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“We all wanted to help the Ukrainians”

29 March 2022

Kevin Agnew, a Prospect member at Sellafield, has just returned from Poland, where he was part of a convoy of vehicles delivering much needed supplies to help Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Here, in his own words, is the story of volunteers who began collecting donations in West Cumbria, how he got involved, and some of the people he met, including Ukrainian refugees, on his six-day journey.

Kevin Agnew in Ukraine


Nina Albertelli, Nikki Wyatt and Bart Mikolajczyk are fronting a group of people, based in Cleator Moor, to collect supplies donated by the people of West Cumbria for the Ukrainian people.

Once collected the supplies would need transporting, using Bart’s expertise and knowledge of his Polish homeland.

Four drivers drove two vans to Szczecin in Poland. The drivers were myself, Tom Kelly, Shaun Kelly (all members, or former members, of Prospect) and Richard Wilkinson (former Chair of West Cumbria Prospect Branch).

We all wanted to help the Ukrainians so when we heard Tom was driving over, we all volunteered to co-drive.

We drove down to Dover, caught the ferry to Calais, then drove across Europe to Szcecin: six countries in one day and 22 hours of driving.

We were originally due to travel with P&O ferries to Europe but had to replan mid-journey when the ferry was cancelled after the company sacked all their workers!

We spent a night in Dover, two in Poland, one in Germany and one on a ferry; we lodged with a Polish family on one of the nights, the rest in budget hotels to keep costs to a minimum.

Kevin Agnew, Tom, Richard, Shawn

Left to Right: Kevin Agnew, Tom Kelly, Richard Wilkinson and Shaun Kelly

Supplies

We took a mixture of medical supplies, nappies, sanitary products, clothing and bedding. Some of the supplies we dropped off at the Ukrainian Association in Szczecin.

The Association is staffed by a mixture of Poles and Ukraines and is led by Jan Syrnyk, who has been providing aid to the Ukrainian frontline since the Crimean invasion in 2014.

The Association houses many refugees, with several cars bearing refugees turning up while we were there. The staff are seasoned experts in getting supplies to the needy in Ukraine and avoiding detection by the Russians when doing so.

When the vans turned up the staff immediately crawled all over the supplies, taking no time to unpack it; the Association building and grounds were packed with constantly arriving aid, but the staff efficiency was something to behold.

The remainder of the supplies we provided to the Mayor of Trzebiez for refugees in her locality. She recruited local youths to unpack the van and used her own offices as an interim store, before distributing the aid to two local refugee camps.

She took us to one of the camps to meet the spokesperson for the group, a Professor in Kyiv University and who left behind her husband in the fighting. Her distress was plain to see.

She pleaded with us to lobby our government to help her people, to impose a no-fly zone over her country and boost medical aid to Ukraine. She explained that the refugees do not want to leave Poland but want to stay close to their homeland, so as to return home as soon as humanly possible.

She was full of praise for the Poles, saying they are providing all they need in material terms and are taking their children into the local schools.

I came away with a profound respect for the Polish people, for the way they have opened their homes to the refugees and are treating them and their children like their own.

While our experience is that many of the refugees want to stay in Poland, we must be ready to accept them if, as seems likely, this war drags on and Poland and the surrounding countries become overwhelmed by the numbers of people fleeing the Russians.

Nina Albertelli has created a GoFundMe page to fund the transport of supplies to the people who most need it in the Ukraine. Please help by visiting: Help get supplies to the Ukrainian people.


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