On Monday 14th March, 21 courageous volunteers, including myself, my daughter and her Polish friend (acting as a mission critical interpreter), assembled in London to drive 3 minibuses and 3 transit vans full of urgent Humanitarian Aid from the Polish White Eagle Club to the distribution hub at the Warsaw Film and Music School, before moving on to the Polish/Ukrainian border (at Przemysl and Hrebenne) with additional urgent aid.
While in-country and liaising with people on the ground at the borders, we identified and evacuated a total of 48 adult and children refugees, 3 dogs, 2 cats and a baby from Hrebenne to other safer locations within Poland and Western Europe, including Krakow, Katowice, Wroclaw and Paris (most of which had onward journeys).
Altogether we covered 2700 miles in 6 days and it’s safe to say it’s nice to back in the office, sitting in a comfy chair, getting back to our version of normality…
…but normality for us, is a much different situation for the refugees. Fortunately, the Polish have been amazing at not only welcoming their neighbours with open arms, but the rapidness of their response to setup temporary camps to accommodate the refugees. Fortunately, having witnessed the camps first-hand; they’re welcoming, with comfortable warm conditions (it still drops to freezing at night), hot food and drinks, medical facilities and mental health support.
We were also warmly welcomed by the Polish, who were struggling with the sheer numbers of refugees constantly crossing over the border. In honesty, if we could have stayed longer, we would have. But in our way, however small, we know that we made a difference; and perhaps more importantly, gave 48 people and their pets an opportunity to move to a safer location – also meaning that 48 more people could now be allocated temporary accommodation and provisions.
It’s difficulty to predict how this war might end; but the Ukrainians we met were staunchly proud, their will tested but not broken, maintaining a stubborn resolve to love, protect and fight for the country they love and call home.
While we can’t stand besides them, they are not alone, and my thoughts and prayers stay with them.
If you wish to help support the voluntary work travelling to Poland to support and transport the refugees fleeing the Ukraine, you can donate on JustGiving here.