Bear, however, had other ideas. Rather than get some shut-eye, he took the remaining supplies to the Humanitarian Aid Centre in Przemyśl, where he met up with his contacts who had come to collect the boxes and take them into Ukraine to help with the current crisis.
By the time I got up at 8am, the van had been emptied and Gordon had already taken his share of the supplies from the house to his charity’s aid tent in Medyka.
We were planning to pick up Natasha, her two kids, Mark and Maria, and their tiny little dog, Oliver, in the Polish town of Radomsko. But the Stepwagon is an eight-seater, so that left a couple of seats spare for two more refugees. Bear had tried to see if we could take somebody somewhere when he was at the refugee aid centre in Przemyśl this morning, but to no avail. So Gordon, Bear and I headed to the train station to see if anybody needed a lift from there.
But upon arrival we discovered that we couldn’t take anyone without already having a wristband of the kind I got on my last two journeys. So we headed back to the Humanitarian Aid centre to see what was happening. It turned out that there were no refugees that had somewhere they could actually go that morning.
(In the event, Natasha and her kids had quite a bit of luggage, and Bear, being 6’6″, kinda takes enough enough space for two, so despite me not wanting to have any seats spare when we left Poland, it was probably for the best that we didn’t take anyone from Przemyśl on this occasion.)
Fine, then, we had faffed about for far too long, it was time to hit the road. Next stop: Radomsko!
I drove with Gordon in the front passenger seat, Bear got in the back and have a bit of a snooze. I had been driving for about four hours when I got a message from Amanda, Natasha’s sponsor in the UK.
She didn’t have good news.
The licence for the dog is not going to come through in time.
APHA have had a huge number of applications in recent days and are working through the backlog.
You will not be able to bring Oliver into the UK tomorrow.
Our options are:
You stay where you are in Poland and as soon as the licence is approved we arrange travel.
You travel with Graham to Calais and go into refugee accommodation in Calais. I will drive to pick you up as soon as the licence comes through.
I am so sorry.
Essentially, we wouldn’t have all the documentation for Oliver, their adorable little Maltese dog, and so wouldn’t be allowed over the border.
Before Brexit, all you needed to get your pooch into the UK was an EU pet passport with the proof that your dog had been vaccinated against rabies. But now, because WHY NOT, you need a letter of permission to transport the dog into the UK and a letter off a qualified vet to ensure that the house that the dog will be staying in is suitable for THREE MONTHS of home quarantine.
Neither of the plans sounded good to us, with the whole family stuck either in Poland or Calais for two, maybe three weeks, waiting for this damn paperwork to come through.
Being practically-minded chaps, we came up with a Plan C: leave Oliver somewhere in continental Europe, take Natasha and her kids to Stockport in the UK, drive back and pick Ollie up once the licence has been approved.
All we had to do is quickly find somewhere in continental Europe for little Ollie to stay while the paperwork was sorted out.
“I know somebody!” declared Gordon. Gordon’s old army buddy Adam lived in Germany with his wife, Ali. It wouldn’t be too much of a detour to drop Oliver off with them on the way to the UK with Natasha, Maria and Mark. They were also licenced dog breeders. It almost sounded too good to be true.
Gordon got on the blower, and within a few minutes we had approval for our plan.
We let Amanda and Natasha know what we were planning, got their approval, and arrived in Radomsko at around 6pm. There we met Carolina, a Polish volunteer who had been helping Natasha out. So many lovely people willing to help strangers in need! It’s really quite life-affirming.
We helped Natasha, Mark and Maria load up the van with their belongings, and around 6.45pm we departed, following the setting sun west towards the border with Germany.
It was just before midnight that we all arrived at Łagów Manor, the fantastic little hotel on the border with Germany. They even gave us a discount because we were helping Ukrainian refugees.
It would be an early start in the morning though… we had a lot of ground to cover!
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