Run 20 – September 2023

Run 20 was one of the biggest runs we have undertaken to date! Using 2 vans and a trailer, we took around 2.5T of much needed aid to Kyiv and Zaporizhia! It was also the first time that Mike, Andy and Guy had been on a run together!
We were also joined by photo journalist Frank Thon whose book from a previous visit has just been published.

Mike was the first to leave via Harwich to Weeze where he picked up both additional aid and Guy & Frank. Andy left the following day via Dover and headed to their meeting point in a service area in Germany.

Whilst travelling through Belgium, Andy had a very pleasant surprise:

From there, we drove to the border town of Przemysl and their half a star hotel room for a few hours sleep.

There is an optimum time for crossing the border which is in the early hours when the queues are shorter so it was an early start for the final stage of the journey out to Kyiv.

Front of the queue at the border!

Our early start meant we were able to get to the front of the queue quite quickly. It wasn’t to stay that way though and due to some paperwork issues for Mike’s van, Andy and Frank had to make the difficult decision to progress on and hope they would make it through. Fortunately, Mike came through within an hour or so and we were once again on the road.

Just before leaving the UK, we received a request for help from a family with 6 children whose house was just a 5 minute detour. After stopping at some of the roadside stalls where we purchased potatoes and other vegetables to top up a food pack we had for them, we dropped off our first aid package to them.

The team then carried on to Kyiv to meet up with Marina and her family where the contents of Andy’s van was assigned. Whilst we were there, we had the added bonus of meeting up with 2 other aid legends, Andy Cropper & Steve Senior. These 2 guys have made an awesome difference in Ukraine and it was a real pleasure for Andy & Guy to meet them for the first time.

Apologies if we missed out any donor names in this video – there was a lot of aid!

With huge thanks to Andy & Steve for their help in unloading the van, there was time for a quick picture of the Brits in Brovary!

Brits in Brovary!

The contents of Mike’s trailer was then put into Andy’s van for the onward trip to Zaporhizhia – the trailer was collected on the way back. Overnight, we stopped in DNipro before setting off early to meet our contact in Zaporhizhia.

We were then escorted to a facility where we delivered the remainder of our loads. It was important that we arrived at a specific time as an escort was advisable due to Zaporhizhia being relatively near the front, security is tight. Here, Mike & Andy run through some of what was delivered here:

It is always gratifying to see the end recipients of our work – on this run, we had a number of bikes for children which were quickly put to use!

A few words of thanks from Jimmy, our contact in Zaporhizhia:

At this point, Andy travelled directly back to the UK to be able to meet his new grandson! The team parted ways at a service station just outside of the City with Mike, Guy and Frank returning to DNipro.

Final thoughts from Andy as he returns home
Mike picks up the story from here!

Days four and five in Ukraine gave us a little time to spend in Dnipro city whilst our passengers got ready for the journey back to the Uk. During this time we took Frank out and about so he could get photo footage for his work before he then caught the overnight train to Kyiv to continue his work there. The video accompanying below was taken by Mike just yards from where we were staying. The pictures were taken during our time in Dnipro over days five and six.

This is the Meteor area. Sports facilities are here including a stadium and swimming pool. Believed to be an S300 strike.

Dnipro bus station. This was hit a couple of days before we arrived in Dnipro. As always the clean up operation is swiftly in place:

Back on 14-01-23 at 15:30, a Russian KH-22 hit a nine story residential building on Naberezhna Peremoha St. Dnipro. This was Mike’s second visit to this site. He was able this time to plant a small flag and also pay our respects to the dead and injured. A very emotional moment. Many thanks to to our host Viktor for most of these photos:

Run 20 day six saw us travelling back north to Kyiv from Dnipro. We now had our ‘special cargo’ with us in the form of Viktor senior and his granddaughter Lika.

Unfortunately Viktor is quite unwell and we had been tasked with bringing them both to the UK as they have both received sponsorship and Viktor can receive the healthcare he badly needs.

Frank had already traveled to Kyiv by train to meet up with another contact to continue his work and Guy ‘took one for the team’ and traveled in the back of the van. Not a pleasant experience I would imagine. Thank you Guy for your selflessness you’re a trooper.

We then spent day seven in Kyiv where our wonderful hosts took Viktor out around Kyiv as he had not been there for many years. Thank you to Marina, Nastya, Lika and Dima for taking the time to do this. The memories made were priceless I’m sure.

Mike sent this update from Brovary:

The next day saw us embark on the long slog towards home. The plan was to exit Ukraine after popping in to visit friends in Lviv. A message and phone call changed that somewhat. We feel it’s very important to work alongside our contacts and friends and by doing so we can achieve so much more.

As run 20 came to an end we left our accommodation at 04:30 (03:30CET) and travelled an hour south in poor roads with patchy fog then west for about 30 mins to the border with Poland. Quite a challenging three hour crossing due to multiple reasons. Mike found the time once again for a quick update from a Macdonalds!:

Then the hard slog ensued, crossing both Poland and also Germany, we arrived at Weeze 21 hours after we left that morning. The days journey was just short of 1500 kms and Viktor was showing signs of strain so we stayed in Germany for a couple of days to allow him to rest. Meanwhile, due to the lack of seats in the van Guy had embarked on his own ordeal. A 25 hour bus ride from Lviv to Düsseldorf and then a short train ride to home. Once again he took one for the team Guy, you are a legend. Thank you sir. As it turned out our timing was impeccable as Guy arrived home approximately 15 minutes before we arrived there.

A final update from the ferry back to Harwich:

To sum up run20, this run was undoubtedly a success and yes, it was ambitious! But, as a team we pulled it off together with some surprises which we adapted to. We also distributed other aid within Ukraine via the fabulous Nova Poshta network enabling us to reach many people who otherwise may have been overlooked. Firstly, helping a lady struggling to raise her children then delivering to Kyiv before then delivering to Zaporhizhia then collecting passengers in Dnipro and transporting them with care and compassion to the UK. An added bonus was being in the right place at the right time to deliver much needed relief to defenders in the far north of the country working together with our friends and contacts in country. Not to forget helping our German photojournalist friend Frank in his work. These pictures were taken yesterday after we were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to re unite three generations of the same family along with Liz, their extremely kind sponsor here in the UK. Teamwork is so important so a massive thanks is due to Andrew Wooler and Guy Ticehurst who along with Mike completed the run. Not forgetting the people behind the scenes that work so hard to enable these runs to take place. Annie Hockham, Anna Pukas James, Kristina Pukas Cousins, Andy Cropper and many more people who help us to do what we do. Thank you so much.

Once again thank you everyone.

Slava Ukraini!

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