“What an illuminating and powerful time Mikey and I had during our 2nd mission to Ukraine. The people are immensely inspiring; their fortitude and stoicism are an example to us all. This, of course, we knew from our previous trip but the sentiment grows with each day and every mile we cover.”
– Major James Hewitt

We travelled from Lviv to the east as far as Zaporizhzhya, as fast as the road conditions allowed. It was a hard demand on the vehicles over some extraordinarily rough roads. The convoy of four vehicles; two drivers in each, became a well-coordinated team. Together we stopped for fuel, for coffee and for a smoke and we covered 2,500 miles in three days.

The trip started in a massive warehouse just north of Lviv where we spent a rainy afternoon loading the convoy vehicles with hospital beds and essential medical equipment, fulfilling a request from the doctors and nurses whose hospital had been destroyed by Russian missiles. We got back to our rooms and got ready for the next morning… An early start!

The distances are long; road conditions and weather variations. Curfew is from 23.00 hrs to 05.00 hrs. On Tuesday we left early, to reach our overnight stay destination in Dnipro. We arrived at 22.40. Nearly 15hrs of exhausting driving. Accommodation is usually found and pre-booked by John Lawler, the boss and founder of the MAD Foundation.

Another early kick-off and our first stop was an hour and a half drive south to deliver the hospital equipment which was off-loaded several hours faster than we had loaded up on Monday. This done, we stayed North of the Dnipro River and headed to within six miles of the Nuclear Power Plant at Zaporizhzhia. Purely as a precautionary measure, we brought Geiger counters.

The Zaporizhzhia Rescue Centre is a huge location centred around a hypermarket. Tents and alike covered the parking area and more. They belonged to bodies such as UNHCR and The World Kitchen. After help from our interpreter, Elizabeth, we took responsibility for our passengers. We stowed the luggage and welcomed on board 36 refugees, a cat and a dog. We then drove them west to the accommodation that had been pre-arranged in a church. Our sparse accommodation was four miles further on. A beer and bed just after curfew!

We split the convoy on the third day; one vehicle went north to the capital Kyiv full of refugees. The now three-vehicle convoy took the main route back to Lviv dropping some passengers off at various locations along our way. Our “new Found friends” were in shock and frightened but so glad that this chapter of their lives was over.

Irene (an English Teacher before the invasion) had been living underground… no fresh water, no electricity, no heating, no gas for cooking, no clean clothes and just 2 hours a day to get the cooking done and telephones charged up. Her apartment had been destroyed and she lived like this for over a month. She was smart, polite and enormously grateful that she could finally experience ‘freedom’. I asked how she was feeling and she responded ‘It is incredible to be free to be allowed to speak another language!’

Nars, an English speaker and his mother and 12-year-old brother were heading for the Czech Republic. They continued their journey the next morning with Nick and Max driving. The fear had dissipated, but the shock remained visibly etched on their faces. But the gratitude was deep and truly heartfelt. Every new goodbye was emotional…

We arrived back in the beautiful city of Lviv just after dark and in light drizzle and went to our rooms in the British Club to get some well-earned rest, knowing that the help we give emboldens the soldiers fighting so hard on the front line in the knowledge that their loved ones are being cared for by us, in some small and humble way.

Mention must be made of the Driving Team; John (Chief), Mikey, James, Nick, Max, and Dom and the Office Team; Kari (Mrs Chief) Natalia (our interpreter) and Mo.

Since our return, it was seen that the once teeming Zaporizhzhia Rescue Centre where we welcomed our passengers, is now completely devoid of people due to the evil missile attack on a nearby humanitarian vehicle convoy there leaving 28 Ukrainian refugees dead.

Mikey and I are very much looking forward to going back to Ukraine at the end of October/beginning of November to join the excellent MAD Foundation Team for further missions.”