Polish journalist and lorry-driver Tomasz Oryński translated this short piece about Ukrainian truckers who are still going into the war zone with humanitarian help. Originally written for a Polish trucking magazine, we are very glad to be able to publish Filip’s piece here.
It carries this important message:
“By the way, as I was talking with the coordinator of that transport, I asked him what kind of help they need the most. The answer was very clear: in places like Mykolaiv the most urgently needed items are: medical kits, bullet-proof vests, torches and thermal clothing.”
Convoys with humanitarian help for Ukraine can be seen nowadays all across Europe. The participants of such convoys can count on Police escort; fire trucks from all over Europe can also be seen, and the goods are being re-loaded at the Polish border.
But there is one group of unsung heroes we could only find when we look more closely. Truck drivers, whose faces won’t be shown in the media – and, moreover, should not be photographed: they drive their trucks between Poland and the cities of Ukraine thanks to special permits issued to them by the Ukrainian government.
An articulated lorry, more than a dozen years old, just arrived at one of the cities in Western Poland. Just three weeks ago it would be an ordinary truck, like many others that could be seen on our roads. But, on that night, the sight of Ukrainian number plates means much more and the loading process also differs from the usual procedures.
The truck reversed to the rear of a small building where a group of volunteers was waiting. Some of them climbed into the trailer, others – men and women alike – begun passing boxes of humanitarian aid to them. Those were donations from ordinary people – not only from Poland, but also from Germany, Netherlands and even from the tiny principality of Liechtenstein.
The driver – I would say he was around 35 years years old – arrived here directly from Ukraine. He begun his journey empty to avoid queuing on the Ukrainian-Polish border. He also had to show documents permitting him to leave his country in order to bring humanitarian help back, otherwise he would not be allowed to leave, as every man of conscription age is subject to mandatory drafting, but the Ukrainian government issue special exceptions for people like him so they can provide haulage services – even more crucial now than during the time of peace.
The person who organized this shipment, whom I met during the loading of the Ukrainian truck, also insisted on some special measures. He admits that part of those humanitarian donations might end up in wrong hands, which is not unheard of during military conflicts. Therefore, before the driver got back into his cab, the set of seals had been placed on his vehicle and the whole procedure was filmed with a mobile phone. When the goods reach Ukraine, a trusted co-worker at the other end will confirm receipt of the cargo in a secret, previously agreed way.
Meanwhile the driver had to fulfil the usual requirements of his job – a shortened, 9 hour long, daily rest period, allowing him to get at least minimal rest before heading back to his war-torn homeland. The vehicle described here will cross Polish-Ukrainian border without any reloading. It won’t go to Lviv either, where most of the humanitarian convoys are heading. It will head for another region of Ukraine, safe enough for the driver to go there on his own.
But even that won’t be the end of his journey, as this load is destined for the people that need it the most: it is heading to Mykolaiv, a city between Odesa and Crimea, about 900 kms from the Polish border. What is more, at the time of writing, Mykolaiv is said to be the most bombarded town in the whole country.
Obviously, then, the last leg of the journey will have to be undertaken in a completely different manner, but, of course, even there trucks and drivers will still be needed.
By the way, as I was talking with the coordinator of that transport, I asked him what kind of help they need the most. The answer was very clear: in places like Mykolaiv the most urgently needed items are: medical kits, bullet-proof vests, torches and thermal clothing.
Editor: Here in the UK, the best way we can help is to send money for these items to be bought in Europe so that they won’t get snarled up in Brexit red tape at the ferryports.
You can donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal.