A British executive has described the “incredible reception” he received as he and a friend drove two ambulances full of medical supplies into Ukraine.
Charles Blackmore, who founded commercial intelligence specialists Audere International in 2015, drove one of the two vehicles from the UK to Lutsk via Warsaw, arriving in the Ukrainian city on Friday evening.
Speaking from Warsaw’s Chopin Airport on his way back to the UK, he told the PA news agency: “To be given this incredible reception by the Deputy Mayor of the Oblast, the region where we were going, where there were speeches, and patriotic songs, and the appreciation, made the journey worthwhile.
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“When you drive through checkpoints, when you drive through cities in curfew, when 70% of the city of Lutsk – which is 200,000 people – have left the city, you’re going into a ghost town.
“And when you see what is happening, to be able to bring the aid to the people was a very important journey.”
Audere, which provides intelligence to parties wishing to make overseas investments, has already been active in the effort in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, helping with evacuations and conducting five resupply operations.
Mr Blackmore said it was important that the company, which did business in Russia and eastern Europe before the invasion back, should “put our shoulders to the wheel” and assist in Ukraine.
“We had been involved in evacuating people out of Afghanistan last August,” he said.
“We did not expect some seven months later to be involved in a second evacuation, this time in Europe.
“But when it happened we decided that we did actually want, and we had the right operating template, to be able to contribute to the humanitarian aid, to the evacuation and to providing support for the Ukrainian people.”
As part of that effort, the company has delivered two tonnes of food and 300 litres of liquids, as well as essential items like first aid and clothes, and extensive medical supplies.
But Mr Blackmore was moved to do something more personal after speaking to an American friend.
Mr Blackmore explained: “He said, ‘I want to do something meaningful.
“‘My grandfather was Ukrainian, he left in 1905. I want to do something more than write a cheque’.
“So I said, ‘Let’s buy a couple of ambulances, one each, and let’s both first take them down, take them into Ukraine, and see the end result’.”
The ambulances were sourced were sourced via a charity in the UK and filled with two tonnes of medical supplies.
And although they were delivered to Lutsk, in western Ukraine, Mr Blackmore said he had been assured the vehicles and supplies would be going “right to the front line”.
“They’re going to Bucha, for example,” he said.
“And we’re very happy that the ambulances were really properly prepped, properly serviced, so that we know they’re going to last what was obviously going to be a long journey for them.
“And they, I suspect, are going to get a lot of use if the situation continues as it is right now.”
Mr Blackmore praised the generosity of the British people, saying: “There’s so many people doing so much, whether they’re working in food kitchens, or whether they’re helping refugees or whether they’re volunteering to drive ambulances to Poland.”
He said the Ukrainians “really appreciate” the help and support coming from the UK.
And although he said there was a “sense of satisfaction” from having done his own bit to help, he stressed there was “more to be done”.
“What impressed us most was the cheerfulness and the resolve of the Ukrainian people,” he said.
“And it’s very important that we stand even closer behind them and give them the more support and we’re going to look to do that ourselves.”