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Long before Ray Donovan, Victor Creed or Richard Roma, the main character in Liev Schreiber’s life was Alex Milgram.
“He became like a superhero to me,” Schreiber told NPR. All things Considered.
The actor, who counts these roles among his long list of credits, shares a deep connection to Milgram, his maternal grandfather and a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant to the United States. After Schreiber’s parents divorced in 1972, it was Milgram who raised him in many ways.
“He was the kind of guy who slapped me on the back of the head if I didn’t open a door for someone,” he says. “Not hard, but hard enough.”
Despite their emotional connection, Schreiber didn’t feel like he knew his grandfather’s story well. Milgram was not someone who liked to share a lot of details about himself.
After Milgram’s death in 1993, Schreiber said he had a “powerful emotional feeling about him…that I hadn’t bothered to know. It was something that really motivated and inspired a much of the work I did from then forward.”
He has since explored this aspect of his legacy, including with his directorial debut, the 2005 film Everything is illuminatedan adaptation of a story about a Jewish American man who travels to Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during the Holocaust.
And now Schreiber finds himself once again focused on Ukraine, this time for a humanitarian cause after Russia invaded his grandfather’s country.
In March, Schreiber co-founded BlueCheck Ukraine, a network that identifies, monitors and funds local organizations assisting Ukrainians. He spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about the group’s work.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How BlueCheck Ukraine was born
I can’t think of the word right now, but it didn’t feel good to do nothing. [Then] friends called me and asked if I was interested in doing something. We came up with the idea that if we could identify and expedite financial support to groups that were on the ground or even preferably Ukrainian, that would be a real service not only for Ukrainian nationals, but [also] to this huge wave of Americans and people around the world who want to support them.
About the types of organizations that BlueCheck Ukraine supports
We work with a group called Kidsave, which is actually an American charity, but they have boots on the ground in Ukraine. And we met a guy named Pavlo Shulha and his wife, Olena, who together with their friends set up this network of taxis and cars and drivers. They were commissioned by Kidsave to evacuate 117 registered orphans. Since he was hired, he has rescued more than 10,000 displaced women and children. And you can just see that him and his crew, it’s their country, it’s their family, it’s their people, it’s what they do. They are therefore in the best position to do this work.
What we try to do with BlueCheck is to give as high a percentage as possible. Right now it’s 100%. We have no administrative costs. How long we can last that, we’ll see, but what we can do now is get 100% of the money you give to Pavlo and his wife.
On his plans to continue helping Ukrainians
The families, the women carrying suitcases behind them and heading for the border with their children, while their men go to the front line to fight a battle in which they are vastly outgunned and outnumbered – that’s the big picture in my mind.
The challenge for me is sustainability: like keeping everyone interested, keeping that in the headlines, keeping people up to date with what’s going on. Because I believe they will win, but they need support, they need our help.