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Our trip from March 22 until 26, 2023

Since the first trip was an unforgettable experience and went very well, we decided to do a second trip from our home town Nijmegen. We only had a few weeks left to arrange supplies, so we decided to go with one van this time, instead of two.

On the morning of Wednesday the 22nd of March we took off with the bus filled with food and medicine supplies. We drove off to Wroclaw. As soon as we were driving further to the east we saw more and more military vehicles and colonnes.

On the second day, we arrived in Przemysl in the afternoon at our friends from the Canada Way. They are currently holding the received supplies in a new warehouse because, there were some issues with the landlord of the other house that we visited one month ago… Luckily they found this place, which is perfect to storage a large amount of necessary supplies.

The next day we had an appointment with Hessel from The Volunteer Housing Initiative. He told us his personal story and about the start of the organization. A few years ago he travelled in Ukraine for a few months. So, when the war started he felt the need to do something for the Ukrainian people. At the beginning this started with a 3 weeks trip in his holiday, but when he came back he decided to quit his job as a banker and go back to Przemysl for an undetermined time. The slogan of VHI is “helping those who help others”, a sentence perfectly describing its essence. The VHI rent two (hopefully soon three) accommodations in Przemysl and Kiev that are open for free to volunteers. Hessel himself also drives necessary supplies to the affected areas in Ukraine. He not only told us some unreal stories, but also showed us a lot of videos. It is hard to imagine that this war is really happening when you hear and see the horrible damage it causes…

After our talk, Hessel brought us to his warehouse where he stored his supplies. Before we arrived we were stopped by the customs to show our documents. This was the first, but certainly not the last time today… The warehouse is based on the same ground as The Animal War Care, so we were able to do a quick visit there as well. Hessel also has a really nice dog, named Lagolas, who he adopted from Ukraine.

Together with Hessel and another volunteer we went to the Ukrainian border. Here our friends from the Police stopped us for the second time… Hessel and the other volunteer travelled further to L’viv. We had an appointment with Joanna and Claudia, who work at the Blue Dot of Unicef located at the Polish-Ukrainien border. Both young woman were Polish scouts that started as volunteers, but are now full time workers for Unicef as coordinators. They showed us around and told us the way of working. While we were talking to them an older Ukrainian woman past by. She emphasized that Joanna and Claudia are amazing people, because they are always there, no matter the weather, even if it is windy, raining or snowing. After hearing their personal stories we said our good byes and went to the train station, where we saw our friends from the Police for the third time…

After this impressive day, we had a lot to take in and reflect on. We prepared ourselves for the way back with 6 Ukrainian people; two moms with both two children. Since the children were in the age range of 7-15 years old, it was clear that they were conscious about what is happening. Both of the oldest childs, the boys, spoke very good English. At the first stop one of them already told us something about the experiences. What stuck us was that he said that he was born in Kiev and also thought that he would die there. Again, it is impossible to imagine what they are going through, especially when you hear a young boy say something like that. It was nice to notice that the two families soon felt very comfortable. They did not only became our friends, but also eachothers.

The group was very eager to learn Dutch words along the way. What stayed with us was the moment our Ukrainian friends saw a plane in Germany and shouted with joy, they hadn’t seen one in a year. Also, they counted down the last meters before we entered the Netherlands. As soon as we crossed the border they shouted ‘hooray’ and gave us high fives.

The two boys shared a passion: playing guitar. When we arrived at the shelter location in the Netherlands, the manager told us that there was a music room in de building as well. It was an unforgettable moment, to see how both teenage boys reacted to this news. Particularly since one of them had to leave his guitar behind in Ukraine… They immediately started playing together and told us they may start a band in the future. It was heartwarming to notice that there were still so many dreams, after a year like this… 💙💛

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