Paul Zukowskyj, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for South Hatfield, has personally purchased a DAF 7.5 Tonne box van with a contribution from his sister Patricia for his next trip to Ukraine. P W Gates Commercial Vehicle workshop offered to check over the vehicle upon delivery to ensure that it is road-worthy before Paul heads to the front line.
The Zukowskyj family have a personal link to the war in Ukraine as their father Mykola was originally from Ukraine and came to England as a stateless person after the second world war. The USSR, as it was known, then disowned Ukrainian refugees and although Mykola could have taken British citizenship, he always chose to remain stateless and patriotic to his country of birth.
Inspired by his father, Paul originally got into politics because he wants to help people, whether local or in the wider community. Paul commented “the Ukrainian conflict feels really quite personal because of my dad” and it is the combination of these two things that has driven Paul to do whatever he can to try and help. Further commenting “And who do I want to help? Well, I want to help the civilians who have been most impacted and effected by the conflict”
With no previous logistics experience Paul is not fazed by idea of driving a truck through Europe and heading to a war zone as 25 years ago Paul was a mechanic for racing kart company which involved transporting the karts across Europe in a 7.5 tonne truck.
Even with Paul’s limited logistics experience, he has been picking up as much knowledge and logistics terminology as he can and has recently learnt about back loads. Whilst Paul was at the P W Gates premises in Welwyn Garden City, our Managing Director Peter Gates advised that there were 3 artics from Ukraine due into the P W Gates premises to deliver and he believed they were heading back to Ukraine, and he used term back load.
After this meeting, Paul talked to a charity called Connect Aid who also used the same terminology, they are running aid to Poland, where it is processed in a storage facility in Rzeszow.
Now that P W Gates has ensured the truck is road-worthy, a significant aid package was put together in late July. P W Gates contributed 7 pallets’ to the package, containing non-food items such cleaning materials, personal hygiene, toys, and children’s clothes. Paul commented “The non-food stuff is exactly what we’re after, and we’ll take the clothes and distribute them, the clothes did go when we got to Irpin in May and were gratefully received”
Once the aid package is accumulated, they will take a full truck from the UK to Southern Poland to a storage facility in Rzeszow, and then go into Ukraine, going right up to the front line, to places like Kharkiv, Dnipro, Kramachuk. This is where Paul will meet up with the smaller vans and the volunteer group ‘Vans without Borders’ to resupply them with the essential aid they need to distribute to the people who are impacted right now on the front line, especially helping some of the forgotten in this conflict, including the elderly, disabled and vulnerable.
Vans without Borders are a humanitarian group of lads who decided to jump into some transit vans to deliver vital aid to those in need in Ukraine. They have already made 2 trips to Ukraine and Paul went with the group on their second trip volunteering with them since May 2022.
It was this trip to Ukraine with Vans without Borders that inspired Paul to try and do this kind of aid work at the next level because Paul commented “The need of Ukrainian people is really quite apparent, when you get there one of the things that is really quite surprising is just how grateful they are that you are just there, that you are showing them support, it is really quite important to them to know that they are not forgotten”.
This will not be a single run for Paul and the other Vans without Borders volunteers as Paul will do multiple runs to and from the Polish storage facility in Rzeszow, they will keep reloading and unloading the truck, into the smaller vans at the Ukrainian border running a substantial amount of aid into Eastern Ukraine, over a 5-week period.
Paul will return to his constituents at the end of August and is not sure at the moment if there will be another trip back to Ukraine for him as humanitarian aid work needs a lot of support and funding. Paul commented “As a representative of the residents of south Hatfield this position needs my time, I need to be representing my constituents as well as trying to help the people of Ukraine, I don't have a clear picture in my mind yet of what things might look like beyond September, so we'll see how August goes and we'll see what September brings”
Paul documented his first trip to Ukraine on his Facebook page; you can follow the link here https://www.facebook.com/zukowskyj
To find out more about Vans with out Borders, follow the link here UKraine - Vans Without Borders - Home | Facebook