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The 1st Trip

Our good friends Dave & Lynn Holland that live in Luxembourg decided to help those that fled from Ukraine to neighbouring country Poland, by driving to Poland with clothing, medical and hygiene supplies.

SESMA wanting to help, made a financial contribution to help buy supplies for the refugees.

This is Dave & Lynn’s story…So far!!!

The World Changed on Thursday 24th February...

Along with everyone, we looked on with a mixture of fear, anxiety, and trepidation as Russian forces invaded Ukraine…

The unthinkable was happening – tanks and soldiers rolling across Europe, cities being shelled, and people running for their lives…

By Sunday we were thinking about what we could do to help, be involved in some small way…

We looked at the obvious sending money to charities, but no one was really engaged – the Red Cross in Luxembourg stated they hadn’t had a request for help from Poland yet…

Then I made a passing comment…

Update of next trip that SESMA are helping with fund raising.

Why don’t we drive over there and drop off some medicine and nappies (daipers..)?

SESMA & Dave Holland helping Ukraine
SESMA & Dave Holland helping Ukraine 1

What, are you mad...?

So we did a bit of research and turns out what was needed by the aid agencies was Sanitary Products, Blankets, Sleeping Bags, Kettles, Microwaves, Nappies, and warm clothing…

So on Monday we went to the shops and filled the Honda Civic with a range of requested items and prepared to set off to Ukraine – around 1500km away…

Lynn put a little note on our Villages’ Facebook Group and posted that we were going to Medyka on Thursday on her personal page…

Then, it all kicked off...

All the villages around got wind of what we were doing…

  1. The local Pharmacy gave discounts to people buying medical items for us…
  2. The school had a collection of clothing…
  3. Each Mairie held collections and brought the items to our home…
  4. We opened a PayPal account for donations and received 7,500 Euro within 48 hrs…
  5. Neighbours decided to come with us and collect items from their workplace…
  6. Some bloke on LinkedIn wanted to come…
  7. A client rented us a Sprinter Van to cope with everything…
  8. We ended up with three SUVs, two Top Boxes, a Trailer, and a 4m Sprinter rammed full with around 3 tons of equipment…

The first stop was Dresden for our overnight rest...

Then on Friday, we headed for the warehouse in Medyak, Poland – the traffic around Katowice and Krakow has horrible with delays of around 2 hours…

And although we knew where the warehouse was, it had been our intention to attempt to bring out people from the refugee centres too – and we had no ideas where to go to achieve that…

Lynn had booked a “Truck Stop” hotel for us on Friday – literally a few rooms above the cash desk in a petrol station…

Following our GPS, we eventually pulled up in the car park of a fancy Spa Hotel – The Hotel Senator Gran Via in Olchawa…

Asking at reception if they had a booking for us made by Lynn Holland, we were informed that the hotel was closed to the public and had been transformed into a hostel for refugees – this was our first taste of the reality of the situation…

As it happens, the restaurant was open so we had dinner, and our server, a Swedish guy, had been going to the border to collect refugees each day – so he told us that the place to go was Korczowa, right on the border…

 
SESMA & Dave Holland helping Ukraine 2

We made our first donation of children’s medicine, blankets, and sleeping bags to the team at the hotel – a family arrived while we were there and we bought them dinner and a ticket for lunch on Sunday too…

SESMA & Dave Holland helping Ukraine 3

Early start Saturday...

Arriving at the warehouse on Saturday, we unloaded the vehicles into box pallets provided by the team – filling 40 of them with all the bags, cases, and donations we had been entrusted with.

These boxes would later be taken across the border into Ukraine for distribution directly to the refugees waiting to get to Poland – stage one of the mission had been completed..

Driving further towards the border towards Korczowa we found an aid station, but no refugees, just police and military, although two reporters heard us speak English and decided to join us as we headed further in…

Finally arriving at one of many Refugee centres, we parked and walked towards what was essentially a large warehouse converted to a dormitory for the people crossing the border. Housing around 4,000 people was a shock to the senses…

Although the Polish Police and Army were doing a great job, it was essentially organised chaos – we registered our availability at a desk and then waited for us to be called…

To speed things up, others had written placards..

Six Places to Germany…

And held them above their heads, walking around as if at an airport arrivals gate…

Six Places to Germany, France or Luxembourg...

Then Jon was approached by someone – could we take him and his family to Germany…?

Yes, we could, we were headed back to Dresden that evening and could take them with us…

So that’s what we did, we just walked out of the center with Mum, Dad and three children aged 9, 7 and 2 years old – didn’t sign anything, give any information or destination, just walked out and they followed us…

All their possessions were in a single carrier bag, they had taken 4 days to get to the Polish border from Odessa, then queued for 18 hours in the freezing cold to get through the border, then spent around 8 hours in the Refugee Station hoping to be picked up…

They were tired, cold, and hadn't been undercover for nearly a week...

We got them into the SUV, and headed for Dresden – a family we had only met 10 minutes before had got into a stranger’s car, fallen asleep, and trusted we would take them to Germany…

Arriving at the hotel at 01.00 AM we got the family a couple of adjoining rooms and we all crashed out to get some sleep…

In the morning they looked so much better having had slept in a bed, had a shower, and were able to have a full breakfast of eggs, pastries, and coffee.

They had decided to go to Berlin, so we bundled them all up, gave them 250 euros in cash, and a packed lunch, and got them on the 11.19 train from Dresden to Berlin with FREE tickets kindly issued by the German Railway…

The second stage of our mission had been accomplished – just needed to get home to France now…

SESMA & Dave Holland helping Ukraine 4
SESMA & Dave Holland helping Ukraine 5

What Dave learnt...

  1. It’s the crazy people who get involved first – the hippies, the non-conformists, and the outliers who step up and do something in a crisis. we met lots of like-minded souls on the journey, driving vans, cars, campers, and SUVs all crazy in a good way, making a difference the only way they knew how.

  2. The generosity of strangers and friends – we had people we’d never met offer help, give us money, give us equipment – one lady simply gave us a box of tissues. We got help on Social Media, people in hotels, restaurants, and gas stations – if our faith in humanity had been dented, this had definitely restored it…

  3. Just figure it out – we had no plan and little ideas of what we were doing – our only concern was they we didn’t get in the way of the authorities and make their job more difficult – we figured it out on the way…

  4. Gratitude. The family we picked up will be friends for life, they didn’t have to say thank you – although they did. The look in the mother’s eyes as she knew her children were finally safe said it all…

  5. Trust – getting into an SUV driven by some bloke you’ve met in a freezing carpark in a foreign country is either stupid or brave – we’ll go with brave. The responsibility of being trusted with the lives of a whole family that came into our care out of nowhere sat heavily on my heart…

  6. Motivation – when there is purpose and passion there is action and motion – it was a ridiculous thing to do, drive 3,200 km across three countries towards a war zone without knowing what we were doing – but motivation pulls us through, we got it done because in our minds we had no choice – it was non-negotiable…

  7. Contribution – some people gave money, some gave products, some gave time and some shared liked, and commented on the updates – everyone made a difference and I and the team thank you…

What Next...

We have decided to go again – over the four days of 31st March to the 2nd April we are organising a bigger, better and more effective expedition to the Ukraine border…