On Monday 7th March 2022 Brethren from Shakspere 1009 left the UK and headed to Ukraine with a van packed with over one tonne of urgently needed food, hygiene and medical supplies for displaced Ukrainian nationals escaping into Slovakia.
Working with the Manchester Ukrainian Community and volunteers from the Scouting Organisation, Bros Thomas Daniel and Elliott Jervis loaded the van with over £8000 of donated equipment and set off on the three-thousand mile round trip, assisted greatly by very generous donations from Manchester Masons, Manchester Level Club, brethren of Shakspere 1009 and brethren alike.
Oksana Nepyivoda, the volunteer responsible for arranging the customs paperwork, made sure they had a contact at the Ukrainian side and made arrangements for safe passage over the border.
The journey itself from the UK to Ukraine was gruelling. Just over fifteen-hundred miles, stopping only for food and fuel. It took just over 25 hours of continuous driving
The situation in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, was heart-breaking. There were dozens of coaches lined up waiting to leave. All filled with women and children in a state of total despair. The men were not allowed to leave the country, and hundreds of families leave there each day not knowing when they will ever be reunited again.
Crossing over the border was a relatively simple process. Aid vehicles, such as they were, were being waved through as there was a real urgency to get unloaded and to get the aid supplies out to those who needed them.
“We felt fortunate” says Bro Jervis. ”We had a direct contact with the people coordinating the relief efforts in Uzhhorod. The list of urgently needed items was updated daily and we were bringing in specific supplies requested only hours before we left. We unloaded the van and saw the equipment being handed out to refugees is less than an hour later”
Accommodation was made available at one of the volunteers own houses. Any and all spare floor space in the area was being consumed by displaced citizens. Only 30km away trees were being felled to create blockades, and sandbag bunkers were being constructed by the roadside.
Bro Daniel did the first leg of the drive home. “We were tired, but it felt inconsequential compared to what we were leaving behind” he says. ”As we left the weather was turning and a snow storm was starting to come in from Slovakia. Items being added to the updated lost were thermal underwear, hand warmers and insoles”
At our next social board, I’m sure we will all spare a thought for those refugees, their families, and for all those still fighting for their freedom.
Story & Picture By Bro Thomas Daniel