When we make a promise we keep it!!!

All of your donations have been taken into Ukraine and handed over directly into the hands of a Ukrainian aid agency. 

We know this because we drove over the border to put it straight into their hands. 

On Sunday night, our Romanian friends had arranged for us to meet members of the Ukrainian resistance in the “no man’s land” between the Romanian EU / NATO border and the Ukrainian war zone border to offload our vans for them to distribute in the cities of Ukraine most in need.

When we arrived, a Ukrainian border guard told us that our contact had been in touch to say that their vans were stuck further down the border without enough fuel to get to us. How would we feel about driving about 60km across the border with a military and police escort to deliver direct as they desperately needed your donations. 

Well, what could we say?

So, at 1am Sunday night / Monday morning our two vans, trailer and car flew at 150km per hour into a war torn country with 

Kalashnikov welding escorts, during the night time curfew and under martial law, towards a collection and distribution point ran by soldiers and territorial guards. We arrived to find several men waiting to help us unload. They explained that they were sending trucks and buses up and down the country delivering aid to besieged cities every day and getting them into the hands of the military and ordinary Ukrainians suffering in this devastating war.

And then the air raid sirens broke through the silence of the night. A slight flicker of fear passed briefly over a few of their faces and we were quickly ushered into a “safer” place inside their warehouse.

A deep Ukrainian voice barked for us to turn out all of the lights and Kalashnikov guy, a professional Ukrainian soldier with a face of steel and eyes that could write a thousand murder mysteries, herded us like sheep from the warehouse into the dark merge shelter that their office provided. We had no choice but to hunker down for the night.

In this undisclosed location, the true war time spirit reminiscent of the blitz raised its beautiful head. Coffee, tea, food and warmth were provided and we settled on the sofas to wait for the danger to pass  To break the ice, we asked for a glass of Jack Daniels and, playing the perfect hosts, one of the soldiers produced a magnum of champagne, offering to open it to celebrate our arrival.

The men that surrounded us were young, proud and determined. They took pride in telling us about their desire to fight and crush the invading force destroying their country. They told us of their sisters, mother’s and friends who refused to leave and who stood side by side with their male comrades taking up arms and protecting the vulnerable.

Their fears, suspicions and incredulity at our arrival turned to warmth and smiles and giggles as we shared our story and journey with them and they shared their brave stories with us.

A tear formed silently in the eye of one of the soldiers as he learnt of how the supporters of Project 4 All,  Friends of Project 4 All,  had united to show their solidarity and support.  They were agog to learn that we had brought 2 vans of donations from Spain, we had sponsored a van of donations from UK, travelling thousands of miles, to help in the only way we could. 

Their warehouse had been empty when we arrived. As soon as donations arrive they are distributed across the country within 24 hours. They told us that they had set up their own Non-Profit organisation within Ukraine to deal with donations as a huge chunk of aid arriving via the big NGOs and smaller charities is being siphoned off and sold on the black market before it even reaches the border.  We are so pleased to have made these contacts so that in future we can work directly with these men and ensure that 100% of any future donations we receive get to the people on the ground.

When the all clear sounded, we lept up and continued to unload the vans and all the donations, separating into pallets the food, clothes, toiletries etc for easier distribution.  Fear of a future raid forced us to leave our new found friends and head back to Romania.

During the drive back, the air ride sirens began to blare again and our escort increased the pace. Driving through this was terrifying.  We saw what we had been told, the petrol stations were empty. People had to walk for miles to reach the safety of the European border.

The most devastatingly heartbreaking moment for us all was on the journey back to the safety of the EU as the curfew ended at 6am. As we were escorted by our military and police convoy, the sun rose quietly over the horizon, the frozen earth and snow covered fields came into view as did the silhouettes of exhausted families who had travelled for days to seek refuge, warmth and care with only the clothes on their backs and the small suitcases they were able to carry. 

At the border, the chilling sound of children and babies screaming and crying as they were coaxed from their fathers arms filled the air as Daddy has to stay to fight. Families were being torn apart before our eyes, possibly forever, it sent shivers down our spines and brought lumps to our throats.

We can’t stop now. We need more than ever to keep supporting this community, these people are exhausted when they arrive, they have no idea what the future may hold and I cannot begin to imagine how that feels. 

This is just one night of part of the teams adventure, myself, Jonny Elraiz  and James Coyne. We still have Jim, Mike and Konstantin and the amazing Jacqui Birch  and Dani Bowler and we will keep you informed. Believe me there is a lot more to share and show you!!!

For more information go to our facebook www.facebook.com/cook.for.the.homeless/

by Jo Hollingworth