Landlord explains 'emotionally draining' sight at Ukraine border after delivering aid

A pub landlord has completed a mercy mission to deliver aid to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

Neale Chandler (left) and his companions with firefighters at the collection depot
Neale Chandler (left) and his companions with firefighters at the collection depot

Neale Chandler, landlord of The Kings Arms in Eccleshall, drove more than 1,300 miles across Europe to the border between Poland and Ukraine to deliver aid.

Mr Chandler was joined by two friends for the journey – as they delivered a van full of items donated by locals.

During an emotional trip Mr Chandler said they had visited Przemyśl Railway Station in Poland where refugees were arriving from Ukraine.

They handed around 40 boxes of donations to Polish firefighters arranging to distribute aid, and then visited the border with Ukraine some 20km away.

Mr Chandler, 52, who has been joined by friends Carl Miller and Danny Gratton for the mission, said the area was "bitterly cold" and the scene had left them all in "a bit of shock".

The firefighters help unload the aid. Picture: Facebook

He said: "We drove to the border fence with Ukraine and it was very poignant, there was a real sense of despair, people crossing with just a duffel bag, but they were met with people bringing them food or clothes, it was very organised and from there they were being transported on.

"There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and they were coming over by the hundreds. We probably saw 500 people come across while we were there.

"It was emotional, but eerily quiet, no crying, no screaming, they were just happy to get out of Ukraine obviously.

"There were people standing there offering lifts, we saw one lady with a sign saying 'if you are going to Lithuania come with me'.

"I saw a guy who had been stood next to a fire for eight hours waiting for his family to come over. There was just a sense of despair and disbelief."

Mr Chandler said the generosity of the people of Poland had been clear to see.

Boxes of donated items being sorted at the depot in Poland. Picture: Facebook

He said: "It was really interesting and it was emotionally draining. We managed to get our stuff off-loaded, and it was amazing, the Polish people were so generous and welcoming to the people coming over."

Before handing the aid over the trio had attempted to give it to a team at the station.

Mr Chandler said: "They were taking aid but they were full so they directed us to about 15km out to a depot.

"While we were there we saw the trains arriving, there were lots of people, lots of young children, but very warmly welcomed. There was hot food, there was clothing, people being well looked after and directed onto coaches and buses and going from there.

"There were lots of volunteer organisations, it was really well organised from the Polish side, it was really incredible to see."

He added: "After the train station we went to unload at this depot outside of the town. We were met by the Polish fire department and they helped us unload and while we were there started arranging stuff into the system."

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