The war in Ukraine has shocked and saddened us all. Mark Hughes, an Essex business man and Stisted Parish Councillor, felt he had to do something to help the Ukranian people. He decided on Monday 28th February to fill a van with aid and drive to the Polish/Ukranian border. Mark has previously driven across Europe and Africa so is an old hand at driving long distances. He met with members of Stisted Parish Council and Stisted Village Hall on Monday evening to discuss how they could achieve this mission, the team decided to set up a donations point at Stisted Village Hall and start an Amazon wish list. The items needed were Batteries, medical items, nappies and formula, sleeping bags, baby slings, wind up torches etc.
Mark and the team were not expecting the reaction they got. Donations came flooding in from all directions, everyone wanted to help and be involved; the generosity was wonderful to see. What started as a small personal mission, gained momentum!
1200 Amazon parcels turned up at Mark’s house, these all had to be opened and sorted into categories. Mark and the team were overwhelmed with the depth of feeling in the community, everyone was interested and wanting to help where they could.
A spreadsheet was created; as well as logistics, Mark feared post Brexit paperwork could scupper the expedition. Kate Nichol worked tirelessly on a spreadsheet listing all donations, and boxes were labelled in four languages, English, French, German, Polish and Ukranian. Messages of goodwill were included in each box.
After frantic packing and sorting of donations, Mark left for Poland in the early hours of Monday 6th March. One week from his first idea, the van was fully loaded, the Eurostar crossing booked, the route planned and a co driver Jon McKie ready to share the driving.
The route went through France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany and on through Poland to the border. Prior to arriving in Berlin, Mark was asked by a contact on the Polish/Ukranian border for Haemostat powder to help with bleeding loss, and blood bags, these were desperately needed for trauma wounds. With some difficulty these items were sourced and ordered in Berlin and will soon be delivered to where they are needed.
Apart from being stopped by police twice in Germany, Mark made it to the border close to Lviv without too much trouble, a journey of approximately 1300 miles. A Ukranian couple Alex and Victoria offered to put up the team for the night as all accommodation was full, very welcome after the long drive.
Mark said “I was humbled by the commitment of Alex and Victoria, despite having limited space and three children, they were hosting up to 12 refugees a night. Their commitment to helping out fellow Ukranians in dire need, is inspirational. They kindly provided sausages and beer for us too, Most welcome after the long drive!”
Back at Stisted Village Hall there were still piles of donations that couldn’t be fitted onto the van. Mark had contacted John Vincent from TEECH, a registered charity that regularly delivers aid and support to Moldova. Moldova shares a border with Ukraine and is one of the poorest nations in the EU.
On Tuesday 8th March John pulled up outside Stisted Village Hall with a large van and trailer, villagers loaded it up with boxes of food, medical and first aid equipment, baby food, blankets, sleeping bags and soft toys, the vehicles were fully laden. John set off for Moldova on Saturday 12th.
Mark is heading back to the UK and will arrive late on Friday 11th. His mission was to take aid as far as he could to the people who really need it. After unloading in the snow Mark started his return journey.
Victoria messaged “Just wanted to let you know that all baby food, first aid kits, batteries and sleeping bags are going to Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, everything else into Kyiv.” Mission accomplished.
Mark added “After seeing the situation first hand and the commitment of those helping the people of Ukraine, I need to go again. This time with much needed medical aid.”
If anyone would like to donate towards a future trip please do get in contact.
For more information about The Big Bear Cider go to:https://www.thebigbearcider.co.uk
[Copy of Press Report dated 17 March]