Grantham area villagers return from trip to Poland with Ukrainian refugees

A villager has told the story of her trip to Poland to deliver vital supplies and bring Ukrainian refugees to the UK.

Judith Sharman, of Hough on the Hill, was joined by Helen Baly-Stark, Tim Haller and Rich Bentley, on a 4,700 mile trip that took the group from Lincolnshire to the Poland-Ukraine border and back again.

Departing at 10am last Wednesday (April 27) with vital supplies collected by the Cliff villages, the quartet drove in shifts until 7pm the following evening, when they reached Przemyśl, Poland, close to the Ukrainian border.

The minibus was filled with supplies for the trip out. (56472295)

The first stop was to deliver the most important medical supplies to a distribution center run by volunteers, that takes the essentials into Ukraine.

Judith explained that you could see the border with Ukraine around 400 meters from the centre.

She said: “We unloaded there and did an overnight in a hostel because we’d been on the road for god knows how long. Our plan then was to pick up the first group. Time had got away from us at this point.”

The first pick up of refugees, which were two mothers and three children.  (56472298)
The first pick up of refugees, which were two mothers and three children. (56472298)

At 9.30am the next morning, the group were due to pick up two families coming out of Odesa, but Judith explained that these were refugees delayed by around seven hours.

She said: “They were held. It was horrible. They’d been shelled coming out of the station at Odessa. They’d got through that, then they’d been held and they didn’t know where or why for seven hours somewhere in the Ukraine. The trains are blacked out, so you imagine day and night you are just sat in a blacked out train.”

While they waited for the families, the group delivered the rest of their supplies to a refugee crisis center in Medyka, which Judith described as “quiet” and said that there were “a lot of old people who just had nowhere to go. That was terribly sad. They couldn’t manage the system.”

“There were buses from every other country except the UK that these people could get on for free,” Judith added. “There was a rape centre, pregnancy testing center – all those things that you don’t immediately think about. So that was very sad.

The refugee crisis center.  (56472301)
The refugee crisis center. (56472301)

“The best bit of charity help was World Central Kitchen. They were at every station, at bus stations. These tents are running 24/7. They’re doing hot food, water and fruit. They feed all the volunteers and refugees coming in .”

They then went back to Przemyśl station and trains had started to come in and the group were able to collect their first group of refugees.

Judith said: “The stations were packed, but they were silent.

The refugees on the bus home.  (56472307)
The refugees on the bus home. (56472307)

“They’re exhausted, because coming out of Odessa, they just don’t know if they’re going to get out. It’s awful.

“We hadn’t been in contact with them for about seven and a half hours, so we were just hoping that they’d be on that train. They were just stood there and the mums just burst into tears. It wasn’t dramatic. crying it was just guttural sobbing They were so tired.

“We got them to the bus and we all introduced ourselves but we didn’t crowd them.

From left: Rich Bentley, Helen Baly-Stark, Judith Sharman, Tim Haller.  (56330455)
From left: Rich Bentley, Helen Baly-Stark, Judith Sharman, Tim Haller. (56330455)

“The first thing they did open their bags and they gave us a present. It was homemade wine and homemade jam.”

Around four hours into the journey to the next rendezvous point, the refugees began to chat between themselves, and the group were able to go and introduce themselves.

Judith added: “They are so polite and they were so grateful. They rang home every day. They’d left brothers, husbands and parents, because the older people don’t want to leave, so that was quite difficult for them.

Four more refugees were picked up in Warsaw, one of which was a 22-year-old woman who was originally meant to be traveling with her mother, but her she had decided to return to Ukraine to be with her husband who had refused to leave .

Judith said: “We picked up the original five, then I had probably four or five changes of passengers throughout the journey because suddenly they’ve either gone back to Kyiv, or someone’s managed to get them on the plane or they’ve decided not to come at all.

“You expect that, but we got a full bus. Nine was probably the maximum we could take and we filled it, which was amazing. It was a hell of a journey.”

The bus arrived back in the UK at around 10pm on Saturday, and the last of the refugees were dropped off in Wales on Sunday after staying overnight with Helen.

Judith confirmed that enough money had been raised to complete a second trip, this time out of Horncastle, which is set to take place in the next few weeks.

To donate to the cause, visit: https://gofund.me/078ba172



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