Ukraine Appeal as Winter Approaches

A full report from Jozef, following his recent trip to Lviv in Ukraine with Dan Harrison, Headmaster and Stuart Oliver, Housemaster and Director of Sport, can be read by clicking here. The article that appeared about their trip in the Westmorland Gazette can be read here.

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Below is an update following parent, Jozef Mycielski’s recent trip to the Ukraine and includes information about the next donation drive being organised at the end of October.

In May 2022 I wrote about my trip to Poland, to the border with Ukraine at Przemyśl. Aid here was desperately needed and welcomed, mainly by women and children, with emotion, gratitude and relief. The evacuation of Ukrainian refugees at that time saw emergency refugee camps set up along the Polish border to help assist with the mass migration of Ukrainians into Poland and Western Europe – an operation that helped avert a potential humanitarian disaster. The humanitarian mission has now shifted its emphasis to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) as the war in the east of the country has led to around 6 million people, again mainly women and children, seeking refuge in parts of Ukraine that are, to a large extent, currently spared the ravages of war; although nowhere in Ukraine can be deemed safe.

We could not have delivered this crucial support in May without the wider Kirkby Lonsdale community and the support of the Sedbergh Schools. We were inspired by the Tanzanian proverb, ‘Kidogo kidogo inakuwa nying’ which translates as, ‘Little by little, little becomes a lot.’ We wanted, no matter how little, to do something, anything, to help. Gratified by the response from family, friends, our children’s schools and often complete strangers, we became conduits for the ‘little’ and whilst it may well have just scratched the surface, it proved to be some scratch and some surface.

The sad reality, now, is that Ukraine is becoming less of a priority to many; news coverage is declining, funds are drying up and warehouses emptying. The pressure in Ukraine on services and society is extreme. All public buildings including village halls, sports centres and even libraries are housing families. Hospitals are only able to give critical care and schooling is patchy at best. The war rages on, Ukrainians continue to die, winter is coming and there is a desperate need for support.

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As a result of our journey in May, we have been working closely with the family run, Dundee based, charity Siobhan’s Trust (www.siobhanstrust.uk) who have been tireless, with a team of volunteers, working under the slogan “Make Pizza not War!” David Fox-Pitt invited us to come back and travel into Ukraine to see, first hand, the work that he and his volunteers do from their base in Lviv. There is nothing so powerful as to witness in person the resilience and indomitable spirit of these desperate people and the sense of unity that drives Ukrainians to open their doors, hearts and minds in an almost overwhelming spirit of shared community, affection and love for their fellow citizens.

We have just returned.

David’s team is now based entirely within Ukraine. Siobhan’s Trust have 5 pizza vans (30,000 pizzas are donated per month from ITALPIZZA Bologna) and a refrigerated support van which go directly to where the most vulnerable families are; be it in and around Lviv, in Kyiv or as far east as Kharkiv and south as Odessa. The ever-changing nature of the war means that, in reality, the vans are able to track and respond to the need as it moves around the country, working in partnership with the police who see this vital work as a massive boost to their hearts and minds mission. On average 3,500 people per day are fed pizza, along with fruit, vegetables and ice cream (60,000 ice creams have been donated), with cuddly toys and sweets given to the children.

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What Siobhan’s Trust give the people however, amounts to so much more than a warm, nutritious meal; it is about morale and togetherness. Whilst cooking the pizzas (a real aspirational food in Ukraine), music is played, there is dancing and rugby balls are thrown around with the children. This is an opportunity to engage, listen, sing, laugh, cry, support and show love towards people who are endlessly scared and anxious, displaced, on constant alert, worn down by war, exhausted and fearful of the future.

We went to four sites in Ukraine around Lviv, covering over 500km. We met families, children of parents killed in the conflict, orphans, children and adults with special needs, the elderly and vulnerable and injured military personnel. A mother we met said, “The help given to us; the food, clothes, the hygiene products that enable us to wash ourselves and our children, are priceless and help us survive day to day and try and maintain our dignity. But the experience is much more than this, it gives us hope in the future.

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We have committed to support Siobhan’s Trust in Ukraine with funds, rugby balls, footballs, cuddly toys and sweets.

Alongside our days in Ukraine, we made time to meet Kamil and Joasia again – the Polish aid workers we met in May (www.polandwelcomes.org) who look after 400 Ukrainian women and children in a disused school in Radymno, Poland, about 20km from the border with Ukraine. We met the team and this vulnerable group now look towards a cold winter anxiously, as food is running out and warm clothing is scarce. Most have nowhere to go back to. Their homes and towns have been destroyed. Their numbers will swell in the coming weeks to a capacity of 560 (260 women and 300 children), including 56 who arrived this week from Zaporizhzhya, where they were living in the shadow of the fighting around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. More will come as trying to survive a Ukrainian winter living in a tent or outdoors is impossible.

We have committed to help this community at Radymno with food, clothing, toiletries and sanitary products along with colouring books and art products to engage the children.

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The women & children from near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant 

Jozef said, “Being in Ukraine was sobering – we drove through military check-points, past barricades, saw bus stops packed with Molotov cocktails and heard air raid sirens before being directed into a shelter under the hotel with sand bags at the windows. We couldn’t help thinking how awful it would be to navigate this hell with your own wife and children. This was uncomfortable enough, but what was unbearable was seeing the human cost of this brutal conflict. It really is the poorest, weakest, oldest and youngest who always suffer most. These people are fighting for their lives. We sadly can’t help them all, but we can help the 560 in Radymno and the 3,500 that Siobhan’s Trust feed every day in Ukraine.

The clearest message we received from the people in Ukraine, after seeing the realities on the Polish border, is that these displaced families need to know we are still with them, thinking of them, standing alongside them and practically helping them. This love gives them hope. Without hope they have nothing.

To conclude, we are determined to keep flying the flag literally and figuratively, whilst fully acknowledging that times are very tough in the UK too. We must not forget Ukraine and its people, not forget their incredible fight on behalf of all of us. Military aid is, of course, crucial but we have seen at first-hand how “small acts of kindness and love” will, more than anything else, help Ukraine endure Putin’s cruel ferocity.

Kidogo Kidogo inakuma nying really can and is making a difference.

How you may be able to help

Thank you so much for reading this, we are so grateful for your interest, support and any help, on any scale, that you may be able to give. Help = Hope.

Please do kindly consider helping the initiatives detailed above and the very people you see in these photographs by:

– Sending donations directly to Siobhan’s Trust, www.siobhanstrust.uk (Charity No SC049842) – you can Gift Aid your donations this way. Please kindly reference “Kidogo”.

– Making a financial contribution through Jozef.

– Donating unspent holiday money – US dollars, Euros and Polish Zloty especially welcome which Jozef can get to where it is needed most in a matter of days.

– By donating goods – we now have a direct route into Ukraine for goods through Simon Morris Transport Ltd in York. Please see below the list of items desperately needed, all goods can be donated through Jozef, who will arrange delivery to York:

  • Coats, jumpers, hats, thermals and socks (and tights) for women and children – only in good condition or new please
  • Winter shoes and trainers for children – only in good condition please
  • Blankets and sleeping bags – only in good condition please
  • Food for babies / toddlers – puree
  • Hygiene products for children – wet wipes, shower gels, shampoos
  • Toiletries for adults including sanitary products for women, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste (with fluoride please) and loo paper
  • Oatmeal, flour, buckwheat and semolina
  • Tinned meat, fish, vegetables (sweetcorn is noticeably popular!) and tinned soups
  • Sunflower oil / olive oil
  • Dry pasta / rice
  • Sugar
  • Jam
  • Sweets / chocolate
  • Paracetamol, ibruprofen, cough syrups for adults and children, vitamins
  • Items for engagement – knitting wool and needles, art products and colouring books, sports balls (rugby and football, deflated please) – to engage those, especially women and children with very little to do but wait in the hope of going home.

To give you an idea (our operation has zero overheads and 100% of any donation goes to helping the most vulnerable in Ukraine):

£1 feeds 2 people pizza on one day

£10 feeds 20 people pizza on one day

£100 buys vital supplies of fruit and veg or tea, coffee and hot drinks

£500 is a big help towards pizza van fuel costs

£1,000 feeds 2,000 people pizza on one day

£2,500 literally feeds the 5,000…. for a day

£3,500 replaces a pizza oven if required

Donated items make all the difference too – a can of veggie soup for example will prompt a smile and feed a mother and child. A winter coat keeps a little one warm. A rugby ball or football will make a child (and adult) smile – guaranteed!

Thank you for your consideration and our next collections will be at:

Casterton Sedbergh Prep School Sports Pavilion on Sunday 30th October from 17.30 – 19.30 and Monday 31st October from 07.45 – 10.00

Or please kindly contact Jozef at any time, if he can pick up donations directly from you or your company, at jjmycielski@gmail.com or call 07796 691832..

Smorris

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