Shropshire Star

'Don't forget Ukraine this winter': Retired Shropshire soldier's plea as he plans 16th frontline aid trip

A retired soldier who has been to Ukraine 15 times delivering vital aid is urging Salopians not to forget the war this winter.

Destroyed homes in Kherson Region

Paul, who is aged 64 and from south Shropshire, has asked to remain anonymous as he intends to keep on travelling to the nation as it faces a second winter battling to eject Russians who invaded on February 24, 2022.

He said: "As the war trundles on to the end of its second year and with other equally important world events dominating the headlines, I fear that the human suffering of ordinary innocent civilians in Ukraine may fall off our radar.

"Sadly, for example, only a couple of weeks ago, Kyiv was hit by the biggest attack of Shahed drones – 75 in total. Yet it barely made the news.

Destroyed homes in Kherson Region

"With the snow already falling, innocent civilians, especially those along the 600-mile-long frontline, will face yet another gruelling winter where, no doubt Russian attacks will again be aimed at the electricity power supply.

"Last year, some 40 per cent of the population had no power. Having said this, from my own experience, I know that the Ukrainians will not give up – they will keep going, keep surviving."

Over the past 18 months Paul has completed more than 15 trips, delivering humanitarian aid to the hard-hit areas in east Ukraine.

His work has taken him from Kharkiv in the the north east, to Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Nikopol, Mikoliav down to the Kherson region and on to Odesa in the south west.

Paul said that of all the trips he has done the one that sticks in his mind the most was working in the Kherson region three days after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam, which spans the Dnipro river, on June 6, 2023.

He says that on the Ukraine held side of the river, the homes of some 18,000 people were flooded across an area spanning around 180 square miles.

Delivering food and water by boat in the Kherson region

"The devastation was horrendous," he said.

"Working with a local charity, we helped provide lifesaving food and drinking water to stranded people by boat.

“It is near impossible to describe how harsh life is for these people. As if living in an area already decimated by war, the constant fear of Russian shelling or perhaps stepping onto a discarded munition was not enough, having to then contend with the massive volume of water flooding over your land would break many of us – it nearly broke me just seeing it.”

Delivering food and water by boat in the Kherson region

Paul has delivered much-needed vehicles to the Ukraine military, with each one rammed full of lifesaving humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, generators and water filtration equipment for a local charity supporting civilians near the front line at Zaporizhzhia.

Paul's latest trip started in October when he received an urgent message from his Ukrainian friend, Konstantin, requesting 80 tyres for ambulances.

A children's playground in the Kherson Region, mined during the Russian occupation. where we were working

Working with other volunteer mechanics in Kharkiv, Konstantin provides free support from his garage, keeping emergency service vehicles on the road.

“Konstantin supports a fleet of 20 ambulances working in the region between Kharkiv and the front-line," said Paul.

"Nearly all of the 20 ambulances were running on bald tyres and, indeed, two of the ambulances were actually taken out of service because the tyres had worn through.

"With winter coming and the harsh snow and ice conditions, it would be impossible for the ambulances to literally stay on the road.”

Not that Paul needed any further motivation but, most tragically, just one day after receiving the tyre request, the horrific news of the Russian missile attack on Hrova, killing 59 civilians was reported. The small village of Hrova is in the catchment area of the very ambulances desperately needing the tyres.

Despite the reality that there was no money in the pot, no storage and no vehicle to transport the tyres, Paul committed to helping his friends in Kharkiv – somehow.

Tyres being delivered to a garage in Kharkiv

And so it was for the next five weeks Paul set about fundraising and borrowing a van.

He said: “Just five weeks later, thanks to the generous help of friends and my local community we managed to muster 90 ambulance tyres, seven heavy duty batteries and a much-needed welding machine for Kharkiv – frankly, amazing.”

Paul added: “With the fantastic help of Macclesfield Ukrainian Aid (, volunteer drivers took the van to Poland, where I and my co-driver met them and drove the van on the final leg to Kharkiv. To give you an idea of the distances, the one-way journey from the UK is 2,200 miles. It was an amazing team effort.”

“The volunteer mechanics were, needless to say, overwhelmed to receive the aid. Even as we arrived, ambulances were waiting to have their tyres changed and they set to work immediately.

Pictured one 3am resting up at a checkpoint near Zaporizhzhia

"In fact, the first ambulance crew were so delighted that they gave me a jacket and I was made an honorary member!”

Thinking back to why he had become involved in helping, Paul said: “When the war started on February 24 2022 , I was overwhelmed with the news of suffering of innocent people just going about their daily lives. I felt I could not just sit back and simply watch.

"Fortunately, being retired, I had the time to do something. In April 2022 I first started by making regular trips to Poland to bring refugees back to the UK.

"My first trip to Ukraine was in August 2022 where I drove in my own car to Kyiv to collect a mum, two kids and their dog who, although they had a sponsor in UK, for various reasons had no way of getting out of Ukraine.

"It was on this trip that I saw with my own eyes the human tragedy unfolding and I felt I needed to do more. With contacts I made on that trip I started collecting and delivering humanitarian aid.”

Paul added that he had been humbled by the support he has received.

"The support I have received from both friends and complete strangers has been humbling. I simply could not do what I have done without it.

So, while I keep getting this astounding support and while Ukraine continues to need help, I will keep going.

"Please don't forget Ukraine!"

Paul is planning his next trip for January 2024. If you would like to support Paul you can do so by visiting the Just Giving website.

For humanitarian aid donations you should phone aid coordinator and fundraiser Caroline on 01694 723283

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