Man with Katy ties, now living in Europe, leading Ukrainian refugee organization

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 7/7/22

Vienna, Austria, is over 5,600 miles from Katy. But a man with Katy ties, now living in Austria, is playing an important role in helping Ukrainian refugees.

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Man with Katy ties, now living in Europe, leading Ukrainian refugee organization


Vienna, Austria, is over 5,600 miles from Katy. But a man with Katy ties, now living in Austria, is playing an important role in helping Ukrainian refugees.

Adam Shephard leads Vienna Mission for Ukraine. His parents, Thomas and Cheryl Shephard, live in Katy, where Cheryl was a physics teacher for several years at Katy High School.

Adam said he has spent time in Katy, though he grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He attended Texas A&M University before becoming a United Nations nuclear facilities inspector and settling in Europe. He said his last visit to Texas was in 2020. He said he planned to return in March and visit family and friends, but events compelled him to change his plans.

Before March 1, a typical day for Shephard was flying to nuclear installations around the world. He inspected those facilities and verified that everything was being kept and used for peaceful purposes.

“I’d say I’m both a scientist and an engineer, as well as the inspector,” Shephard said. “I wore many hats.”

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in February, gave Shephard cause for pause.

“Some of my closest friends were Ukrainians and even Russians with strong Ukrainian ties,” Shephard said. “Watching the war occur, and really just sitting next to my closest friends and seeing the true horror on their faces and what it meant to them—quickly, I think me and everyone everybody around us realized we had to do something. It wasn’t just a war over there. It was the war in our living room. That pain quickly transferred to the rest of the international community very quickly due to our close connections with Ukrainian people basically.”

He launched Vienna Mission for Ukraine on March 2, which also happens to be Texas Independence Day.

“The mission of the organization is to move people from the Ukrainian border to safety as fast as possible, while seeking sustainable accommodation for them in providing for their general welfare,” Shephard said. “So, it is a refugee-focused organization.”

Shephard said the organization has different programs to help refugees. One of them is rescue, where the mission helps people who cannot escape the country on their own.

“We did an orphanage rescue where we rescued 57 orphans ages three months to seven years in their caretakers,” Shephard said. “We had a second at-risk persons group that we did a rescue from inside Ukraine. That was 43 mothers and children. Then we did another rescue for a city in Ukraine called Chernobyl.”

Chernobyl might be best remembered for the April 1986 nuclear accident that took place there. It was part of the Soviet Union then but Ukraine declared independence in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed.

But now, with the Russian invasion underway, Shephard and his group worked with Chernobyl’s mayor. The mayor, Shephard said, identified 35 people that needed to evacuate urgently. But those people did not have the means to do so themselves.

“We had these three busing campaigns from inside Ukraine,” Shephard said. “Separate than that, I think even after, starting on March 3 we ran our first band to the Polish refugee shelters and we were more or less delivering—we started working with a local church which is St. Barbara’s Church, which started getting an overwhelming amount of donations of humanitarian supplies.”

Getting people out of the country is one thing. Taking care of them in their new, albeit temporary, home is another.

“We had over 60 families from the international communities open their homes and they just took in refugee families,” Shephard said. “It’s going to take some time to get the refugees to their own sustainable accommodations.”

Shephard described one case where a baby was born to a refugee family.

“That was something to be positive about,” Shephard said. “It’s one thing if you’re in the system and you have to have a baby. It’s another if you’re in the loving homes of people who really are going to take care of you. So, that was pretty great.”

Shephard said certain moments in his work have been among the most rewarding parts of his life.

“One of my best friends and mentors is Ukrainian,” Shephard said. “He asked me, Adam, can you go pick up my family? I was able to say yes, and I drove to a refugee center in the van, picked up his family and brought them home to him here in Vienna, so this was spectacular. It’s very rare that you get to repay a mentor in such a profound way.”

The commute between Vienna and the Polish border is eight hours, Shephard said.

“Being in the van and if you have a common language—usually, we had a female Ukrainian speaker in the car or a female Russian speaker to really ease and comfort the people who were in the car because they had been through a horrible, traumatic experience,” Shephard said. “Usually there’s a lot of communication back and forth. The van is a very strange vehicle of purpose. I think every one of us who got to drive in the vans or on the buses to go to the border and help these people, everybody wanted to do it again and again. The more people we gave this experience to, the bigger our organization group. They got to touch the problem.”

Thomas and Cheryl Shephard have been following the news from Ukraine, though perhaps a little more closely than most, as their son is involved in the refugee assistance efforts.

“We’re just somewhat astounded by what Adam was able to do,” Thomas Shephard said. “They make such large personal commitments in both money and time.”

Adam Shephard said his organization has worked closely with the Youkraine Organization, St. Barbara’s Church, and First Aid, First Hand. He praised them and his colleague Olena Mashaina for their help.

Shephard said the mission solicits donations to fund its activities. For more information, visit the website

Ukraine, refugees, Vienna, Austria