'It's uplifting to work with the Polish community': Cork Penny Dinners volunteers continue their humanitarian aid mission

Penny Dinners co-ordinator Caitriona Twomey told The Echo the volunteers had carefully set aside the makings of a small field hospital, unloading 12 generators, oil, Jerry cans, and a large amount of medical supplies.
'It's uplifting to work with the Polish community': Cork Penny Dinners volunteers continue their humanitarian aid mission

Penny Dinners volunteers Leslie O’Sullivan, Kieran Coniry, Aaron Feeney, Dave Feeney, Catriona Twomey, Michael Relihan, Tomas Kalinaus, John Linehan of DB Schenker and Conal Thomas pictured before travelling to Dublin Airport in a Garda bus. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners had another early start on the third day of their humanitarian mission to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, heading out before dawn from their base in the city of Tarnow, in south-eastern Poland.

Their first port of call was a warehouse in the city of Lezajsk, some 100 miles away, where they unloaded an articulated lorry laden with humanitarian aid donated by the people of Cork.

Penny Dinners co-ordinator Caitriona Twomey told The Echo the volunteers had carefully set aside the makings of a small field hospital, unloading 12 generators, oil, Jerry cans, and a large amount of medical supplies.

“We also have food, toiletries, baby food, bottles, and soothers, plus we have new, warm children’s clothes, sleeping bags, nappies, wipes and loads more essentials,” Ms Twomey said.

“Once we’re fully unloaded, work immediately begins on filling our five rented vans.

“One large box van heads to two locations in Tarnow, while another large box van heads to Slovakian/Ukrainian border with vital supplies for the children of two orphanages,” she said.

“Three vans will go to Katowice to meet a truck from Wrocław, and that will go to Mariola Tryba, whose village and nearby villages are helping Ukrainian Refugees.

“Mariola’s son Lukasz works in CGI Foodpark in Midleton, and Padraig and Co in CGI are helping out with sponsorship.” 

Ms Twomey said the medical supplies and generators will be taken by the Redemptorist order, which will then deliver across the border to hospitals inside Ukraine.

“When we finish at Katowice, we will make the three-hour journey back to Tarnow where we will all help out at the train station,” she said.

“It’s uplifting to work with the Polish community, who are forever thanking us for helping to save the lives of their neighbours.

“We are humbled by it all and that keeps our energy up, we keep going because more and more women and children keep coming and are falling down with exhaustion and hunger,” Ms Twomey said.

She recalled two incidents which had happened on Thursday, when they visited Krakow train station, where every day thousands of refugees arrive.

“Outside the train station are large tents offering aid and there are queues at all of them.

“One of our volunteers, Michael, said he found it very hard to bear when he saw a mom and her toddler making their way to sit under a tree to eat some hot food,” she said.

“They ate the food silently and the pain on their faces was heart-breaking, and Michael had tears in his eyes too.” 

Krakow station, she said, young volunteers were giving balloons to small children and one little boy became very distressed when his balloon began to drift away.

“One of our lads, Conal, took off running and he chased the balloon until he captured it, and he ran back to the little boy, whose face lit up again as he hugged it to his chest.

“Conal walked away an emotional hero, and we felt everything he felt in that moment,” she said.

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