Inside Johnny Bananas' Humanitarian Trip to Ukraine Amid Russian Invasion

The Challenge's Johnny Bananas recently joined a humanitarian convoy to deliver aid to Ukrainians affected by Russian's war against the country.

By Corinne Heller, Alex Ross Mar 24, 2022 11:06 PMTags
Watch: The Challenge's Johnny Bananas Talks Helping Ukraine

Johnny Bananas recently took on one of his biggest challenges yet.

The 39-year-old former star of MTV's The Challenge, a.k.a. Johnny Devenanzio, earlier this month joined a humanitarian convoy, led by the refugee foundation Humanosh, to deliver medical and other supplies to people in Ukraine amid Russia's current invasion.

Johnny told E! News that a friend called him and asked if he would be willing to "make the trip. I just wanted to contribute in some way shape or form," the reality star said. "And it's easy to be like, I want to donate money to the Red Cross, or whatever. And that's all fine and great, but I feel like I am able bodied enough...my skills would be better put to use if I was actually able to like go and contribute and be on the ground."

 Johnny first flew to neighboring Poland, where he met Ukrainian refugees, including a woman who brought along her daughter but had reluctantly left behind her husband and son in Ukraine. The country has banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving amid the war. Johnny estimated the little girl to be 3 years old.

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"She goes, 'she has no idea what's even going on right now—she kind of thinks she's on a trip,'" he told E! News, days after returning to Los Angeles. "But she said, 'We had to leave with nothing. We had to leave with the clothes on our back.'"

Among the items Johnny helped distribute to the Ukrainian refugees in Poland: Diapers, baby food, applesauce pouches, canned goods and candy.

And he also contributed something personal: some music. Instagram user @smusa_1 recently posted a photo of the reality star playing guitar to two children sitting in strollers at a train station in Warsaw.

"We sat down for probably three, four hours as people came off the train and kind of milled around this little area they were in, just handing out candy and playing guitar and just danced with them and sang with them," Johnny told E! News. "It was just another way for me to just kind of use...one of my talents to help put a smile on people's faces."

Johnny also recalled his experience of traveling into Ukraine itself. He said that near the border, he saw "people sitting around trash cans warming themselves and there's babies that are bundled up and their parents are trying to keep them warm. And there's little tents set up to provide people with hot meals and food."

He continued, "The second you cross the border [into Ukraine], it just felt, you could feel just the suffering there. And you could just feel the crisis. I mean, there's a line a mile long of people standing on the Ukrainian side of the border trying to get into Poland."

Johnny said that after crossing into Ukraine, he and fellow volunteers headed to Lviv, a day before Russian forces launched a missile strike a few miles away in the city, which was previously considered a safe haven for Ukrainians who fled other parts of the country. The group delivered supplies to Ukrainian troops at a fortified military academy.

"I mean, these are like, teenagers that are sitting there, that have stayed behind," he said "They were so thankful that we went. We brought them a bunch of food. We brought them a bunch of supplies as well. We had someone donate a bunch of military helmets."

Next stop: An oncology hospital, where Johnny helped deliver medical supplies. "I wish we had more," he said. "Like, I wish we had a semi-truck. I wish we had 10 semi-trucks full of stuff."

Johnny called his trip, "an eye-opening experience," adding, "You just wish you could do more."

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