Ukraine Support – Shaun and Joe’s Trip Details and How you can help
Ukraine Support – Refugee Driving & Transport
This crib sheet is provided after returning from a trip in collaboration with a small charity ‘Love Bristol’ which operates from the humanitarian centre in Przemysl (pronounced Shishmal), a small town on the Poland/Ukraine border and one of the main transit routes for refugees fleeing Ukraine into Europe.
Refugees are processed at a converted Tesco supermarket which is secured by the Polish Army. They have provisions on site including free food & drink for all refugees and volunteers, accommodation for refugees, doctors & pharmacists and provisions of hygiene products, clothing and other essentials.
The town is overrun with refugees, and they are granted only two nights’ refuge at the Tesco site before alternative accommodation needs to be found. For those wishing to enter the UK, the visa process takes on average 36 days from application to issue.
During that time, Love Bristol support refugees with accommodation in Przemysl and neighbouring towns, support with securing pet passports, provide food shops and deliveries to those who are awaiting visas and maintain support. At the time of writing (early May) there are only 3 volunteers working with Love Bristol in Poland. Every day, hundreds of refugees arrive.
If you would like to support, there are various ways you can do so, including but not limited to the below. In priority order:
- Volunteers – Love Bristol desperately need boots on the ground to help with the processing of refugees and visas, and all associated support work. Preferably with good computer skills to operate the refugee data and have energy, optimism and a desire to help. It takes about a week to learn the processes and systems, so they ideally need volunteers who can commit more than two consecutive weeks to the cause on the ground.
- Money – the reality is that money makes the world go around. In order to keep providing accommodation, food, medicines and support, they need consistent funding. The volunteers are sleeping on blow-up mattresses on a Polish building site, which the site manager provided, and the construction workers made habitable specifically for this purpose. Money is well spent and goes to the cause it is intended for – there are few creature comforts.
- Transport on both sides of the channel. You can liaise directly with Love Bristol (contact information further down) to let them know what resources you have available, your timeframes and the parameters of the help you can provide. They will then work with you to match refugees with destinations on your route who have visas and pet documents in place. Be prepared for late changes – the situation there is fluid.
The desire to help is very real – hopefully the information below will remove some of the roadblocks we encountered when planning our recent trip. Please share this with anyone who is interested in helping.
Fundraising & donations via the Go Fund Me page for Love Bristol:
Fundraiser by Hannah Walker : Little bit of Love from Bristol to Ukraine (gofundme.com)
If you know of people who might be willing and able to volunteer with the team in Przemysl, please encourage them to reach out to Love Bristol for additional and current information.
An overview of what you can expect as a volunteer driver:
- Contact Love Bristol – this link takes you to their website, which has links to their Facebook and donation pages. Let them know what you can provide and when.
If you are driving, you will be asked to provide or complete a driver’s form and a DBS check, which is fast-tracked.
You will be added to a drivers’ WhatsApp group, where you can discuss your plans with the charity and other drivers, and they will keep you updated with current needs. The drivers’ form can be found via this link:
- Plan your route – you should expect up to 25 hours of driving each way. The distance from London to Przemysl is approximately 1,150 miles. We stopped at a B&B Hotel, a recognised German chain similar to Premier Inn, near Ludwigsfelde, costing approximately £60 for the night. Basic but comfortable.
- The Le Shuttle crossing from Folkestone to Calais takes 35 minutes, plus 1 hour for check-in and waiting times. The cost is approximately £180 outbound. On the return journey, they offer free or heavily discounted fares for transporting refugees with the necessary paperwork. Remember the mandatory car safety equipment needed on the continent (UK sticker, fire extinguisher, headlight deflectors, 1st Aid kit, bulb kit, high viz bibs).
- Upon arriving in Przemysl, you will be asked to take a lateral flow test which is photographed prior to registering. You will not be allowed to transport refugees until you can demonstrate a negative Covid test. There is a testing tent on site, but it is potentially slow if there is a queue.
- You will then be required to register as a driver – a precaution against people trafficking, which is rife. To register, you will need to be vouched for by a representative of Love Bristol, so it is essential you establish contact and a plan with them before setting off on your journey. NOT MAKING PRIOR CONTACT WILL HINDER YOUR EFFORTS.
- It is worth noting, you can only register as a volunteer OR as a driver. Volunteers will be allowed inside the centre, drivers will not. Again, this is to safeguard against unauthorised transport and people trafficking.
- There is no financial support from the charity, so you will need to ensure you have the funds to complete this trip. Overnight accommodation will almost certainly be needed for all passengers on the return trip – the last channel crossing of the day is around 11pm. You should expect passport control and immigration to take around 20 minutes per passenger.
- If you want to stay in Poland overnight upon arrival or before setting off on your return journey, be considerate of the demands on accommodation as it is needed for refugees, particularly in and around Przemysl. We stayed in a town called Lancut, approximately 50 minutes from Przemysl to avoid taking up bed space better used for those in need.
- The language barrier is extremely challenging – English is not widely spoken, and the languages are very different. It would be worthwhile investing in translation headsets (approx. £40 per headset on Amazon) to help. Alternatively, Google Translate app is sufficient for basic communication.
- Always try to keep in mind that although they are refugees now, a couple of months ago they were just normal people like everyone else. They are proud and dignified.
Photos are not permitted inside the centre (unless the refugees ask for one with you) and you can decide for yourselves if photos are appropriate outside. We tried to put yourself in their shoes (which is very hard to do) and act as you would if you were the one in that situation.
- Before you set off, engage with your local support groups to collect supplies to transport over so you don’t turn up with an empty van. Second-hand smartphones, hygiene supplies, nappies and pet food are all needed.
Don’t worry too much about clothes or food – they are available in abundance. Touch base with Love Bristol to see what they need.
- Be patient – the team at Love Bristol are doing amazing work, but they are stretched. They might be slow to reply or appear a bit disjointed. They are prioritising the people in need but your support is truly appreciated and needed.
Contact via Facebook messenger, they will provide WhatsApp info, drivers forms etc
- Donations – Go Fund Me Love Bristol
Fundraiser by Hannah Walker : Little bit of Love from Bristol to Ukraine (gofundme.com)
- Tesco Przemysl – refugee centre
Address: ul. Księcia Józefa Poniatowskiego 9 Przemyśl, Podkarpackie
- Le Shuttle – channel crossing (Folkestone to Calais)
Eurotunnel: Folkestone To Calais In 35 Minutes. Book Now!
- Accommodation in Germany (Berlin Sud Genshagen is about halfway between UK and Przemysl) –
B&B HOTELS Germany: Information about COVID-19 | B&B Hotels (hotel-bb.com)
- Accommodation in Poland (Hotel Vis a Vis, Lancut. Approx 45 minutes from Przemysl, does not take up accommodation needed for refugees)
°HOTEL VIS A VIS LANCUT 3* (Poland) – from £ 50 | BOOKED
- Germany fuel price (motorway services) is approximately £1.90 per litre for unleaded, £2.0 per litre for Diesel.
- Poland fuel prices (motorway services) is approximately £1.40 per litre for unleaded, £1.55 per litre for Diesel.
- Toll roads in Poland are approximately £2.50 per toll. Budget around £30 for the total journey (outbound and return combined). Some require eToll (online/app payment – search e-Toll PL Ticket in app store). Other toll roads accept contactless/Apple pay. Go to the lane with a ‘manned’ symbol on the overhead galley.
Summary: The need for help is acute and very real. It was very emotional being there but the sense of worth in helping cannot be described.