“When you hear the siren for the fifteenth time, you just sit in the corridor and hope the missile won’t shoot at your flat.”
These are the thoughts of Ukrainian refugee Andrii Derevianko, who currently lives in Poland after the invasion of his country by Russian president Vladimir Putin. He spoke back in March just days after he fled his native country in a quest for safety.
Andrii quickly spoke of the the feeling around Ukraine when the war broke out and how this experience was from his point of view.
“In Poland I feel fine, I feel safe. Much better than in Ukraine. There is still some feeling of not understanding what to do next.
“I was lying in the bed and woke up because of the cold, checked all the news and I felt abit scared. Then I just was scrolling the news when the bomb dropped and blew up near my house. That was scary then. I decided to buy some food at the grocery and there was a huge queue. One missile above me, a second missile above me. I didn’t panic but thought there something we have to do, somewhere we have to move.”
“People get used to war. When they heard another siren, they just get used to it. When you hear it for the first time, you are terrified. When you hear the siren for the fifteenth time, you just sit in the corridor and hope the missile won’t shoot at your flat.”
Andrii was helped massively by Paul Brown, a YouTube vlogger from London who has over 17,000 followers on Instagram and over 25,000 on Twitter. He did some amazing work to help out, which was captured on his social media daily. He helped refugees across the border, work that included offering a taxi service. Paul discussed why he wanted to help out.
“I always try and do something during tough times. With Covid, during lockdown number one, I was cooking 100 meals every day from my kitchen for the local hospital and did 4,000 meals. I always try and do something positive and awareness rather than just giving money. I try and get my hands dirty. I wanted to go over to the border and see where I could help, and I’ll be really honest with you Poland is doing an absolutory amazing job. There wasn’t that much I could do there. Poland had it locked down really well. I was able to give some refugees some taxi rides. 100,000 refugees a day they’re dealing with.”
Going to an area that is facing such testing times cannot be easy to witness. Paul spoke of what this experience was like and the feeling around the area.
“I think a real key thing is that there wasn’t that many tears. When you are speaking to people, they don’t want to be in the situation. They kind of almost see it as an interim holiday they don’t want to be doing but are doing for their safety. As soon as its safe they plan to go back. Most people were quite upbeat, quite happy, grateful. I didn’t see any issues, any problems because no-one seemed to be angry and just seemed to be getting on with it.”
Paul has helped out with a GoFundMe me page from his friend in London Julian Klinger and spoke about the experience helping out with Julian and how we can help.
“When we were at the train station, we noticed that supplies were running out. We decided to go to the refugees place and ask them what they needed every day and literally stocked up what they need from a cash and carry. We were basically filling in the gaps that the refugees need every day.
Julian talked in more detail about his GoFundMe page. He has worked as a bodyguard in London but spoke of why he wanted to do this. He said: “I was watching it unravel on the news for several days and I just thought, the poor mothers and children and let me see if I can do my thing.”
“Initially I thought, I‘m going to drive to the Ukraine border and when the refugees were walking across the border, I’d literally hand the young boy a toy for the relevant toy and the same for a small female child. As soon as I got here, everyone said don’t bother.
“I got diverted to a refugee centre and there were 600 beds. These people had nothing. Initially there was zero help but now these children are in Polish schools, German schools. What I’m doing now is giving them a rucksack, things we take for granted.”
Ukraine faces much uncertainty, but Julian and Paul’s actions is just the start of how Britain can help.