War in Ukraine: Lorries full of supplies depart Norfolk for Poland

Chris and Liana Riches before they set off from Thetford to Poland with supplies

Chris and Liana Riches before they set off from Thetford to Poland with supplies - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Two lorry-loads of crucial supplies have departed Thetford as part of a mercy mission to help civilians impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. 

Trucks from Chris Riches Transport, as well as Swaffham-based Waites and Stones, began the long journey to Eastern Europe on Sunday (March 13) evening. 

The Riches lorry sets off from Thetford carrying supplies for those caught up in the invasion of Ukraine

The Riches lorry sets off from Thetford carrying supplies for those caught up in the invasion of Ukraine - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Dozens of well-wishers - many of whom have contributed themselves to the local effort - were on hand to wave them off at the start of their 2,500-mile round trip. 

People from across the area have been going the extra mile ever since the two haulage companies coordinated a huge project in response to the overwhelming number of donations they were receiving.

As the convoy left for Poland, the danger of their trip had already become clear after Russia's bombardment of their neighbour moved further west. 

Darius, Agnes and Agnes wave the Ukranian flag as they give Chris and Liana Riches their send off

Darius, Agnes and Agnes wave the Ukranian flag as they give Chris and Liana Riches their send off - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

But Mr Riches said they could not be deterred from attempting to reach their goal following Thetford's incredible response to the crisis. 

"It has been amazing, and makes me proud to be from Norfolk and from Thetford," he said.

"My wife and I were born here; we grew up here. Thetford sometimes gets a bad rap, but when it really matters in real life - away from social media - the people really step up.

Chris Riches with his mum and dad, Wendy and Chris, before he set off for Poland 

Chris Riches with his mum and dad, Wendy and Chris, before he set off for Poland - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

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"It has been phenomenal and actually quite emotional. We certainly didn't expect the level of response we've had.

"I think when we finally get a minute to sit down and take stock, only then will it really sink in what the community has managed to achieve."

Last weekend, the Riches yard in MacKenzie Road welcomed around 100 volunteers each day - all of them desperate to help.

People lined the streets near the Riches yard as Chris and Liana Riches set off on their journey to Poland

People lined the streets near the Riches yard to give Chris and Liana Riches a send off as they set off on their journey to the Poland with supplies - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Among those queuing up was David Pickup, who has also started a GoFundMe page to help fund the ongoing effort. 

In the space of a week it has generated more than £2,000 in donations, money which is set to help fund a potential second trip to Poland. 

"When something is going wrong, it is definitely in Thetford's character to respond like this," added Mr Pickup.

Chris and Liana Riches before they set off to Ukraine with supplies. Sarah Lucy Brown

Chris and Liana Riches before they set off to Poland with supplies. Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"It doesn't matter who you are or your background; everyone wants to come together for the greater good."

Local efforts have also been assisted by Camvac Ltd and Norfolk Polonia CIC.

People lined the street as Chris and Liana Riches set off from Thetford for Poland

People lined the street as Chris and Liana Riches set off from Thetford for Poland - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown