Cork to Ukraine diary: Volunteers cross border with shipment of humanitarian aid 

Echo reporter Donal O’Keeffe is travelling to the Ukrainian border with the Cork Penny Dinners humanitarian mission. Read his daily diary reports on www.echolive.ie
Cork to Ukraine diary: Volunteers cross border with shipment of humanitarian aid 

Volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners with local volunteers in Krakovets, Ukraine.

On Sunday morning, volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners crossed into Ukraine with a shipment of humanitarian aid bound for Kyiv.

They rose just after dawn, exhausted from a night of broken sleep in a truly awful hotel on the outskirts of Przemyśl – packed rooms, no air-conditioning, little ventilation and no discernible fire safety precautions – and drove out in three rented vans headed for the border crossing at Korczowa-Krakovets.

They spent hours sitting in their vehicles in the sweltering heat, their cargo checked and rechecked by bored-looking border officials, waved through and then turned back, made to fill out reams of paperwork, and then left to wait for ages more, before eventually being let through.

On the Ukrainian side, on flat land beneath vast skies, they stopped at a busy filling station selling hot dogs and burgers, where young mothers sat waiting around with small, very blonde children.

There they met with local contact Max Koronenko, to whom they had been introduced days earlier by Kilkenny firemen donating vehicles and equipment to the Ukrainian fire service.

Max and his team of volunteers had, alongside the mayor of Trostyanets, delivered a fire truck and three jeeps loaded with aid back to the north-eastern Ukrainian city.

Now, working with the office of the mayor of Borodyanka, a city some 50 kilometres from Kyiv, and the mayor of Kyiv, they would bring the Penny Dinners delivery to the capital.

In Kyiv at the moment, there are long queues for food, with elderly people accounting for the majority of those waiting, while surrounding towns and villages have also reported severe shortages.

Humanitarian aid

On the filling station forecourt, the Penny Dinners vans were unloaded of some 16 tonnes of non-perishable food, medical equipment, toiletries and electrical generators, which was then loaded onto the Ukrainian trucks.

Initially the Penny Dinners volunteers had hoped to travel with Max and his fellow volunteers to Borodyanka, but the logistics of getting their own vehicles back through the border proved a challenge too far.

At one point, it was suggested that the reporter from The Echo could ferry vehicles and volunteers back and forth across the border in an approximation of one of those thought experiments involving a boat journey with a fox, a chicken and a bag of grain.

Ultimately, with hours-long queues in both directions, it wasn’t to be, and Max and his fellow volunteers embarked on the eight-hour journey to Borodyanka, where they met the mayors, who are co-ordinating distribution of the aid.

Caitriona Twomey, Penny Dinners co-ordinator, told The Echo the Cork volunteers were happy that the aid donated by the people of Cork was going to the right people.

“Max and his fellow volunteers were very emotional at the continued generosity of the people of Cork, and they told us lives will be saved as a result of this delivery,” Ms Twomey said.

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