World Central Kitchen volunteer killed in Israeli airstrike in Gaza remembered in Oshawa


Published April 2, 2024 at 4:56 pm

Oshawa resident Joe Sarnovsky (far right), and Damian Sobol (second from right) at a World Central Kitchen outpost in Poland in 2022 while waiting for hungry Ukranian refugees to arrive by train. Sobol was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza Tuesday

The news that an Israeli airstrike killed seven humanitarian aid workers who specialize in getting food into war and disaster zones in Gaza Tuesday struck close far too close to home for an Oshawa resident who worked with one of the seven at a World Central Kitchen outpost in Poland two years ago.

Joe Sarnovsky, a long-time General Motors employee and Unifor Communications Director, used his newly acquired culinary skills from a post-retirement culinary program at Toronto’s George Brown College to volunteer with World Central Kitchen helping to feed Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their homeland.

That’s where he met Damian Sobol, a Polish citizen who had also gone inside Ukraine to help. “We worked together at World Central Kitchen in Przemysl, Poland, helping out the Ukrainians,” Sarnovsky remembered. “He also went to Turkey after the earthquake and then on to Gaza.”

“We were friends. This is so sad.”

Helping those in need was an “unbelievable and very emotional” experience, said Sarnovsky, whose grandparents immigrated from Ukraine in the early 1900s,

“I was so happy to interact with many Ukrainians in the evening at the train station while offering them some food and drinks. It was hard seeing them, mostly women with children, hauling around their possessions in many suitcases, looking sad, tired and worried. They were very appreciative that many of us came from so far away to help out.”

“To be able to offer them a friendly smile, some kindness and a hot meal amidst the chaos they were living through was a highlight for me.”

It was those kinds of interactions that drew his friend to continue to serve those affected by war and the news of Sobol’s death in Gaza was hard to grasp.

“This is devastating.”

The World Central Kitchen, an organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, said the attack, which was described as “targeted,” was “unforgivable” and the group will be pausing its operations in the region “immediately.”

“This is not only an attack against (World Central Kitchen), this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said in a statement.

The seven killed are from Australia, Poland, United Kingdom, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, and Palestine.

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we – World Central Kitchen and the world – lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF. The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished.”

Andrés says he is also devastated by the deaths of his colleagues and called on Israel to “stop this indiscriminate killing” and “stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon.”

Cyprus, which has played a key role in trying to establish the sea route to bring food to territory, said ships that recently arrived were turning back — with some 240 tons of undelivered aid.

The World Central Kitchen team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle when they were attacked and footage of the airstrike showed the workers’ bodies, several wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo, at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah.

Despite coordinating movements with the Israel Defence Force, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.

The Israel Defence Force said it is “carrying out an in-depth examination at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

Gore said World Central Kitchen will be making decisions about the future of their work soon.

To donate to World Central Kitchen, visit

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