Norfolk men transport Ukrainian refugees to safety

Malcolm Catlin, from Terrington St Clement, and Andy Kerr, from Downham Market, at the aid distribution centre in Chelm.

Malcolm Catlin, from Terrington St Clement, and Andy Kerr, from Downham Market, at the aid distribution centre in Chelm. - Credit: Malcolm Catlin

Two Norfolk men who were left "angry and helpless" by the war in Ukraine have tirelessly been delivering aid to refugees at the country's border and have rescued families to safety.

Malcolm Catlin, from Terrington St Clement, and Andy Kerr, from Downham Market, have driven 4,100 miles in just five and a half days as part of their mission to help Ukrainians displaced by conflict.

The pair travelled to Poland to deliver a car full of essential items to an aid distribution warehouse, and while there made four trips to transport stranded women and children to safe accommodation. 

Inside the aid distribution centre at Chelm, at a disused Tesco store.

Inside the aid distribution centre at Chelm, at a disused Tesco store. - Credit: Malcolm Catlin

Their trips saw a young woman, from Kyiv, who had previously witnessed fighting as a teenager in the Donbas region, taken to stay with friends in Warsaw; a mother and two children, from Sarny, western Ukraine, who had fled a missile attack in the city, join a family member in Gdansk; a woman, from Mariupol, reunited with her daughter in Rzeszow, Poland; and three women taken to stay with a family on the outskirts of Berlin.

The horticulturist and Mr Kerr, a member of King's Lynn Rotary Club, left Norfolk on Thursday, March 17 and have since returned home.

Malcolm Catlin, front, and co-driver Andy Kerr, with their packed up car full of supplies at Terring

Malcolm Catlin, front, and co-driver Andy Kerr, with their packed up car full of supplies at Terrington St Clement, ready for their drive to the Polish- Ukraine border. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Catlin said he could not have anticipated the emotional impact of the journey, adding that both he and Mr Kerr will "never forget" seeing first hand the scenes inside a refugee centre at a former Tesco store in Chelm - where families were put up in makeshift 'rooms' and beds.

The aid distribution centre at Chelm, at a disused Tesco store - which is full of beds.

The aid distribution centre at Chelm, at a disused Tesco store - which is full of beds. - Credit: Malcolm Catlin

Mr Catlin said: "The travelling was tiring. The emotional impact was more challenging.

"It was very hard to do this just for a few days and then come home, and even now we can't stop thinking about all of the people who have had to leave everything behind in Ukraine."

Malcolm Catlin with further aid they bought while in Poland.

Malcolm Catlin with further aid they bought while in Poland. - Credit: Malcolm Catlin

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He added: "The volunteers there gave us a list of what they needed most urgently - more power banks, torches, batteries, sleeping bags, boots for men, snack food items for children, and we spent a further £2,000 on these items, delivering them to the warehouse.  

"We saw for ourselves that these essentials were being sent out almost immediately, mostly to Ukraine but in some cases to those escaping into Poland."

Mr Catlin plans to return to Poland to provide further transport for refugees.

Malcolm Catlin, from Terrington St Clement, and Andy Kerr, from Downham Market.

Malcolm Catlin, from Terrington St Clement, and Andy Kerr, from Downham Market, met with a convoy of six London taxis at a warehouse in Chelm. - Credit: Malcolm Catlin

Malcolm Catlin and Andy Kerr met with a convoy of six London taxis at a warehouse in Chelm.

Malcolm Catlin, from Terrington St Clement, and Andy Kerr, from Downham Market, met with a convoy of six London taxis at a warehouse in Chelm. - Credit: Malcolm Catlin

To donate to his Crowdfunder page visit here.

The support the EDP's Aid for Ukraine Appeal visit justgiving.com/fundraising/edp-ukraine