It’s day 8 for David Fox-Pitt and his team at the Medyka crossing point on the Polish/Ukrainian border and they’re working non-stop, 24/7, to feed the women and children arriving in their thousands from war-torn cities, towns and villages. I spoke to David via WhatsApp. Thank goodness for modern tech!
‘It’s like Groundhog Day,’ says David, his voice terse with exhaustion yet underpinned by a steely determination.
‘We’re from Loch Tay, Aberfeldy, where I run an events company (Wild Fox Events) so I am in the logistics business. We watched the news like everyone else and it’s horrific. But rather than just sitting on our bums we decided to put all the expertise and the kit we’ve got – tents and marquees and so on – to good use in this humanitarian crisis. We loaded up the van with pizza ovens, drove down here and got stuck in.’
The mobile pizza oven was provided by Siobhans Trust, a charity of which David is a trustee, and which has temporarily put its other projects on hold to focus on helping those caught up in the Ukrainian crisis.
David continues: ‘We are all about humanitarian aid, all about food. These people arrive drained, cold, hungry, desperate to get on a bus and get to Przemyśl (the town) to be registered. Every day we and the team next to us – the United Sikhs – make three or four trolley runs over the border to feed the hundreds of cold, hungry people waiting for hours in the queue. They’re mainly women and kids as the men have to stay and fight. Some of them have their pets with them so we have food for cats and dogs, too.
‘In the camp we feed around 2,000 people a day. We’ve used 14,000 cups since we arrived. It’s way above what I expected. We just keep going.
‘These people have been through hell. We just want to do something to lift their spirits. Pizza puts a smile on their face, a cup of hot chocolate puts a smile on their face, me in a kilt puts a smile on their face.’
Who have you got helping?
‘Our volunteers come from all over the world. They crash in the tents we have provided. No fancy hotels, no going home at the end of the day, which is what many of the NGOs do. They do their stint and then they’re off to their hotel beds in the town. Not us: we want every penny we raise to go on food.
‘We’ve got two articulated lorries arriving on Friday full of kit – food, blankets, sleeping bags – all the stuff people donate. Most areas don’t need clothes: what people really need is food, hats, gloves and blankets. It’s seriously cold at night. The water by my bed freezes over! The olive oil freezes!’
How can people help?
‘Donate money to Siobhans Trust. Every penny goes on food. We’ve got a supermarket nearby, a Tesco depot, and I can go in there and restock, buying all the fruit, all the chocolate, all the flour to keep these people in warm drinks, soups and hot, healthy food. We just need money rather than stuff.
‘The government’s approach to refugees was initially very disappointing, with Patel saying you had to have a family connection to apply for a visa. People just wrote England off as a destination. The new scheme looks more promising, but we’ll see.’
How long will you stay?
‘We will stay here as long as it takes. There are rumours about peace talks but will Russia settle? Putin needs a way to end this without losing face, but it’s hard to see how that can happen. We could be here for the long haul.
‘This war is madness. These poor people, fleeing their homes, leaving behind their fathers, husbands and brothers: they could be you or me It’s unthinkable that this could be happening in Europe right now, but it is. We’re here to do all we can to help, and your readers can help by donating to Siobhans Trust.”