Delivering medical supplies to Ukrainians was ‘sobering’, says student nurse

Liberty Rose and a team of four others travelled to Poland as part of community interest company Bridge To Unity.

08 March 2022

A student nurse who travelled to Poland to deliver medical supplies to Ukrainian refugees has said the experience was “sobering”.

Liberty Rose, 26, from the University of Portsmouth, undertook the mission with four others – Matt Simmons, Hannah Jarvis, Don O’Leary and Mike Petty – as part of community interest company Bridge To Unity.

The group crowdfunded roughly £25,000 of medical supplies for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Poland, Zintegrowana Sluzba Ratownicza (ZSR), which included first aid kits and bandages.

They arrived in Poland on the evening of March 5 and went to ZSR’s warehouse at 5.30am on March 6,

ZSR warehouse
ZSR’s warehouse has a capacity of 2,500 but a volunteer said she ‘wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot more people than that’ (Matt Simmons/Bridge To Unity/PA)

Miss Rose told the PA news agency: “It was sobering. The first refugee I saw, just as we were driving up to the warehouse, was a young woman just sat on the grass in the freezing cold with her head in her hands.

“As we parked up, there were three men in a row.

“One man was emptying supplies from his van, throwing it to the man in the middle, who was then throwing it over to the guy who was stacking up a big tower of nappies.

“And, as you look around, there’s dogs, people drinking hot drinks, eating noodles out of packets, a little boy stuck between two of three low-rise camp beds trying to play with a car.”

The warehouse has a capacity of 2,500 but a ZSR volunteer said she “wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot more people than that”.

Medical room in ZSR warehouse
A medical room in the ZSR warehouse (Matt Simmons/Bridge to Unity/PA)

The trip coincided with an announcement by the Ministry of Defence that the number of Ukrainians entering Poland has exceeded 1.5 million.

Miss Rose said the medical area in the warehouse had supplies and well-trained and bilingual volunteers, but the NGO was being overwhelmed with people seeking medical help and it became apparent that they desperately needed another ambulance.

Alexandra Kenchington, 37, a doctor at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, who volunteers with Bridge To Unity, said: “Our next plan is to buy an ambulance for them and deliver that, hopefully in the next few weeks, so that they can continue to do their work.

“If we crowdfund enough for an ambulance and kit it out with medical supplies, we know that is something that is going to last them a lifetime.”

Medical supplies being loaded into the Bridge to Unity van
Medical supplies are loaded into the Bridge To Unity van (Matt Simmons/Bridge to Unity/PA)

ZSR has been “touched” by the support from Bridge To Unity, said Miss Rose.

“They want to continue to team up with us and said if we ever need help in England, they wouldn’t think to twice to help.”

She added: “(The people at ZSR) have jobs, they have families. They’re volunteers for this.

“Sometimes the members crash in the medical room in the warehouse, with about three low-rise camp beds.

“It’s just phenomenal what these people are doing. We’re touched by their hospitality and they’re touched by our endeavours to support them.”

ZSR volunteers and Matt Simmons
Matt Simmons, from Bridge To Unity, with ZSR volunteers (Matt Simmons/Bridge to Unity/PA)

There was one moment on the trip in particular which Miss Rose described as “the most beautiful moment in my life”.

She met the son of a Ukrainian woman – a mother with whom she had “the longest hug I’ve probably ever had”, a mother who just wanted to “be at home, preparing food with my husband, walking my dog in the park”.

“Her little boy was on his phone and he was stood in the corner looking very nervous.

“I went over and asked him what he was playing on his phone and he showed me a game, Clash Of Clans.

“Neither of us could actually communicate with each other verbally because of the language barrier, yet we were able to play together for a good 45 minutes.

“A 26-year-old woman from England and a nine-year-old boy from Ukraine who would never have crossed paths, and all it took was a game and his face lit up.”

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