After the concentrated period of trips to Poland and Ukraine between April and May, we spent the ensuing months fundraising and then began spending money in other ways.
From providing a weekly free food bank in the local town of Ferney Voltaire for the many refugees living in the Pays de Gex area, to getting through the complicated process of organising a supermarket shop for the refugee centre in Cherkasy, which is now almost closed down because of lack of donations yet still have so many hundreds of families asking for food.
From receiving requests and paying for urgently needed medication sent to Kyiv for onward distribution to other requests for help from refugees themselves, we have been spending AidforAll donations in a range of areas. Now that the bombing has returned, Chris is very keen to return to Ukraine to take whatever aid they need in person. We are monitoring the situation.
First trip into Ukraine May 2022
From 20th to 23rd May we were in Warsaw, providing food and hygiene supplies to two centres. Then on the morning of 24th May we loaded up the van, to the extent that the rear tyres looked almost flat, and headed into Ukraine. We passed many checkpoints, many bombed bridges and buildings, many queues. A queue to get into Ukraine lasting days. A queue to get out of Ukraine lasting days. Literally, days. Due to the fuel shortage and many garages are boarded up or were destroyed in the Russian assault on Kyiv at the start of the invasion. Those that receive fuel deliveries have queues forming at dawn.
We already had a big case of bandages, Israeli dressings and surgical kit in the van. Our first stop was to deliver that, along with some medication, to Commander Sergey presently stationed in Kyiv. With the help of our wonderful translator Ivan, we learned that his battalion is soon to go to Kherson on the front line. Sergey has already been a Russian POW once, in 2017. Now, with two bullet wounds in his leg and a strong limp, he is ready to go back to the front again. However, resources, even for brave defenders like him, are not so easy to come by. He had to buy his own uniform jacket. They have no protective gear. The medication and tinned food we delivered will be distributed to THREE units on the front line. We have since purchased 10 uniform kits awaiting delivery and donated our own bulletproof vests to him.
Next we drove to Cherkasy, 3 hours south.
One of the Ukrainian refugees in the local French CERN area, Inna, is an estate agent from Cherkasy and she contacted us to ask if we could take aid to her group of colleagues who had set up a space to provide food and supplies for the nearly 100000 refugees that had flooded into Cherkasy from Mariupol and Kramatorsk. We agreed, and arrived in Cherkasy. While waiting for the guys from another association - Po Angels in Dnipro (_po_angel_ on Instagram) - to come collect their aid from us, as requested by another local CERN French area refugee, Elena, we used the time to visit the local dog sanctuary (drug.cherkasy on Instagram) and spoke to Julia. Some dogs have been there for 10 years. They have an increase in the number of dogs coming in and few resources. But what dedication from Julia and the team. What a lot of time and energy they are devoting to help these animals.
When we returned to the centre, we had the opportunity to sit down with Valentina and Julia from Mariupol. Their Azov soldier husbands had been part of the unit holding the Azovstal plant for the past 2 months and were now prisoners of war with the Russians. They have no concrete news of their whereabouts. They desperately wish for them to be put on the Special List of exchange prisoners. The video of the conversation with them is coming soon.
As we left Kyiv to the sound of sirens again (they go off day and night, whenever there is an attack anywhere in the country) both Chris and I felt a wave of heavy sadness. Sadness because it is clear that these people needed so much, yet we took so little. Everywhere we go they seem to rely on small associations like ours and the kindness of individuals to bring aid.
We will, with the help of our kind supporters and donors, continue to help in any way we can.
Spending thousands at a cash and carry
Monika from Warsaw and Ukrainian Elena kindly helped us with the shopping
On the road to the border we met Oskar and Viktoria taking a van which will be transformed into an ambulance in Lviv
Crossing the border, we avoided the several days long truck and car queue by virtue of being humanitarian aid and foreign plates.
We stopped at the town of Borodyanka just outside Kyiv, to find some food. We found a roadside bread seller, a shop with salami and sausages and that was that. But it was enough. Beautiful buildings totally destroyed.
The car contained a mother and child fleeing when the bombs started. They were both shot dead.
Tanya is a friend of a colleague of ours. Sergey is her partner. He is a commander with a battalion presently in Kyiv but soon heading to Kherson. He was already a POW in 2017. He had recently been shot in the leg twice and still limps. We gave them medication, dressings, bandages, surgical equipment and food which would be divided amongst three battalions. Some of them have to buy their own uniforms because they don't have any.
The centre was set up by a group of estate agent women. They run a small space offering food, clothing and hygiene supplies for the nearly 100000 refugees that poured in from Mariupol and Kramatorsk with nothing.
Part of the wonderful team helping refugees in Cherkasy. They are desperate for help
The guys from the _po_angel_ association from Dnipro drove 6 hours to collect food and medication for their city. They are a group that search for missing persons and will help people wanting to evacuate from places under fire. Brave young men.
On the street near Zelensky's home is a pop-up display of captured Russian armour
no words ;)