You are here:

Acres to Ukraine – A diary by Nigel Wellings

Sunday 14th April

As we gathered at Folkestone on Sunday 14th April, hopes were high. We had managed to gather together a motley collection of 9 four-wheel drive vehicles, plus two Honda quad bikes, five generators, 200 homemade fruit cakes and 700 flapjacks, amongst other things.

This was the largest convoy with the most amount of aid that we or the group we are involved with – Driving – had ever delivered. Many people had contributed to this Herculean effort to raise aid and we cannot thank them enough.

After British customs’ best efforts to delay us, we were greeted with a very warm welcome from French customs, having exited the Chunnel, and we were speedily on our away across Northern France, into Belgium and across to Deurne in Holland, for our first night’s stay at a former monastery, which has been converted into a hotel.

We were 400 miles from home and, so far, the servicing and maintenance of our vehicles had kept them running well.


Monday 15th April

Monday was our long drive, leaving the Netherlands at 8 am. Driving across Germany, we had reached Wroclaw in Poland by around 6.30pm, with 570 odd miles under our belt. No breakdowns amongst our group was a great testimony to Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota- none of our vehicles had less than a 100 000 miles on the clock!


Tuesday 16th April

A chilly night among the narrow, cobbled streets of Wroclaw’s Medieval Old Town were a prelude to a morning of hopeful blue skies and brilliant sunshine, speeding the convoy ever eastwards. Progress was measured by consumption of coffee, cake and Werther’s Originals. However, kilometres too were eaten up.

Trucks from across Europe and beyond populated the inside lanes, but towards the afternoon traffic thinned. ‘UA’ had featured on roadside signs for some time, nothing distinguishing it as a country at war, just another filter lane along with ‘CZ’ and ‘SK’.

The convoy convened at the last filling station before the Ukraine frontier. Documentation was checked, maps downloaded, and directions confirmed. Everyone hoped for a swift passage through Polish customs.

Approaching the border, hundreds of trucks were stacked impotently, waiting to cross into Ukraine. Reports suggested they were being processed at a rate of one per hour. Ukrainian drivers complained of waiting up to 16-days.

Sooner than expected, the frontier barriers were in sight, and a lorry driver generously made room at the head of the queue. Waves, shouts and honking horns followed as the cars passed through, and by 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, we were finally entering Western Ukraine.

We were on Ukrainian soil, negotiating potholes on the final 70 kilometres to Lviv, and you could not help but marvel at some of the large fields of black chernozem soil we drove past. The most fertile soil I have seen, but as the Ukrainians say, also the most expensive soil in the world as many Ukrainians have made the Ultimate sacrifice for it.


Wednesday 17th April 

After over 1300 miles of driving, it was a great relief to meet with our Ukrainian friends at their vehicle workshop in Lviv. Reaching Driving Ukraine’s workshop, cars and drivers were greeted warmly. Over cheese and salami, some new friendships were made and old ones rekindled. Noisy toasts hailing English farmers’ continuing commitment to Ukraine saw raised plastic glasses of brandy. There were more than a few rheumy eyes.

As usual their hospitality and huge thanks for the vehicles we provided them with was truly awesome. It was great to hear that vehicles donated a year previously were still doing sterling service.

Soldiers from several units were already waiting to receive the 4x4s for imminent deployment. Among regimental flags, maps on the workshop walls show the active frontline and the extent of Russian aggression. There was no hiding the increasingly hostile environment inhabited by troops. Some present bore wounds from the war. One 24-year-old man moved with crutches, his right leg missing. Others shares videos from the heat, dirt and noise of battle.

Wednesday was spent in Lviv, which in the centre is a beautiful unspoilt city with amazing Architecture. It is hard to believe that a few hundred miles away a vicious war is raging that could have a profound effect on all our lives in the western world. As ever, visiting the war graves in Lviv was a truly humbling experience – nobody’s life in this city has been untouched by the war.

It was great to visit and see a huge mural that was painted on the side of a block of flats in the city being completed – this was a memorial to an inspirational local character who had been killed in the early days of the war.



Thursday 18th April 

On the Thursday we visited a Ukrainian Dairy farm, fairly close to the Polish border.

With 120 milking cows and mainly high genetic Jersey cows, the young farm owner was a real inspiration to listen to as he told us in perfect English of his endeavours to expand his enterprise.

With a staff of approx. 12, at the outbreak of the war his staff were terrified, and all wanted to flee across the border to Poland. The farm owner and his brother moved onto the farm to live with the staff for the first month and re-assure them that Russia was not going to over-run them.

With limited funds, the young owner had done an amazing job of purchasing second hand equipment from Holland and reinstalling in Ukraine. His high butterfat milk was commanding a good price and he was making decent profits. His plans included a doubling of herd size in the future. We just knew he would be successful as his passion, commitment and attention to detail were all superb.

As with all the Ukrainians we met he had absolute belief that at some point in the future Ukrainians would one day rejoice at their freedom. So many of the Ukrainians we met were inspirational and ready to make whatever sacrifice was needed to ensure their future freedom. Any very small contribution we can help make towards this I feel is worthwhile.

On Thursday afternoon we crossed the border from Ukraine to Poland, where we took taxis to Krakow and after a very pleasant evening in Krakow, flew back home the next day.


Some final words from Nigel…

Against this shocking reality, driving and donating a few second-hand cars might appear inconsequential. However, the soldiers’ gratitude was profound. ‘It may seem like a small thing to you,’ we’re told, ‘but for us the truth is that each car makes a really big difference. That you have made the decision to help us and come to Ukraine again and again is sincerely appreciated.’

This journey has ended, but Ukraine’s struggle continues in earnest.

A huge thank you to all of those that have driven vehicles, contributed vehicles, tools and equipment, clothing and many other supplies. We have now taken over 20 vehicles and three ATVs to Ukraine, all of which carry out vital work.

Sadly, the need for more vehicles has not abated and plans are already afoot for another trip out on 13th October. Our aim for this time will be for ten four-wheel drive vehicles with 20 drivers, plus a couple more ATVs and some generators.

If you are interested in helping, please do get in touch, our most urgent need as ever is for more four-wheel drive vehicles. At the moment, we have lined up for the next trip a Range Rover, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Rav, Land Rover Freelander and a Toyota Hilux.

Vehicles need a valid MOT, must be four-wheel drive and have had a basic service. Please get in touch if you have any vehicle ideas. More details can be found out via the website.

Thanks so much to everybody that has supported.




Related posts