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Two Australians living in Poland are playing a vital role in transporting civilians out from Ukraine as the country is bombarded by Russian military.
Daniel Russell, who has lived in Poland for the past eight years, and his mate Roger Scott have been doing regular runs to the border and into Ukraine in a minivan and driving families to safety.
They have so far made several trips and transported more than two dozen people across the Polish border, the latest trip on Thursday.
‘Hectic day. Rejected at the border for the first time… Collected a lovely mum and two kids freezing in the bleak lines and drove them over [the border] in three hours to a better world,’ Mr Russell said.
Mr Russell added that refugees can wait up to six hours on a good day and 24 hours on a bad day to find transport, with Europe in the middle of an icy winter.
‘Gave the kids a ball which distracted them for a short moment and maybe they briefly forgot about this horrific scene kids should never have to witness,’ he said.
Daniel Russell (left) and Roger Scott (right) have been helping ferry supplies to refugees amassed in Ukraine near the border with Poland
Mr Scott said they has transported more than two dozed refugees to safety over numerous trips (pictured)
Mr Russell said after he dropped his latest passengers off his minivan broke down with a flat battery.
‘Trying to get back over the border tomorrow and drop all the fundraiser equipment to the needy and pick up a some weary refugees when Roger arrives with a new chariot in the morning to rescue my sorry a**.’
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia on Thursday night (AEDT), Mr Scott said he was on his way to Medyka, a village on the Polish border that has become a hub for refugees, to meet up with Mr Russell.
‘When we first went into Ukraine we had to send a 200kg diesel generator, which would’ve been hard to find someone to do that, so we did it ourselves.’
‘We didn’t really give it much thought, and we were on the road the next day, with the generator and a bunch of other military support equipment.’
‘We got pretty nervous at the border. There was a fair bit of chaos when we crossed to the Ukrainian side and we also were driving around after curfew which was sketchy.’
Mr Scott, originally from Melbourne, has lived in Poland since 2018 and in Europe for much longer and said he ‘knows this part of the world pretty well, so I didn’t really feel in danger’.
The two Aussies (pictured) relocated to Poland years ago and originally began helping the refugees when they agreed to deliver supplies to a friend and witnessed the ‘post-apocalyptical’ scenes
The UNHCR estimates more than three million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia launched a brutal unprovoked invasion on February 24, with more streaming towards the border each day.
Mr Russell and Mr Scott have launched a fundraising campaign to buy vital supplies for civilians in Lviv in Ukraine’s west who are fleeing to the border.
‘Our main purpose is to use the money gathered and deliver the needed items directly into the palms of the Ukrainians, we have total transparency and we have also delivered equipment to the Ukrainian Territorial Forces in Lviv.’
Mr Russell said his van was full of supplies when he was knocked back at the border on Thursday, including 20 sleeping bags and 30 yoga mats for refugees who must sleep in the open, 50 pairs gloves, and soccer balls and hula hoops to entertain the children.
A clip from Mr Russell on Thursday shows refugees lined up waiting to get across the Polish border, He said some have to wait in line for up to three days
Mr Scott said their first trip, which was a little over a week ago, had intended to be a quick in and out mission but turned into a 48-hour sleepless journey and an unforgettable experience.
‘My good friend Anton, a Ukrainian, currently based in Lviv, reached out to me recently to see if I could help supply some valuable equipment such as radios, generators, power banks, night vision and other tactical supplies.’
‘Anton is assisting the Territorial Civil Defense of Kyiv and his men were in need of a 10kW power generator, so my good mate Rusty suggested we grab a bus and deliver the generator ourselves, plus pick up some refugees who Anton had found for us.’
He said the pair set off at 11am, complete with a packed lunch of eight sandwiches and entered Ukraine at Krakoviets, a village an hour west of Lviv on the border, about 10 hours later.
‘The scenes there were nothing like I’ve ever seen. At least 10,000, probably way more, women and children were crowded everywhere, with cars and people blocking the highway.’
‘People were gathering around fires, there was rubbish everywhere, people were desperate and there was chaos. Reminiscent of a post-apocalypse film.’
The pair have started a fundraiser to deliver supplies to displaced Ukrainians (pictured)
The UNHCR says there are about three million Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country (pictured)
He said when they finally managed to get through the chaos, the martial law curfew imposed by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy had just kicked in so they could not meet their contact.
They left the generator at a wedding venue converted into a temporary refugee shelter for Anton and his mates to pick up before heading further on into Lviv.
‘The military checkpoints equipped with concrete barriers and anti-tank obstacles were kind enough to let us through, if not a bit baffled by seeing Aussies in a mini-bus,’ Mr Scott said.
There they delivered a package of supplies and medicine and some carefully packed extra military supplies for Anton to a relative.
‘Unfortunately the refugees had all returned to their homes after waiting for us for several hours. So we instead had to go around picking them up from various addresses around town.
‘Despite the curfew, we collected everyone, and headed back to a different border crossing – a ‘quiet’ one. It took us 13 hours of waiting to cross the border to Poland. Finally we arrived back in Warsaw late on Monday night.’
Mr Scott said after witnessing the conflict first-hand and ‘knowing both sides of the conflict well’ that the ‘the scale of suffering being visited on the people of Ukraine is completely senseless’
Mr Russell was delivering supplies on Thursday to refugees near the Poland / Ukraine where his minivan was searched (pictured)
‘The situation in Lviv (which is very far from the actual war), is way too tense for us to be able to return to that city any time soon. But we might consider more trips if extremely necessary’
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, international aid agencies continue to ramp up their efforts to bring much-needed relief supplies to civilians affected by the fighting.
Rzeszow, the largest city in southeastern Poland, roughly 100kilometres from the Ukrainian border, has become a humanitarian aid hub for the region.
By road and by air, aid supplies – including food, blankets, solar lamps, warm clothing, mattresses, jerrycans and plastic sheeting – continue to arrive in a massive warehouse run by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, next to the airport outside Rzezsow.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in an unprovoked assault. A local man carries debris of the residential building which was shelled in Kyiv, Ukraine, 17 March
An expert investigates debris of a rocket on the place of shelling of residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine, 17 March 2022.
Families fleeing Ukraine are being offered safety in a number of European countries including Poland, Germany and Slovakia
‘What we have been doing is bringing more people into the country, bringing more assistance into the country, working with partners to make sure that we can work effectively, to do what we can to help,’ said Matthew Saltmarsh, UNHCR spokesman.
Saltmarsh said the agency has received in the past month ‘over 300 million lots of donations’ from the private sector and has managed to deliver some of the relief supplies to Ukraine.
So far, the UNCHR has moved 22 trucks and soon plans to move another 10 with emergency supplies to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, not far from the Polish border.
Over 40 Ukrainian orphans have been rescued and taken to safety in Znin Poland are now struggling to get to the UK due to the Governments red tape (pictured)
People fleeing Ukraine travel on a humanitarian train organised by the Slovak Rail Company (ZSSK) to bring refugees from Ukraine to Kosice, Slovakia on March 16
Lviv has largely been spared the scale of destruction unfolding further east, becoming the first destination for many of those fleeing the country.
Some of the aid transported to the city has been unloaded and distributed there, Saltmarsh said, but the rest is waiting to go on when the security situation allows humanitarian assistance to reach the hardest-hit parts of the country, including the port city of Mariupol which has been besieged and subjected to punitive Russian attacks almost since the start of the war.
‘That is obviously very worrying and a big challenge for the humanitarian community,’ he added.
Source: DailyMail AU