EDP in Ukraine: A week where every single emotion was experienced

(L-R) David Powles, Richard Knight, Adam Hale-Sutton have met Ukranian mother-of-one Vita who has fl

(L-R) David Powles, Richard Knight, Adam Hale-Sutton have met Ukranian mother-of-one Vita who has fled the fighting in Kyiv. - Credit: Archant

“Don’t go out there focusing on trying to change the world. Help who and where you can and that will be enough.”

So spoke my friend Mike Kenny ahead of leaving for last week’s mission to Poland to help Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war.

Mike, from Hethersett, was part of the first trip to work on the border with Little Melton’s Adam Hale-Sutton and helped get 19 people away from the war and to safety in Ireland.

And it was this advice I kept returning to, as the sheer intensity of the situation regularly threatened to overwhelm.

As viewers of our daily Facebook Live videos have seen, our week near to the Ukrainian border has been one when emotions have repeatedly run high.

There’s been anger and frustration, sadness and sorrow. And doing Thursday’s live video it all got a bit too much, with the tears arriving and forcing me to turn the camera off. By Friday and Saturday it all felt too raw to do more videos.

However, we’ve also experienced laughter and joy and moments highlighting the very best of humanity. Like when we were given a car safety seat by a charity to help transport baby Hope.

EDP editor on mission to bring aid and assist Ukrainian refugees

Baby Hope - Credit: David Powles

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Or the hugs, high fives and games of rock, scissors, paper with little Jan, three, and six-year-old Mackar.

It is this humanity which is so far away from what Putin would like to see. But it is moments like this which made the trip all the more worthwhile.

And it is moments like this that make you realise kindness and compassion will always trump evil and hate.

As the week moved on I felt a growing desire to stay beyond Friday’s planned departure. By then the hotel was home to many Ukrainians and it felt like there was still a role to be played.

I spoke to my incredibly supportive wife and she was happy for it to happen.

And I’m glad it did because the group needed to head out for the day to help transport some more people.

Three year old Ukranian Jan entertains himself while on the border.

Three year old Ukranian Jan entertains himself while on the border. - Credit: Archant

And this meant at least I could be around to liaise and try to support those people already at the hotel.

But by the time Saturday afternoon’s rescheduled departure arrived, that feeling remained.

This was especially the case given my fellow travellers Adam Hale-Sutton and Richard Knight still have many days to come.

Meanwhile our translator Vita was also to remain behind whilst she decides what comes next.

As families continued to flood into the hotel and the problems with UK visas grew, I did begin to feel a growing despondency at the scale of what we’d actually managed to do, compared to the scale of what is going on.

“I desperately want to stay, but I desperately want to go home,” was the message sent to my wife as the departure time arrived.

But the tiredness was growing and I knew it was time to come home.

It was at this point Mike’s wife Sara sent me a timely WhatsApp,  which helped make my mind firmly up.

It said that she knew I’d not be ready to leave, but that I should have faith that someone was next in line to pick up the tab.

These were wise words and really helped. In fact so have the many hundreds of emails, WhatsApp messages, tweets and Facebook posts I’ve received over the last few weeks offering support.

From today another group from Norfolk is set to fly out. I wish them all the luck in the world and am sure they will have the same unbelievable experience over the next few days.

Back home now it’s time to reflect, repair and recover. And I’m sure that soon it will all start to feel like a distant dream.

But for those Ukrainian families the threat from Russia is still very real. I hope I’ve helped to do my part to highlight why we all should care and think of how we may be able to help.