Leamington humanitarian mission: a journey of compassion and solidarity to Ukraine
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The team, with members aged from 21 to 87, travelled 1,500 miles from Leamington for three days to take two emergency ambulances, two Land Rovers and a tonne of medical aid to help people in the war-torn country.
Their journey began with a collection of medical supplies from the Aid for Ukraine shop in the Royal Priors and from Medical Aid Ukraine.
From 6am on the first day, the team travelled to Folkstone and through the Channel Tunnel for free - courtesy of Eurotunnel - and then deep into Holland.
On the second day, they traversed the challenging autobahns of Germany covering 500 miles.
On the third day the team paid a poignant visit to Auschwitz where they were given a tour and paid tribute to victims of The Holocaust.
Their next stop was the Polish town of Lezajsk, where the team were warmly received.
Here, Mayor Krzysztof Sobolenko and Caritas have established a central hub for humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
Over the past year, more than 2,050 lorries filled with aid have made their way to Ukraine thanks to the tireless efforts of the community.
The team then divided, with the trio of Mr Western, His Honour Anthony Cleary OBE and David Blick of the Warwickshire Gin Company heading to Ukraine itself.
After a few hours of waiting at the border, they were welcomed by Deputy Commander of the 45th Airborne Assault Brigade, Konstantin Oleinyk, and two other officers.
These officers had travelled a considerable distance from the Donbas area to express their gratitude for the support received.
They provided updates on the current situation, highlighting the importance of the aid.
Mr Western said: “The gratitude on the faces of the soldiers we met at the border will remain with me forever.
"They were simply astonished by the generosity of our community and businesses in donating these four vehicles.
"Through an interpreter they were able to express their thanks and were clearly emotional.”
The following day, the trio rejoined their companions Peter Mason, Charles Rogers, George Eden, Dawid Kozlowski and Chris Brown in Krakow.
Their vehicles, numbered 12, 13, 14, and 15, were laden with aid for Ukrainian hospitals, generously provided by Aid for Ukraine.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in January last year, the collaboration between the Polish Centre in Leamington and LKQ Euro Car Parts has raised almost £200,000 and sent more than 200 tons of aid - exemplifying the power of collective action in times of crisis.
Dawid Kozlowski, from the Polish Centre, said: “We’re proud to stand with Ukraine in these challenging times.
"We have delivered another four much-needed vehicles, demonstrating our commitment to supporting Ukraine's resilience despite the fact that the war is not on the front news anymore, people are still dying and by standing together as a community we are showing Ukrainian people that they are not alone.
"We also commend the dedicated involvement of Matt Western in this crucial endeavour.”