A pair of Polish women living in Aberdeen are heading a national effort collecting much-needed essentials to be driven halfway across Europe and given to those fleeing the invasion of Ukraine.
Adrianna Sosnowska, the director of domestic abuse support group Own Woman, and Kasia Cwiklinska, the vice president of the Polish Association Aberdeen, spent Sunday picking up donations outside Craigievar House in Dyce with a group of volunteers.
Similar drives are taking place across the north and north-east, in Inverness, Elgin, Peterhead, Fort William, Inverurie and Banff.
The gathered items – everything from nappies and toiletries to yoga mats and pasta – will be taken down to Glasgow tonight and loaded onto a lorry there.
One lorry already left this morning. The driver is due to leave the UK tomorrow, when he will begin his journey across the continent to the Polish border.
When he arrives on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, his cargo will be unloaded and distributed to some of the tens of thousands of people who have managed to escape Ukraine since the Russians invaded on February 24.
‘We couldn’t do nothing’
Miss Sosnowska said she talked to her friend Ms Cwiklinska on Friday, and together they wept over the situation in Eastern Europe.
Miss Cwiklinska said: “We feel like we are here, so we don’t know what’s happening on the border with Ukraine.
“We couldn’t be speaking and crying and do nothing, so we thought we would do some collections.”
Both women said they had been blown away by the response from the Aberdeen public, with a Facebook appeal from charity AberNecessities – headquartered in the same building as Own Woman – being shared more than 300 times.
Just over an hour into their collection, they said the efforts had already amassed more than a ton of items.
With both having family in Poland, the women have been receiving pictures and videos demonstrating the seriousness of the situation.
Ms Sosnowska is in contact with a co-ordinator named Monika Patkowska, who has been shuttling Ukrainian refugees from their border to cities and towns where they can find a safe place to stay.
She said: “Monika sent us a picture when she picked up a mother with a toddler, about six or seven months old, she walked 50 kilometres just by foot to cross the Polish border.”
One of the other volunteers, Beata Winiarska, sent them a short video of the train station at Lviv in Ukraine where journeys were delayed by about 700 minutes.
But the crisis has also brought out some of the best in Polish people.
Miss Cwiklinska said: “We do hear a lot of good things about how people want to help and want to be involved.
“I can see a lot of adverts on Polish Facebook groups from people who have empty flats and empty houses, they are ready to give those flats or houses to Ukrainian people completely for free, just for a few months, and give them time to organise their lives from scratch.”
Supplies desperately needed
The women will continue to help in any way they can, but in the meantime, the required supplies continues to update as the situation evolves.
Miss Cwiklinska said: “The list of items is changing. For now, we really need thermoses, heating pads, protein bars, bandages, dressing strips and dry human food like rice, pasta, some powder sauces.
“Also, yoga mats, sleeping bags, baby wipes, sanitary pads or tampons, and what we are most short of just now is first aid kits.
“We need warm socks and underwear, which are mostly for soldiers.”