Editor David Powles reports on the last 36 hours of his trip to Poland to observe the continued efforts of a group supporting Ukrainians crossing the border to flee attacks from Russia.
Compared to the outpourings of mercy from the Ukrainian border of previous days, the last 36 hours in neighboring Krakow seem considerably duller.
However, liaising with families, making sure they are okay and helping them on the next leg of their journey is just as important as the rescues themselves.
I would compare the group dynamics as smaller but similar to the NHS. For every ambulance that goes to the scene, you need people in the hospital ready to take on their own specific roles.
As of Thursday morning, the number of Ukrainians staying at the Ibis hotel, used as the headquarters of the Mercy Mission led by Adam Hale-Sutton of Little Melton, rose to more than 12.
This included several children, like one-month-old Hope, born the day the war started and brought across the border to Medyka by her mother and teenage brother.
Half the group, including Richard Knight, his son Nicolai, our interpreter Vita, and newcomers Collette and Elise from the Gavin Glynn Foundation, returned to Medyka to bring two more families back to the hotel.
However, Adam Hale-Sutton and I remain at the hotel headquarters to ensure families receive the support and information they need.
We also realize that we don’t want latecomers from the night before waking up and finding no one they know at the hotel.
With each group being different ages, with varying levels of English, and unique plans for what they want to do next, it’s a dizzying day of questions and minor quests, some that work and some that don’t.
Google Translate becomes the app of choice as the day progresses. When that doesn’t work calls are made to Vita who do their best on the phone to try to help.
One of the groups from the previous night includes two families, a mother called Irina with a six-year-old Mackar and a teenage boy Ivan, and another mother with a teenage daughter.
They are due to fly to Ireland later today so check out. We spend much of the afternoon playing games with happy Mackar. You would never believe the recent terrors his family has faced.
The family has many questions about the trip and what to do before leaving.
We do our best to answer everyone, but in the end I think they realize they just need to trust the group and hope it works out.
But there is great joy later in the day as they reach their destination and their new temporary home.
Their treatment in Ireland once again highlights the shortcomings of our Home Office’s slow efforts to help Ukrainians in this region to England.
In Ireland, they are welcomed, given safe shelter and even money to get them out.
Meanwhile, all the reports from the past week about delays and lack of clarity in the visa process in England simply remain.
“It’s embarrassing isn’t it?” It puts you to shame,” says a charity worker who contacted one of the families we were trying to help.
I’m sharing a Google-translated post with one of the moms.
‘Ireland does it really well’, read ‘my country really badly’.
Elsewhere, checks are carried out to ensure everyone is well. Adam delivers food to three-year-old Jan, a game console to 10-year-old Mykyta, and money to others to pay for anything they might need.
I run with the dog Asya and make a list of where everyone is, while Adam is busy renting rooms without hesitation.
It makes you realize why he deserves continued support to make sure the money doesn’t run out.
Another family arrives late on Friday morning, ready to leave for Ireland very early on Saturday, but leaving their pet cat behind.
Adam plans to drive it himself to Ireland in a few weeks when things calm down. The cat must replace me in his room as soon as I leave.
Meanwhile, little baby Hope will soon travel to Ireland for another chapter of her already amazing life.
I wonder if when she grows up they will know how much her trip to Poland meant to our group.
As I prepare to leave on Saturday, there is a small moment of drama when a new arrival, a mom with her teenage son, calls Vita in tears.
The cleaners were trying to ask her to leave and she thought they were being kicked out.
The smiles soon return when it turns out Adam just didn’t get a chance to rebook their rooms.
On Saturday evening, just as I prepare to leave the rest of the group behind, I learn that another family en route from Ukraine has fled Putin’s war.
I may be going home, but for Adam and anyone who joins him from here, the hard work has just begun.
To see previous stories from the trip, visit edp24.co.uk or watch the Facebook Live reports.
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There we are moments of laughter in the midst of sadness
In times of darkness and grief, humor can often help you through.
And at many points on this journey, the sadness never seemed too far away, with tears and hugs regularly breaking out among all involved.
But there were also plenty of moments of great laughs and happy memories that will last as long as the bad ones.
After a few days banter was commonplace, similar to when groups leave for a stag or a hen.
It was not that we were disrespecting the terrors we face here, but rather a vital way to help cope and deal with all that was happening.
The key, of course, was to do it the right way, at the right time and in the right place.
Our Ibis hotel was attached to another and it became the place we went for an end of day debrief, some food and a beer to relax.
Even that you might find strange – that we drank a beer once in a while during the trip.
But imagine what it was like to be on the go from 6:30 in the morning until midnight. Often lunches were missed and it wasn’t like the band could just say ‘okay, now we’re done’.
So end-of-day catch-up has become as much a part of the day as anything else. It gave us all a chance to let off steam, share what had happened and envision the next 24 hours. You couldn’t just come back and go straight to bed.
One of my lasting memories will be of Adam, Vita, Richard and me in front of the Hethersett School minibus. By the end of the week, we had dubbed ourselves “the new all-hazards team.”
We even discussed who would play us in the TV version. We weren’t selfish, just needed a moment of light.
And the slapstick created by a Ukrainian woman, Polish maids and me trying to converse on the phone with poor Vita as an interpreter for all three will always bring a smile.