Ukraine receives help from around the world. The UK, although on the opposite side of Europe, is also doing what it can to help the beleaguered Ukrainians. In the northwestern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, firefighters risk their lives every day to save others.
The United Kingdom provides humanitarian, monetary, and military assistance to Ukraine. British leaders have also pledged support for the reconstruction effort. Our correspondent in London, Klaudia Czerwińska, has prepared a summary of how the British government is helping now, and how it plans to help in the future, as well as what the British people are doing to support Ukraine.
The guest of this Monday’s instalment was John Parker, the founder of the John’s Red Bus initiative, delivering assistance and humanitarian aid from the UK to Ukrainian refugees in Poland, and to those in need in Ukraine fighting off the Russian invasion.
John Parker has Polish roots and he saw many Brits rush to the aid of Ukrainian people without knowing Polish or Ukrainian. He decided he could use his knowledge of Polish to contribute in a meaningful manner.
After buying two small buses with his own funds, he began receiving an increasing number of requests from those who wanted to help, to transport aid. The bulk of what John is hauling during his trips to Poland and Ukraine is food, clothes, sanitary items, but also pet supplies, and sometimes even beds.
Mr Parker does most of the work himself in-between operating a car dealership, but he receives offers of assistance from volunteers. Although he started funding the operation from his own pocket, more and more people are now also donating money to help fund the cost of his operation, which according to Parker costs about GBP 1,000 per trip.
Parker’s next trip, which he will undertake later this week, will take him to Kyiv and Chernihiv. He stresses the need to deliver it directly to those in need, in order to ensure that aid does not get lost in the system.
Parker says that part of what motivated him to start the initiative was his family history. His maternal grandfather was Polish, and his family lived in eastern Poland, the part of the country that was occupied by the Soviet Union when it invaded the country jointly with Nazi Germany in 1939. His parents were deported to the USSR and never heard from again, while John’s grandfather was left a war refugee. He was one of the countless Polish children who managed to get out of the USSR and who were then distributed to refugee centres all around the World, the bulk of them located in the British Empire. In his case, he went to Kenya, and after the war, he chose to live in the UK.
His grandfather died when John was only 6 years old, but the stories he heard about his grandfather’s suffering as a refugee during the war from his mother, the suffering that was endured by his own ancestors compelled him to help to bring relief to those in need.
Ukrainian forces have retaken several villages in Kharkiv, and TVP World’s correspondent, Aleksandra Marchewicz went there to interview some of Ukraine’s heroes, who do not always receive as much limelight as the frontline soldiers. She spoke with Yevhen Vasylenko of the Kharkiv fire brigade.
Kharkiv’s firefighters have more tasks than just putting out conflagrations: following bombings, they try to retrieve survivors, as well as the dead from the rubble. They are also tasked with diffusing unexploded ordnance.
Since the start of the war two-and-a-half months ago, the Kharkiv fire brigade has put out over 1,000 fires. They have been called to remove mines and unexploded munitions 300 times, and sought survivors amongst the rubble 200 times. Just following the attack on Kharkiv’s main administration building on March 1, they saved the lives of 25 people. During the rest of the month, they retrieved the bodies of 29 dead.
Asked why people do not flee the city, Mr Vasylenko responds that some areas, those most dangerous, were evacuated, but many people remain in Kharkiv to continue to go to work and keep the city operational: these are people working in the municipal services, first responders, but also university professors, who continue to conduct lectures and classes.
Sometimes firefighters who rush to put out a fire or save people buried under ruined buildings come under fire themselves. Sometimes they are wounded or killed. So far four members of the Kharkiv fire brigade have lost their lives in the line of duty, and 10 have been wounded.
Asked what he hopes for, Yevhen Vasylenko said:
“That the war ends with our victory and that I can forget the first day of the war.”