AMBULANCES loaded with medical supplies have reached Ukraine following a non-stop drive from South Warwickshire.
Retired property developers, Alf Rajkowski and Mark Pritchard Jeffs, set up chairty Ambulance Aid with a mission to deliver medical supplies where most urgently needed in the war-ravaged country using ex-NHS ambulances.
They bought the first two ambulances out of their own pockets and drove them to the Polish-Ukraine border together with co-drivers, Bogdan Letkowski and Richard Timmis.
They covered the 1,300 miles – across France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Poland – to reach the Ukrainian border during an epic 20-hour drive.
The ambulances were then handed over near the border to local ambulance crews which took them into Ukraine.
Alf said: “We travelled throughout the whole night and only stopped to pick up fuel.
“In my tired state I ended up putting petrol in the diesel ambulance, which was fortunately our only mishap.
“We were told we had to be careful driving to the town where we were to hand the ambulances over as there was Russian spies in the area – it was all a bit cloak and dagger.”
The mercy misson was coordinated by Medical Aid Ukraine (MAU), a UK network of Ukrainian and other doctors, which is stocking the ambulances with donated medical supplies.
Alf and the team worked closely with Tania Hebert, a Ukrainian-born GP based at Warwick Hospital, who is also West Midlands lead for MAU.
The team – who flew back to the UK – are now planning to drive another three ambulances to Poland within the next few weeks.
Alf added: “We’ve bought two ambulances and a third has been donated.
“Myself and the team will be co-ordinating with Medical Aid to gather the supplies to be delivered.”
Tania said the ambulances were now in service in an area under under constant Russian attacks.
She said: “I’m so grateful for the donated ambulances – it’s made so much of a difference especially to the civilians being injured by the terrible shelling.
“Only recently another ambulance donated to the charity was bombed and destroyed near a children’s hospital.”
Alf is also assisting Tania with safe and secure storage for MAU where donated medical supplies can be sorted by volunteers.
Donations are being sought from health bodies in South Warwickshire – the likes of NHS trusts, GP surgeries, care homes, dental surgeries, healthcare companies, veterinary practices and pharmacies.
Ambulance Aid is crowdfunding to buy more de-commissioned NHS ambulances. Directors of Ambulance Aid include local professionals giving their time free of charge to provide oversight.
Visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ambulance-aid-ukraine to donate.
Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_riQEE-TBQ to watch a vlog the team created of the journey.
Visit www.facebook.com/medicalaidukraine for more information about Medical Aid Ukraine.