WhatsApp Image 2022-04-13 at 11.40.54 AM

Victoria, Arthur, Timur, Dasha, Varvara & Olga

I woke up at 2am freezing cold, so I clambered over into the drivers seat and turned the engine on for about 15 minutes until the heater really kicked in and the van was warm again. I then knocked the engine off and went back to sleep in the back. At 4am I woke up again, shivering like hell. I turned over the engine again, but this time I thought I’d just lie in the back and wait until it was warm again. Of course I fell asleep.

When I woke up again at 6am, the engine had cut out, but the ignition was still on. Bit of a worry to say the least! I thought maybe I had run out of fuel or the battery had conked out, but no, everything was working fine. I guess old Honda Stepwagons have a built-in “standby” mode when nothing has happened for over an hour?

I checked my phone. I had a message from the nice Polish lady at the “driver liaison” booth… there was a family of six that needed taking to The Netherlands. That sounded perfectly doable, so I set to work clearing out the coffee cups and setting up the seats in the back of the van. Luckily nobody saw me getting chinned by a seat back which sprung into position with far too much exuberance for that time of the morning.

Van converted into people carrier, I grabbed a coffee from the wonderful people at World Central Kitchen https://wck.org/ and went into the Humanitarian Aid Centre to meet with the people I’d be taking to the Netherlands.

I was introduced to Victoria, her two boys Arthur and Timur, her mother-in-law Olga, her friend Dasha and Dasha’s daughter Varvara. They were all from Kramatorsk which is in northern Donetsk, the Donbas region, the region of eastern Ukraine that President Zelensky told everyone to leave last week.

Victoria, Arthur, Timur, Dasha, Varvara and Olga needed to be taken to Utrecht in the Netherlands. No problem. It’s a good 16 hours to Utrecht from Medyka, and even if we left straight away and didn’t stop, it would be way past 11pm before we got there. That being the case, I said we’d see how we got on and either stay in Hanover or Osnabrück, depending on how far we got. With three children in the van, I figured we’d have a bunch of stops along the way.

We all had breakfast before we left, and I pressed on through Poland, stopping every couple of hours for breaks. Before we hit Germany, I took a left off the A4 at Jędrzychowice and we had lunch at KFC. Victoria spoke a little English and for the vocab she didn’t know, we used Google translate.

I didn’t want to ask too many questions, as it was clear that they had all been through a lot. One thing was firmly established, though, and that’s that there is no justification whatsoever for this brutal and barbaric attack on our continent. There are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families in the same situation: they’ve lost everything, their homes, their careers, their futures, their hopes and dreams. Taken from them by the cruel madman of Moscow and his army of half-crazed war criminals, terrorists and barbarians.

I filled up the tank (fuel is a lot cheaper in Poland) and we crossed the border into Germany shortly after 4pm.

We followed the course of the setting sun, which conspired with the clear blue sky to emulate the flag of Ukraine. Along the way I spoke to Ciaran and he sorted out somewhere for us to all stay for the night; a B&B Hotel in Osnabrück. Such a legend!

We bypassed Hanover around 9pm and got to the hotel just before 11pm, agreeing to meet at 7am the next morning. Victoria, Arthur and Timur took one room, Dasha, Varvara and Olga another. I had a room to myself in which I had a (much needed) shower, facetimed Kat and then, around 1am, finally got some sleep. It had been a long day.

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