Ukraine relief efforts continue as war intensifies in Eastern Europe
- Credit: Ukrainian Refugees Help
A Russian ex-pat has been leading an aid collection for Ukraine to help the growing refugee crisis.
Rita Keenan is part of a St Albans group made up of former residents of Eastern Europe who joined forces to collect essential supplies like toiletries, baby products, formula, food, medicines, sleeping bags, blankets, warm clothes and even car seats and buggies
These are then shipped to wherever they are most urgently needed, including directly to wartorn Ukraine in order to help victims of the Russian invasion.
"I am from Russia myself and I feel so ashamed of what is happening in my native country and I just wanted to reassure the poor people of Ukraine that we are all thinking of them. We wanted to help them practically with things that will help when they get to the border of Ukraine.
"I'm not trying to take credit as there are so many people are reaching out to help, many schools, sport centres and every individual donated something or volunteered. Our small project was just a drop in the ocean of unimaginable suffering but we are so proud of our community in St Albans who stood united, organised and put in tremendous work."
Her husband Peter added: "These amazing people have used their network in Eastern Europe to make sure the supplies/aid get to the correct place and people. There may well be a shortage of nappies in St Albans for a while!"
Media business owner and mum of three Maria Ufland, who was also involved in the initiative, has been living in the UK for over 20 years, since moving here from St Petersburg.
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She said: "This war has shocked the Russian community very deeply and we are categorically against this war that is being carried on in the name of Russian people.
"The response to our appeal was so overwhelming and universal that we couldn’t store the amount of donations that we have received in our houses and garages and had to rent out three self-storage units to support this initiative. We also had to find additional transport for shipment as the amount of donations was bigger than what anyone had expected! People donated money too as we had to fund the storage and transportation.
"The unity among the community is overwhelming and universal, the impact of this war is devastating and is deeply personal to all of us. We all want to do something to help, to stop this crazy war.
"The war crisis is unfortunately intensifying, and we know that more help will be needed in the coming weeks. We all have someone close to us in Ukraine - friends, family, ex-colleagues, university friends.
"They need help in so many ways other than just humanitarian aid: a place to stay, advice on where to evacuate and how to get to friends and families in other countries, and of course financial support. We are now looking into what else we can do for people who are devastated by this horrible war."
Meanwhile at St Columba's College, donations were transported to Romania on a 22-tonne lorry provided by a pupil's family, from where they will be forwarded on to refugees by a fleet of minibuses.
Parents volunteered their time to sort and pack up the donations, both in the college and also at the collection point in Westminster Lodge car park. Students from the prep and senior school, together with staff, helped to carry boxes and load the lorry.
Headmaster David Buxton said: “We are all desperately moved by the situation in Ukraine, and we have had many families asking how we can help as a college community. In a situation where we feel so helpless as to how we can support the people of Ukraine, this gesture of almsgiving will help many desperate families.”