‘It’s just people helping people, and they appreciate what we’re trying to do’

A KNAPHILL man has joined the relief effort in Ukraine by driving his supplies-laden van to the war-torn country.

Dave Wright loaded up with donations from several collection points, including St Mary’s Church in Horsell, and at his own expense set off last Saturday evening on his journey across Europe.

MAN WITH A VAN – Ukrainian colours and the reason for his journey adorn Dave’s van

“I’d heard that people were looking to get aid out here and I thought ‘I’ve got a van, I can help with that’,” he said from western Ukraine.

“My van and another vehicle brought in three tonnes of aid, mostly medical supplies, food, bedding and toiletries to a distribution centre.

“It was handed out to the local community first, then the rest was put on trains to Lviv and Kyiv.”

Dave’s gesture will have a substantial price tag by the time he returns home. “I’d put the cost of the trip at around £1,300, but add in loss of earnings while I’m away and it’s getting up to £4,000.”

And his day job? “I’m a delivery driver, I’ll take things all over the country, so it’s just another day at the office for me.

“I’d like to keep doing this, but it could get expensive. I’m looking at ways to come here almost on an extended weekend, that way I could do a few extra jobs during the week to make up the money.”

Dave is based in Krakow, Poland, for this trip, his first to Ukraine, but tells of driving through Lviv with a colleague.

“A beautiful city but a very strange experience. It seems untouched, and there are people out and about on their mobile phones, trams running, I even saw an Uber Eats delivery.

“Then you see the guns and military checkpoints and you realise you’re in a war zone.

“The refugees apparently come in waves, and that’s when it’s so heartbreaking. One suitcase, families broken up at the border, the men are turned back, they have to fight.

“No one believes anything about peace talks here. They fear this is just the start of Russia turning its attention to other countries in Eastern Europe.”

For all the bleakness of the situation, Dave has found plenty of cause for optimism.

“It’s the people you meet that have made this so worthwhile,” he said. “It feels good to have helped, even just me and my van.

“People’s lives have been turned upside down and they appreciate what we’re trying to do. It’s just ordinary people helping ordinary people, and everyone here understands that.”

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