The couple behind a high-tech new entertainment precinct at North Lakes won’t be there for its official opening today – for a very good reason.
Instead, Dr Anthony Mahler and wife Olga will be in Poland, which has taken in more than two million Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian attacks in the past few weeks.
The Mahlers, along with son Michael, have been in Warsaw for about two weeks, helping provide accommodation and other necessities such as technology for desperate refugees.
While disappointed to miss the opening Olga, who grew up in Ukraine, says: “There is no other place in the world I could be at the moment”.
As they continue their work, Hey Caddy general manager Dean Cullen and Moreton Bay Regional Council Deputy Mayor Jodie Shipway will be on hand to oversee official proceedings to launch the precinct, which opened its doors in January.
While patrons explore Hey Caddy, the Mahlers will travel from Warsaw to the Ukraine border to deliver vital technology to blind people, including a journalist, so he can continue his vital work.
Olga Mahler sending Ukrainian refugees to safety in Sweden from Warsaw.
Olga migrated to Australia from Ukraine nine years ago and has family and friends caught up in the crisis, including her elderly blind parents who are stuck in their home in Kharkiv, relying on volunteers who risk their lives amid gunfire to deliver food.
Blind from birth, Olga imagined the terror her blind friends and family were experiencing as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
Angry about what was happening - and with a partially blind friend losing his life fighting to defend Kiev, leaving behind a widow and young child - Anthony and Olga decided they would do whatever they could to help.
“I can’t just sit here and cry and complain, so I need to do something,” Olga says.
“We have to go to Poland to help.”
With no contacts or specific plans, Olga and Anthony booked flights to Warsaw, figuring a plan would evolve once they arrived.
Volunteers sorting clothes donated for children at the school for blind children Olga Mahler attended Kharviv. The school was bombed in a Russian attack.
At 3am on their first night in Warsaw, Anthony went to the lobby of their hotel to do some work for his businesses in Australia.
A chance meeting with volunteers from the charity A Demand For Action crystallised how their plan to provide temporary shelter could evolve to providing permanent solutions for the refugees.
Olga and Anthony are now working closely with the charity, which helps refugees relocate to Sweden.
Another connection with an old friend, blind advocate Laurel Wheeler, has enabled them to co-ordinate technology and devices for refugees.
As a child, Olga attended the School for the Blind in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and close to the Russian border.
The school was recently bombed with the children sheltering inside and the principal badly injured.
“These personal experiences and a deep love of her country give her a visceral and unstoppable level of motivation to help,” Anthony says.
“Each refugee we help is now part of our family,” Olga says.
Anthony, Olga and Michael Mahler with Ukraine refugees Andrey, Olena and Katya.
Olga and Anthony, who works at the Clontarf Bridge Medical Centre, are spearheading the 'Help Us to Shelter Ukraine’ project.
The project is managed by Olga and focuses on supporting the short-term needs of blind Ukrainian refugees with food and accommodation, and helping them relocate to safe havens including Sweden, Germany and Spain.
As well, Anthony and Olga are providing essential food and personal care items to refugee centres, along with medical equipment and supplies to treat the refugees, and co-ordinating delivery of critical technology such as phones, laptops and Braille readers to blind refugees and other blind people still in Ukraine.
Olga Mahler with refugee Victoria in Poland.
The couple plan to stay in Poland for another four weeks, before returning home to Australia, where they are looking forward to welcoming patrons to Hey Caddy.
The entertainment precinct is home to X-Golf, with hi-tech golf simulators taking players to some of the world’s best courses in a simulated environment which mimics a real game.
An 18-hole putt-putt course has brightly coloured holes, amazing art and takes visitors on a journey around the world including the streets of New York and the Great Wall of China – and there’s a kitchen and bar to round out the fun.
X-Golf and Hey Caddy are at Unit 2/4 Burke Crescent, North Lakes.
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Olga Mahler with Ukrainian refugee Olga, who escaped from Kharviv.