her family to afford on its own.

When a child is gravely ill, there's almost nothing their parent wouldn't do .... including writing to Olympic athletes for help.

Malachowski proudly waves the Polish flag. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

When Malachowski heard Olek's story, he knew the timing was "fate." He decided he had to help.

An organization called Siepomaga had already raised a significant amount of money for Olek's treatment, but there was a long way to go. The total fundraising goal was around $126,000.

So the Olympian ponied up the most valuable thing he owned — his most recent silver medal.

In a Facebook post, he told his followers he was putting his prized medal up for auction to cover the rest of the costs:

Zdobycie medalu olimpijskiego to dla sportowca spełnienie życiowych marzeń. Oczywiście najcenniejszy jest ten złoty....

Posted by Piotr Małachowski on Friday, August 19, 2016

"In Rio I fought for gold," he wrote. "Today I call on all people — let us fight together for something that is even more valuable. For the health of this fantastic boy."

The auction lasted only a few days before a wealthy brother and sister made Malachowski a private offer he couldn't refuse.

ESPN reported that the top bid for Piotr's medal was roughly $19,000 before the final offer came in. Though he didn't share the exact amount, Malachowski made it clear in another Facebook post that the final sale price was enough to cover the rest of Olek's treatment.

"Thank you everyone who took part in the auction," he wrote. "We were able to show that together we can make miracles. My silver medal today is worth much more than a week ago."

Malachowski's massively selfless act is only the beginning of this story. 3-year-old Olek still has a long fight ahead of him.

Hopefully, with the world's top doctors working tirelessly to treat his disease, he can come out on top. We're rooting for you, buddy.

And as for Malachowski himself, he may be down one medal. But after this priceless gift, he's certainly earned the right to be called the people's champion forever.

More

Stella Walsh was an Olympian in the 1930s. She was also intersex.

Female athletes can have more than physical hurdles to jump over when competing in the Olympics.

Stella Walsh was one of the greatest female athletes in history, even though the world tried to strip her of her medals ... and her gender.

Photo via audiovis.nac.gov.pl.


"The Queen of Sprint," as Walsh was more commonly known, was an unequivocal champion of the 100-meter dash. She also happened to be intersex — a reality she kept secret in life because she feared what it might do to her career.

Unfortunately, her fear proved well-founded when her secret was discovered after her death, and people began questioning her natural abilities and record as a result.

Despite a rough childhood, Walsh sprinted ahead into an incredibly successful athletic career.

She was born Stanislawa Walasiewiczowna in Poland in 1911, but moved with her family to Cleveland, Ohio, later that year (although she wouldn't officially become an American citizen until 1947).

In high school, she was a superstar athlete, but her athletic prowess didn't stop her from being the target of bullies, who gave her the nickname "Bull Montana" after the wrestler/actor Lewis Montagna.

Photo via audiovis.nac.gov.pl.

Walsh went on to win numerous medals in both Poland and the United States for running and long jump and, in 1930, broke the world record for the 50-yard dash, which she completed in six seconds, at the Millrose Games.

Walsh competed in the Olympics for the first time at the age of 21 and for the last time in 1936 at the age of 25.

In 1932, she ran as a member of the Polish team, where she performed exceptionally, setting the world record for the 100-meter dash at 11.9 seconds, and she returned to Poland a gold medal champion.

Walsh continued to win medals and break records through 1935, but when she returned to defend her title at the Olympics in Berlin in 1936, she was bested by a worthy adversary — 18-year-old American Helen Stephens.

Walsh shaking hands with Stephens. Photo via audiovis.nac.gov.pl.

Soon after their race, a rumor was leaked to the press that Stephens was actually a man, and Stephens was forced to undergo the first-ever gender inspection by the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

Stephens was confirmed to be female, but the controversy opened up new questions for the IOC, questions that would end up coming back around to hurt Stella Walsh, even after she was killed in 1980 at the age of 69.

Walsh's autopsy revealed something surprising — she had male genitalia.

It's called mosaicism — a cellular mutation that resulted in her having mostly male (XY) chromosomes and therefore making her intersex.

Photo via audiovis.nac.gov.pl.

Walsh's parents chose to raise her as a girl, mostly because back in the 1920s and '30s, terms like "intersex" and "transgender" were barely acknowledged, much less socially accepted.

When the results of Walsh's autopsy were leaked, the press went on a rampage. A new tasteless nickname, "Stella the Fella," began circulating, and articles popped up with titles like "Heroine or Hero?" all because a simple truth had finally been revealed.

Then, Walsh's critics went after her medals, arguing that the IOC should take them back, because, being intersex, Walsh had essentially cheated and hadn't truly earned them.

Ultimately, the IOC opted not to revoke her medals, but on a technicality: She had competed before the organization implemented routine gender verification tests.

The fact that Walsh was under scrutiny 45 years after she competed begs the question: Who determines this gender line and why?

Much like gender itself, it's a complex issue.

Unisex bathroom sign. Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.

Thankfully, the IOC recognized this complexity back in 1996, when it decided to discontinue the gender identification process via chromosomal testing. Now, the IOC examines intersex athletes on a case-by-case basis, and it even began allowing transgender athletes to compete back in 2004, though again, the process there is still discriminatory.

While all these tests were put in place to promote fairness, the qualifiers the IOC uses to define a person's gender are by no means perfect.

Yes, higher testosterone levels can cause "female hyperandrogenism" which may cause a woman to have more stereotypically masculine traits like increased muscle mass. But that isn't always the case.

And even if the IOC did go so far as to impose invasive chromosomal testing on female athletes, the results of those tests could be just as ambiguous, especially because we now know many women are born with a Y chromosome and don't even know it.

Olympian Caster Semenya tested positive for "Y" chromosome. That doesn't mean she's not a woman. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images.

Weirdly, the IOC doesn't have as many regulations and tests for trans male athletes because trans male athletes aren't perceived as having any sort of physical advantage over their competition.

This is both commendable, in that it shows the IOC's primary focus is on ensuring fair competition, but also disappointing because it reinforces the notion that people assigned male at birth are inherently stronger than those assigned female at birth.

Hopefully, now that more transgender and intersex athletes are coming out to compete in the Olympics, the qualifying system will catch up to them.

It will take time, but there has definitely been progress since Walsh's time, especially in the last 15 years. For example, in just the 2016 Olympics alone, the United States has seven LGBTQ athletes competing.

Megan Rapinoe, US Soccer. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

There may always be a separation between gender at the Olympics, but the spectrum of those genders is widening significantly.