Tuesday 14th 

Plan: Tim A and Rob S to meet up with Graeme B and Grant W @1200 hrs and proceed to channel crossing.  ’09 L200 and ’04 Ford Ranger Pickups fully loaded with medical aid, clothing etc. 

Departed barn at 08.15. L200 began to overheat at Fleet, decided to press on but engine gave up on M25 near Reigate. No power, plenty of oil and water under car. Deemed unrepairable. Breakdown recovery of L200 to garage in Reigate, from there Kent Recovery transported L200 back to barn. 

Tim and Rob decided to carry on with Ranger to channel tunnel, Graeme and Grant were sadly stood down, comms. equipment returned to barn with L200. 

This time we travelled freight on tunnel, easy crossing. Screen in driver’s carriage indicates which vehicles must visit customs point on landing in France. Slight confusion in France as to where customs was. Simply follow signs to ‘welcome to France’ and the signpost to customs cannot be missed. 

The crossing and clearing of customs had taken one hour less than anticipated, so good progress was made across France and Belgium. 

Stopped at 20.00 near in Holland. 377miles, 12hrs. 

 

 

Wednesday 15th 

Departed Eindhoven 07.00. 65mph, 2750rpm, Ranger running like a sewing machine,  refuelled every 5 hrs, crossed Germany into Poland and stopped for night near Katowice at 21.00, just got supper ordered before 21.30 cut off. 

700miles, 14hrs 

Thursday 16th 

No breakfast, departed 06.00, reached border at Budomierz at 11.00.  Female guard in army uniform with Uzi type smg welcoming, her colleague in blue, not so friendly, sent us away to get a T1 from parking place 2km back. Could make no progress in office at parking place, spoke to official in Budomierz by telephone, then Mike C in UK, then Taras in Lviv. The consensus was that we didn’t require a T1. 

Returned, empty handed, to border crossing and were waved through with no checks. Cleared Polish passport/customs, then Ukrainian passport/customs with cursory checks. 

In Ukraine at 12.20.

Arrived Lviv 15.00 local time. Met Taras for coffee. Taras very concerned about new conscription laws, every man over 25 now terrified of enlistment, needing to register on Saturday, no-one safe, tales of men being lifted off the street or from their flats and sent to army training. Taras’s mother in law’s tenant disappeared overnight and didn’t return. 

Left Lviv 16.00 arriving in Khmelnitskyi 19.15 

430miles, 10hrs 

Supper in hotel, joined local man (Sergiy) birthday party, all male about 20, plenty of toasts, singing etc.

Friday 17th 

Left 06.30, Ranger has used no oil or water, tarpaulin a bit frayed. 

Reached Uman at 10.45, met up with Dmytro Grushetskyi, had coffee and grub in smart restaurant next to motorway, drove around his farms, watched sunflowers being drilled. Recruiters had snatched one of his tractor drivers from tractor while working in the field and sent to army. US aid subsidising interest on machinery purchase. No tax paid by farmers in Ukraine. In this area Zelenskyi is very highly regarded. 

Left farm at 14.00, several bottles of vodka the richer from the birthday party and now Dmytro. 

Reached Dnipro at 18.45, unloaded truck at Max’s place. Max has a building housing single mothers from Eastern Ukraine who have moved west with their children, husbands fighting etc. The young children were playing with toy AK 47’s. 

430miles, 9hrs 

Booked into hotel by the river, nice spot. Supper with Max, his business partner Ilga and Picatchoo, a slightly unusual Japanese who sponsors the mothers’ refuge. We were told that the recruiting rules change tomorrow, many people are upset, lots of rumours, lorry strikes etc. Much propaganda being produced by the Russians via Telegram to undermine morale and create unrest. Each province supplies a percentage of their men to fight. US is calling the shots and wants more Ukrainian soldiers on the front. Senior Ukrainian politicians don’t have their sons recruited. 

Saturday 18th 

Today people are thinking that a lot of the nasty rumours about taking 1000 recruiters from the west to recruit in the east (no favouritism etc) may be Russian propaganda.  Repacked Ranger with military kit in the back ready for handover to drone unit. Drove into town to find cash (this should be done at first opportunity on spotting an ATM)  Met Sash in carpark, he looked a bit suspicious, demanding that we should go with him. We ascertained that we were not about to be kidnapped and he took us to Max’s place where we met up with another Dmytro, from the hospital. We went with them to hospital, saw UFC boxes and other aid and met Natalia for photo op. 

Returned to hotel, then went into town for lunch by 41-45 monument. Air raid sirens sounded and heard the explosion as a shaheed drone was downed on the far side of town. 

Back to the hotel and handed vehicle over to Sergyi, deputy commander of 92 brigade. Spoke by phone to his drone unit commander, Olexi, for feedback on Convoy 14 drone delivery. He is happy with the drones but needs more. Had coffee with delegation, NGO workers Nica (signed paperwork for truck), professor of biology Yulia, teaching in Florida but on leave. 

Visited thermal imager resistant smock factory in Dnipro, these smocks can render you undetectable by drone for 40 minutes. 

Quiet supper and bed 

Sunday 19th 

06.00 Lift to railway station by Max. Buildings next to station damaged by missiles April. 

Train 06.45, arrived Kyiv 12.45, lots of fertile green field on journey. Met security personnel for lunch in a city hotel. Learnt much about the state of the war, the deadly effectiveness of drones and glide bombs. SF now being used as front line troops and being wasted etc. Belarus looking threatening, Wagner group there. Bridges across the river need to be  prepared demolition. Everyone confused as to why the tank hedgehogs were not in place in NE to  protect Kharkiv. Western Ukrainians are more keen on the war that the easterners. Oligarchs still  powerful in Ukraine. Foreign journalists not able to get to front because of drones. 

Then had a bit time to visit the tourist spots. Walked to Independence Square. Very moving bank, a  sea of flags, each one a fallen soldier. Walked to the remembrance wall by Mikhailovska Square, thousand of photos of dead soldiers. Visited St Michael’s Church. Saw damaged Russian armoured vehicles in square. 

Met up with Olga and she showed us the older part of town and St Andrew’s Church. Back to hotel to collect kit, say our goodbyes and make way to railway station. Taxi to station and departed on sleeper train at 20.20. Had long chat with banker in our couchette. Also a soldier in cabin who wasn’t interested in conversation. Banker told us much about his beliefs in a conspiracy between Zelenskyi and the Russians and the US not wanting Russia split up by the defeat of Putin. Providing just enough arms to cause a stalemate. 

Arrived Lviv at 0300, took taxi to border at Medyka. Walked across border. Tim nearly sent back to Ukraine to dispose of his excess vodka. 

Caught bus to Przemysl, where we took the next train to our airport town.  Had breakfast and took Bolt (like Uber) to  the airport.  Plane to Stansted, arrived at 12.15, train to Liverpool St, taxi to Waterloo, parted company.  

Tim to Romania, Rob to Hampshire. Arrived Hampshire 16.15