EDP ​​Editor Dave Powles on life on Polish crossing from Ukraine

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Published:
5:00 p.m. March 30, 2022



EDP ​​editor David Powles is part of a group in Poland helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing war in their home country. Today he returns from the crossing point of the village of Medyka.

We arrived at Medyka, on the border between Ukraine and Poland, and walk along what is called ‘The Passage’.

This is where, every day, thousands of Ukrainians of all ages, but mainly women and children, arrive to cross the border on foot in search of refuge from the Russian army.

Describing the scene is not easy.

In many ways, The Passage is reminiscent of the catwalks you get at British music festivals.

Upon entering, there is even a piano set up in front of a row of tents, where a talented pianist plays the most beautiful piece.


Passage to Poland.
– Credit: Dave Powles

But it’s not a stage and it’s not the tents of happy festival-goers.

This is where some of the volunteers live, from all over the world, trying to do their part to help alleviate the plight of those fleeing Ukraine.

And instead of stalls selling wacky food, clothes and more, here they offer free food and drink, support, advice and a welcoming smile.

Our group consists of myself, Adam Hale-Sutton, Little Melton, Richard Knight and Vita, a mother from Ukraine who has agreed to act as a translator while she works on her next move.


Harry Scrymgeour and the Siobhan Trust team

Harry Scrymgeour and the Siobhan Trust team.
– Credit: Dave Powles

I’m not sure what I expected when we reach the entry point from Ukraine, but it’s just a gate in the middle of a fence. Ukrainians walk around in large numbers, looking tired and emotionally exhausted.

Children are offered Kinder eggs, which draw an immediate smile as only chocolate can.

Just 50 meters from the entrance is the temporary base of the Siobhan Trust, a Scottish charity that set up shop here several weeks ago and offers hot food, 24-hour drinks and more to refugees and volunteers.


Dave Powles and the team provide hot food and a smile.

Dave Powles and the team provide hot food and a smile.
– Credit: Dave Powles

It is run by Harry Scrymgeour, who happens to be a former UEA student and the son of the late Countess Siobhan Dundee, after whom the charity is named.

He said: ‘We were one of the first charities here and it’s been an incredible snowball effect ever since. We now have volunteers from all over, not just the UK. Everyone just wanted to come here and see what they could do to help.

He tells me how, in recent days, an increasing number of people have returned to Ukraine, rather than the other way around.


Soso, a Georgian chef.

Soso, a Georgian chef.
– Credit: Dave Powles

“They just miss their home too much,” he explains.

We are introduced to Soso, a chef from Tbilisi Georgia who has a Ukrainian wife back home and traveled to Medyka with the intention of crossing the Ukrainian border.

Harry said, “He wants to go fight. We told him he had better stay here and cook for us and so he does.

He shares an incredible vegetable soup with us, which provides a much-needed boost as we turn our attention to see who needs help.

This is where having Vita on hand is so essential. She is able to talk to Ukrainians, explain who we are and allay their fears.


Jan, his mother Ola and Adam Hale-Sutton.

Jan, his mother Ola and Adam Hale-Sutton.
– Credit: Dave Powles

Without it, the language barrier would surely be insurmountable. Crossing that bridge when refugees arrive in the UK without much English will be a huge challenge.

A mother and her 16-year-old son need help and are taken to the minibus before they even have time to hear their story. It can wait until tomorrow. They are then joined by a family of three, including a happy three-year-old boy named Jan, mom and grandma.


The crossing point between Poland and Ukraine

The crossing point between Poland and Ukraine.
– Credit: Dave Powles

Soon heavy rains arrive and the scene is very different along ‘The Passage’ as people do their best to find shelter.

It is said that on the other side of the border, people still face big delays to enter Poland. The weather is also bad there and many just have to wait and get out.

We load up the vehicles, return to Krakow with our two families and take them to the warmth and comfort of a hotel room. The rest can wait now.

  • Tomorrow: They are safe – but what future for Ukrainian refugees?
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