Wednesday 27 April
Graham and Bear arrived at the border early this morning, after they’d driven though the night. After a little rest in the house we are staying in, the load they had brought with them brought was shared out amongst us medics at the border and a contact in the international battalion of the Ukrainian army.
Then we were off on an epic road trip. We headed away from the border and travelled four and a half hours to collect a mum – Natasha – and her two children plus dog. They are going to stay with a sponsor called Amanda in Manchester.
From there we travelled a further five hours to a hotel near the German border, where everyone can rest before heading through Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and through the tunnel tomorrow, with a detour to the German Luxemb0urg border.
I’m back after a three day trip back to the UK to take a family to their sponsor in Stockport with Bear and Graham. I picked up the 4×4 that Bear sorted, then headed straight back from the garage in Basingstoke. After a 42 hour 1225 miles trip with the ferry included, I arrived back at the border.
15 hours later the car is loaded and ready to go into Ukraine with a load of hospital supplies. Then bring some refugees to the border and to safety. You can see the family above: Natasha (mum), Maria and Mark. Unfortunately, as dogs need more paperwork than humans to get into the UK, wee Oliver couldn’t go over the channel.
Thankfully, an old boss Adam Marchant-Wincott RA lives in Germany near Luxembourg. He and his wife agreed to foster Oliver until he is clear to travel and join his family.
So our trip to take medical aid and food to the disabled children’s centre in Chernihiv was delayed by six days before our first attempt to cross into Ukraine. This was due to politics, documents, and a vehicle breakdown.
On our first attempt we sat in the queue for six hours, but had to turn back because of the time; after 2200hrs you require a night driving permit until 0500hrs due to a national curfew. Not all in the team had this.
Attempt number two. We arrived at the border at 0500hrs and joined a long stationary queue. As we had three vehicles of different sizes, we were separated. At 1930hrs we eventually all met up one kilometre into Ukraine. We then drove in convoy to meet a contact outside Lviv who took us to someone’s home near a tank factory, where we could sleep.
At 0500hrs the following day we drove to Novihrad and the sugar factory where we were welcomed like royalty and given so much advice, thanks and even a Ukrainian solder to escort us all the way to Chernihiv and back. This proved very handy.
We rested there for the night and some of the team experienced air raid sirens for the first time: these continued all through the night.
At 0530hrs we left, picked up our military escort and headed to Kyiv, where we were waved through every roadblock thanks to our soldier. We were, therefore, making good time until…
About 70km from Chernihiv on the only route into the city, we found that the road was very broken, this in turn burst the suspension airbags on the bus, and eventually cracked the gearbox sump. We limped the final 20km into the city and then on to the childrens’ centre with the bus looking worse for wear, its back end just of the ground, gearbox oil pouring out and generally not looking great.
After unloading all the supplies we had brought with us and, again, having been welcomed very warmly by the centre staff, we turned our attention to getting the bus fixed over the weekend in a very religious and war-torn city.
It was decided on the Saturday night that as the bus was still not fixed, the team would split up. The armoured vehicle (Pig) was given to the Ukrainian army, and on Sunday morning four of us and the military escort would leave and head south.
The advice from the intelligence reports was to leave as a further attack was imminent. But the extraction organiser was determined to remain and wait for the bus to be ready.
0630hrs on what was Easter Sunday in the UK (and Ukrainians take advantage of two Easter weekends in normal years), we said our goodbyes and left on the mini bus. As we were now just one vehicle, we managed to travel the 996 kms to Medyka crossing point and into Poland within 15 hours, and that was with three hours at the border. The bus did get fixed and was brought back on Wednesday safely.
Slow day at the border today, a few minor things like headaches, sore throats and feeling sick; but today we got a big delivery of hospital equipment delivered from a charity called Rock UK from Beverly near Hull.
I will arrange with Lviv or Kyiv general hospitals to get it to where it is most needed. When the car arrives with Graham and Bear’s deliveries on Monday, it will be loaded and I will endeavour to have as much of it as possible where it’s most needed by Wed or Thursday.