NewstrAid Volunteer takes aid to Ukraine

Read how one of our volunteers decided to take action in response to the war in Ukraine.

The initiative started on Saturday 26th February 2022.  In response to the developments in Ukraine, Dorothy and her husband Robert decided to bring their holiday forward so that they could take Humanitarian Aid to the Ukrainian border, and if possible, see if they could assist with helping displaced refugees to a safe place.

They had recently converted a VW van (nicknamed Vera Wang) into a camper van ready for a summer of fun and never anticipated that her maiden trip would be taking Humanitarian Aid to the borders of Poland and Ukraine.

Through a Ukrainian Church in Peterborough they were put in touch with St Olga Ukrainian Church. The Church advised them to keep the aid simple in case of searches, and to focus on items for women and children such as hats, scarves, gloves, blankets, sanitary items, nappies, toiletries, clothes, soft toys, and food.  They were strongly advised not to take medical provisions or combat equipment due to export restrictions and associated red tape.

The next step was to collect the supplies and whilst Robert oversaw the logistics of planning the route and booking accommodation, Dorothy focused on collecting donations from business contacts as well as individuals. Very soon carloads of supplies were rolling in as well as cash donations from those who lived further afield but wanted to show their support. Within 48 hours they had received enough donations and supplies to fill 4 van loads.

The Trip.

Dorothy and Robert departed for the Ukranian border on Thursday 3rd March. To maximise the space for supplies they travelled alone. The total trip covered 2,544 miles. Arriving in Calais on Thursday evening they departed Calais on Friday morning, stopped overnight in Hanover and then went on to Warsaw on Saturday enduring sub-zero temperatures.

During the trip they were advised that the planned destination in Poland was not accepting any more aid. Thankfully a former Polish colleague reached out and with their support they identified a hub open in Lubaczow.

The journey towards Ukraine on Sunday morning was emotional and unreal. The weather was freezing, the roads towards Ukraine were busy with vans loaded with aid and cars full of men looking to return to Ukraine after leaving the families safely in Poland.

Red Cross vehicles sped past frequently along with large military vehicles and equipment heading towards the border.

Most of the petrol stations heading East were out of fuel and things were beginning to get desperate. When they found an open station, the queue was long and many of the Ukrainians were filling up without the ability to pay for the fuel, so people pooled together to enable them to return to Ukraine and fight for their country.

The volunteers in Lubaczow were amazed that Dorothy and Robert had made it. They were not used to anyone from the UK delivering Aid.

Although Dorothy and Robert offered to help refugees back to Germany, they were advised that it was too difficult and complicated so they headed back to Warsaw.

Whilst staying in Warsaw it also became apparent to them how many young mums and children were waiting to be moved to a safer place, but again they were advised that any assistance they could offer would circumvent the system in place and it was best to let them keep everything in order.

From Warsaw they travelled to Berlin and then onto Ghent before returning home on Friday 11th March.

Dorothy and her husband undertook this initiative to support the people of Ukraine.  They felt compelled to help because if we stand by and do nothing, we could all be in this situation.

Their trip is only a tiny ripple in a big pond, but ripples reach out eventually. They did not know what danger they would be facing but knew they would not take unnecessary risks and there would always be a plan B. Dealing with distribution of live news taught them to always plan ahead and have a contingency. Not delivering was never an option!