Wootton man Daniel Williams drove a minibus loaded with donations from the Isle of Wight to the Ukrainian border.
Ryde School alumnus Daniel Williams – who fled Ukraine with his young family a fortnight ago – has returned to Eastern Europe with vital supplies for those fleeing the Russian invasion of their country. His Ukrainian border aid mission has been broadcast on BBC newscasts throughout the past week.
Daniel began his journey from the Isle of Wight on the 6.45am ferry on Tuesday (8 March), taking a minibus to Chiswick, London, with fellow traveler Reverend Richard Moy. The couple then took the 1.15pm ferry from Dover to Calais, reaching Krakow in Poland at midday on Wednesday despite breaking down in Belgium.
On Wednesday evening, Daniel and Richard delivered sleeping bags, thermal clothing and medical equipment (among other useful items) at the Ukrainian border. The next morning they spent £1,200 on cereal bars, children’s clothes and baby food, which were taken to 2 nearby refugee centres.
The minibus was then used to transport 15 refugees to safety among their friends and relatives in Europe. On the way home, Daniel and Richard flew Ukrainians to Warsaw and Berlin before dropping off a wife, child and cat in Hannover, Germany. Their Ukrainian interpreter was taken to Holland. Daniel finally arrived home on the Isle of Wight at 5:00 p.m. on Friday evening.
When asked about the situation on the Polish-Ukrainian border, Daniel replied:
“It’s very orderly in Poland, but chaos on the Ukrainian side. It takes 5-6 minutes for Ukrainians to process everyone. They try to prevent criminals and men fleeing military service from crossing the border.
“The Poles were super efficient. The Poles went above and beyond the call of duty. Refugees were taken to reception centers with soup kitchens and mattresses, then transported to cities.
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When asked what Islanders should donate to help Ukrainians, Daniel replied:
“Think before you donate. There is so much to lose. For example, duvets are not good because they get damp and moldy during the trip, and they don’t have washing machines. But thanks to the work of the MAD Aid organization in East Cowes, little of the island goes to waste.
“Don’t send food. The refugees don’t have a kitchen, so they have nowhere to cook. In particular, do not send canned food because Ukrainians do not eat it. Send them money to buy food in Poland.
“Put a little note if you send help. For example, one woman used google translate to send little notes in feminine hygiene packs. This personal touch meant a lot to the women who received them.
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“Ukrainians are very grateful for the help they received. The Isle of Wight has been used as an example of how ordinary Western citizens are helping the Ukrainian cause in a speech to their parliament. An MP showed a picture of the MAD Aid charity effort in East Cowes during a plenary session.
When asked if there was anyone he would like to thank for helping donate to the aid mission, Daniel replied:
“I would like to thank Mark Greenslade for the money donated for the walkie-talkies to be used in the rescue missions. The aid coordinator, Sergei – who received the walkie-talkies – told me that these would go in Ukraine tonight and save lives the next day
“I would also like to express my gratitude to former Ryde school friends Helen Gorbutt, Stephanie Burgess and Melanie Ernst, whose generous donations funded the trip to Lidl to purchase supplies. I would like to mention Robbie Jones from the Ryde Babysitting Club, whose money was spent on children’s thermal suits.
“I want to thank the woman who donated a teddy bear. 5-year-old Sophia, whom we dropped off at her aunt’s in Hanover, was delighted to receive this.
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