Robert’s harrowing experiences of the invasion

A WEST Byfleet man working in Ukraine to help the local population has described in often harrowing detail his experience of the Russian invasion.

Robert Bell, 27, the founder and chairman of Eurasia International Trading, has been helping to bring food and medicine to the war-torn country, and has seen at close quarters the devastation unleashed by military action.

Robert Bell (left) has been helping to bring food and medicine to war-torn Ukraine, pictured here with pastor Ivan, who has driven families from the war to the border of Poland

“I work with many local businesses and my partners, from Ukraine, are in Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia and Vinnitsa,” Robert said. “I have an apartment in Ukraine where I live with my girlfriend for half of the year.

“On the day of the attack, at 4am, we were woken by the news of attacks all over Ukraine. It was unbelievable that missiles were actually hitting the country.

“The windows were shaking as a plane was shot down and an ammunition storage facility hit.

“My girlfriend’s parents live about four miles from one of the largest ammunition depositories in central Ukraine. Their house doors were blown open and even the inside doors were swinging each time there was an explosion.

“The next few days were what the Blitz must have felt like, air-raid sirens going off every few hours, running to bunkers, and trying to stay connected to the news.

“After a few days we gathered what we could and headed to the train station, hoping to make it to Lviv, one of the safer places as it is closer to Poland and hadn’t had any airstrikes.

“The awful reality really set in then. People were everywhere, offering to drive to safer cities, and hundreds of people standing on the platforms, young families, women, children and many international students trying to get to safety.

“The train I had booked tickets for was delayed for two hours and we were close to losing hope. When it did arrive, people were shouting, crying and pushing to get on.

“Tickets meant nothing. I got on the train but people were so desperate they were pulling my girlfriend down to the platform.

“She was almost crushed by the crowd until I grabbed her by the collar and dragged her in. People were crying, children were separated from their parents, pets were lost in the crowd and valuables that were hurriedly packed into suitcases and bags were abandoned on the platform. It was horrible to see.”

Robert continues to help those who cannot look after themselves. “My business partner Tanya is based in Zaporizhzhia, which is taking in many refugees escaping from Kherson, Kharkiv and Odessa.

“We have been taking care of orphans, refugees and soldiers by buying and collecting food to cook and deliver. We have also bought supplies for hospitals and are bringing clothes to families who escaped with nothing but what they were wearing.

“We are also purchasing medicines and food for refugees and families that we meet along the way. I was able to also treat a young man from Zambia who was stuck in the bombing of Kyiv, and had escaped with just his backpack.

“He had not eaten for two or three days, he had swollen, red hands and was near death. When I found him, he didn’t even have the strength to open a KitKat. I’m proud to say that he is now safe in Poland.”

An appeal by Robert on behalf of a friend in the Ukrainian special forces has brought a donation of 10 pairs of combat boots, plus khaki tops, which Robert will collect at the Poland-Ukraine border.

“Thank you all for your help,” Robert said. “Even now I have a truck arriving at the border to travel the dangerous roads back to Zaporizhzhia to deliver more food, medicine and necessities to the volunteers.”

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