Now reassured and fully aware that the aid we would deliver would be fully distributed, we again contacted Katie of KT Maxx Wholesale in Manchester and Anne Mullins of Barnes Golden in London. A second load of similar donations and aid was prepared, including some entertainment items for the newly formed reception centre in Kyiv – including a small pool table.
So we set off again on the same route, this time in early May, from Harwich. Our journey was helped hugely by Stella Lines ferries, who are providing free transport for all humanitarian aid to Ukraine. This time, the decision was made to purchase an additional 450 kg of dry dog food in Poland rather than carry it from London as it made more sense financially made the van a lot lighter for 70% of the journey. After visiting 3 Aldi supermarkets, we were hamstrung by the limit of 10 x 5kg bags one was able to buy from a supermarket. We were fortunate enough to finally find a store in Karpowicz that was prepared to sell me more than the limit, after a conversation with dog loving assistant manager Weronica, who allowed us to purchase 320kg of dog food at her store.
New reception centre in Kyiv
Weronica, Assistant Manager, Aldi
Nigel & Svetlana unloading in the new warehouse in Lviv
With all of our aid acquired, we made way to the Poland/Ukraine border. This time, we were met with far more traffic, being a line nearly 3 miles long. Being that border control are more receptive to foreign vehicles with humanitarian aid, we were luckily able to drive up on the outside lane as far as we could, reaching the border within 2 hours.
Once through the Polish side of the border and in Ukraine, we opened up the van for inspection, and a friendly guard named Osana asked for some dog food, as she was struggling to feed her two dogs, and if we could drop it to her house a mile from the border. We of course agreed, but had to face Ukrainian customs first. After beating our previous time by two hours, we sadly got lost and were unable to find Osana’s house, after an hour and having no way of contacting her.
Two hours later, we reached Lviv, where the main difference to last time we noticed was the huge queues at petrol stations, with only around 10-15% of them being open. Like last time, we were treated to a very broken sleep due to the air raid sirens. The next morning, we were informed that it was unnecessary to continue to Kyiv, as Svetlana and some of her associates had just procured a 5,000 sq ft warehouse on the outskirts and could distribute aid from there.
Ukrainian girl in Kyiv
Unloading in warehouse, Lviv
So we set off to the warehouse, and we were met there with her newly formed team of delivery drivers, coming from 6 different cities. Our items were immediately divided up onto separate pallets for various cities and towns, and taken away for distribution. We couldn’t believe how organised it had become, and how busy Svetlana must have been since our last visit.
It was incredible to see – not an NGO, or multi-national charity organisation – a distribution system organised by concerned individuals, and sent straight out to those in need.
With how well things were ran at the warehouse, essential items could all go out in one van to the right location, rather than partially stocked vans, which gave us even more confidence our aid would be correctly distributed. Over the next 3 hours, we witnessed vans and trucks from the Netherlands and France coming in, and Svetlana’s distribution system effortlessly dealing with the influx of supplies. They were distributing our aid to the most needy regions, namely towns in Kyiv, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv.
We said our goodbyes, and headed back to the border, eager to find ways to maintain and expand this newly formed humanitarian food chain. We had realised what had started as a small effort and movement in offering some help to the people of Ukraine, this could become something far bigger. This was due to the incredible work of Svetlana and her team. The people in Ukraine are doing their bit, and now it’s time for us to do ours.
Our next trip is on the 6th of June in our current van. We want our trip afterwards to be a 40ft trailer, so we’re going to need your help in doing so. We have the infrastructure in place – now it’s time to do this together.
Warehouse workers in Lviv
Street cats being fed
Nigel & Ukrainian Border Officer
Aid recipients in Kyiv
Dog in Mykolaiv
Street dogs in Kharkiv