Norfolk man takes sabbatical to bring Ukrainian refugees to the county

Adam Hale-Sutton

Norfolk scout leader Adam Hale-Sutton who is planning more missions to transport Ukrainian refugees. - Credit: Brittany Woodman/AP

A Norfolk man who helped transport a group of Ukrainian refugees to safety is preparing to help dozens more fleeing the war-torn country.

Adam Hale-Sutton is set to undertake weekly journeys across Europe taking aid supplies to Medyka in Poland near the Ukrainian border and transporting refugees to Norfolk and elsewhere.

The group of Ukrainian refugees Adam Hale-Sutton helped transport from Medyka to Ireland.

The group of Ukrainian refugees Adam Hale-Sutton helped transport from Medyka to Ireland. - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

It comes after the scout leader, from Little Melton, drove the Hethersett Scouts minibus across Europe as part of a larger aid convoy earlier this month.

He said he had been deeply moved by the “harrowing and heartbreaking” experiences of a group of 14 Ukrainian women and five children that the convoy had picked up at the border. The refugees were taken to Ireland after problems trying to get them visas for the UK.

Mr Hale-Sutton said he had now decided to take a month-long break from his job in order to undertake at least four more aid missions and plans to bring back at least 20 refugees each time.

Adam Hale-Sutton with donations for Ukraine.

Adam Hale-Sutton with donations for Ukraine. - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

“This is a terrible once in a lifetime terrible event and at the moment it is not getting any better for the people,” he said. 

“Kyiv is now being attacked on the outskirts. It’s getting closer and more people are fleeing but they need homes.

“They are very proud people. They just want to find somewhere and start work. Norfolk has a lot of work available. 

Drop off supplies from large Luton van.

Dropping off aid supplies for Ukrainian refugees from the convoy's van. - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

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“They don’t want to come here and not do anything, they want to get back to normality and then eventually be able to go back to their home country when it is safe.”

Mr Hale-Sutton, a father-of-two, said despite the language barrier it had been “incredibly moving to hear what people have been through”.

“Especially when we were at Medyka at the Red Cross station where the dads had come over the border just to say goodbye,” he said. “They were handing over their kids and their wives to us saying please look after them. 

Adam Hale-Sutton on route to to Poland to deliver aid and collect a refugee families.

Adam Hale-Sutton on route to to Poland to deliver aid and collect a refugee families. - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

“That left a lump in everyone’s throat on the journey back to Krakow from the border. There were a lot of tears from a lot of people.”   

Mr Hale-Sutton’s employers, disaster recovery company Belfor, where he works as a technician helping householders who have suffered fires and floods, have agreed to give him a sabbatical to continue his rescue missions. 

Norfolk scout leader, Adam Hale-Sutton takes sabbatical from work to undertake Ukraine rescue missi

Norfolk scout leader, Adam Hale-Sutton takes sabbatical from work to undertake Ukraine rescue missions. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

He and other Norfolk scout volunteers plan to travel on Monday in two vans and two minibuses filled with aid including medical supplies, clothing, toiletries, baby food and nappies to Medyka where 400 refugees are staying in a school hall.

The government has launched a Homes for Ukraine website for people wanting to register to host a refugee.

“We already have people that have filled out applications for them to host refugees so we are hoping to bring some back to the UK but we will also be dropping some off throughout Europe,” he said.

Ukrainian families during the first journey across Europe. 

Ukrainian families during the first journey across Europe. - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

“Ideally it would be great if we have people locally in Norfolk that are willing to sponsor. You almost feel responsible for the people you’re helping.” 

A Just Giving page has been set up for people to donate and the group are seeking people willing to provide or sponsor minibuses for future missions. 

“The costs involved are incredibly high. Fuel alone for each vehicle worked out to over £1,000 for the trip there and back,” said Mr Hale-Sutton.

The group's vans and minibuses on the first mission to help Ukrainian refugees.

The group's vans and minibuses on the first mission to help Ukrainian refugees. - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

“We’d like to do more. The more people with minibuses the better - the more aid we can get over and the more people we can get relocated.”

Despite being on the Polish side of the border the evidence of conflict was all too obvious, especially as his previous visit coincided with airstrikes on an air base at nearby Lviv. 

“There were 57 ambulances in a queue waiting to go over the border on the same road we were waiting on to pick up refugees,” recalled Mr Hale-Sutton. 

Scenes in Poland near the Ukraine border.

Scenes in Poland near the Ukraine border. - Credit: Adam Hale- Sutton

“It’s close enough to be uncomfortable. We could hear air radio sirens going off. It’s very unnerving even on the Polish side of the border. 

“There are military defences with surface to air missiles positioned along some of the routes that we took.” 

This newspaper has launched an appeal for the people of Ukraine. You can donate at justgiving.com/fundraising/edp-ukraine