An aid convoy which included a Land Rover and a trailer loaded with desperately-needed supplies has made the 3,000-mile round trip to war-torn Ukraine.
At the head of the three-vehicle mercy mission was farmer Llyr Jones at the wheel of a Land Rover he bought for £2,000 and which the team drove to the border between Poland and Ukraine and left with their grateful contact in Ukraine.
Also handed over was the brand-new £6,000 triple-axle 14-foot trailer donated by Ifor Williams Trailers, who have factories in Denbighshire and Flintshire, and picked up by Llyr from their sales centre in Corwen last Thursday, just before he and his friends set off on their 1,500-mile drive.
It took them down to Dover for the crossing to France and then through Belgium, Germany and Poland before crossing into Ukraine on Saturday with the trailer and vehicles packed with over £20,000 of vital provisions bought in Europe.
Joining Llyr on the trek across Europe were Steve Butler, from Llangollen, Gareth Gower Hughes, from Ruthin, Phil Morris, from Denbigh, Rhys Jones and Bryn Roberts, from Anglesey, and Lucas Jones, from Prestatyn.
Back home the back up came from Llyr’s wife, Emma, Lowri Williams and Elen Lloyd, from Ruthin, and Dr David Counsell who advised on medical supplies.
Heading for home after a long and eventful journey a tired Llyr, who lives in Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, said from Poland: “We had to adapt our plans as we went along so when a van broke down on the M25 we decided to hire a vehicle in Dunkirk in France.
“We were worried about being held up at the UK border at Dover but luckily we arrived there after an agreement by the UK Government that aid could be let through with minimal checks.
“In the end we didn’t have to go into Ukraine but were able to leave the Land Rover and trailer at the border for collection and it will be over there now.
“People have been so helpful and generous all the way through from the people who helped us here in North Wales, at the big Carrefour supermarket in Dunkirk where they donated lots of unsold stock, plastic cups, plates, saucepans and tableware.
“People have been so helpful. We’ve had French guys helping us load up and along the way people from Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada lent a hand.
“In the end all we’ve done is drive the vehicles, drink lots of coffee and eat Haribo – the people who deserve the real praise are the ones who donated and organized things for us.. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Llyr had contacted Ifor Williams Trailers to see if they could help and they came up trumps, he said: “They donated the trailer and said the people of Ukraine could use it for whatever they needed it for.
“I had put out an appeal on Twitter and the response has just been amazing. Ukraine isn’t really far away, it’s at our back door and if we were in trouble then we would hope people would help us.”
Llion Roberts, Sales Co-Ordinator at Ifor Williams Trailers, who handed over the trailer to Llyr, said: “It’s been a fantastic effort by the team and we were delighted to be able to help them.
“The situation for the people of Ukraine is desperate and when we found out what they were planning we were just glad to be able to help and hopefully this trailer meant they were able to take even more vital supplies and will be put to good use in future over there.”
Llyr is no stranger to long distance aid missions – about £2,000 of the money contributed was left over from a charity he and friends formed several years ago and which saw him and Steve Butler drive across the Sahara to The Gambia to deliver aid in 2008.
He said: “Because we have run a charity before it gave us the confidence and the knowledge that we could do it.
“You just have to be able to adapt your plan at short notice and that’s what we managed to do with a lot of help from people back home and along the way.”
In a subsequent text during the return journey, Llyr said: “Just near Dunkirk and had a message from the farmer. The Land Rover has done 2 trips today inside Ukraine with aid. Was very pleased with trailer. He couldn’t believe we were so generous.”