Enfield residents band together to help Ukraine

Locals get busy organising fundraising events, appeals for donations and even trips to the Ukraine border, reports James Cracknell

Renata Papcunova (second from right) is helping Ukrainian refugees on the border with Slovakia
Renata Papcunova (second from right) is helping Ukrainian refugees on the border with Slovakia

Enfield residents are rallying to support Ukraine by organising fundraising events, sending aid and even travelling to the border to help refugees fleeing the war.

Two weeks after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country, efforts to help Ukraine are gathering momentum.

Southgate resident Renata Papcunova is originally from Slovakia, which borders Ukraine, and she decided to go back to her homeland to help last Wednesday. “I didn’t want to just watch it on the news,” Renata told the Dispatch. “I wanted to go there and help people.”

Renata has been using her connections with Slovakia and her limited ability to speak Ukrainian and Russian to help with the logistics of the evacuation, including arranging travel and accommodation for people and working with the local authorities. Renata is based in the town of Kosice where she grew up, 60 miles from Ukraine, but has been visiting the border frequently to assist refugees.

Renata says she has seen a lot of people who are “traumatised” after waiting for “hours and hours” in the cold to cross the border. But the war is also taking a toll on volunteers in Slovakia, where she says the government has done a poor job of co-ordinating rescue efforts, leaving many very stressed. “I am disappointed with them [the Slovakian government], we are struggling and the volunteers are at breaking point.

“They are doing an amazing job but there needs to be more co-ordination.”

Organising travel by searching for different companies that can take people in different directions has become time consuming, but Renata says there is a plan to create a one-stop-shop for travel arrangements that will make it far easier.

Although Renata is heading back to Southgate on Monday, she says she will be spending more time in Slovakia later this month and will likely be involved in evacuation efforts for a long time to come. At the same time, she is continuing her day job of running a childcare education business, while her husband takes care of their two teenage children.

Another local person on a mission to help in Ukraine is Jon Dann, a former soldier, who is driving a van full of donations to the Polish border. His partner Keeley Smith works at Beau Hair Specialists in Grange Park and has been helping to organise collections of donated items such as clothing, nappies, first aid and baby food.

A vehicle hire company in Essex offered Jon a van to drive for the 18-hour journey. Jon is set to leave on Friday morning and told the Dispatch: “I am ex-military and I have seen some nasty things but I have never seen anything on this scale. I cannot bear to watch it.

“Donating money is one thing but they [the Ukrainians] need immediate help with logistics. I put a post on Facebook appealing for donations and before I knew it there was an avalanche of people offering things.”

Jon will be driving the 1,145-mile route to Medyka on the Ukraine border alone, saying that he would be willing to offer a ride back to the UK, or somewhere else in Europe, for Ukrainian refugees.

“There is a potential need to bring people back,” he said. “Depending on what happens I could bring people back or drop them off somewhere. I’ve got two spare seats in the van and I am bringing sleeping bags.

“Whatever I can do to help, I will do it.”

Donations collected at Enfield Ignatians Rugby Club are boxed up before being shipped to Ukraine
Donations collected at Enfield Ignatians Rugby Club are boxed up before being shipped to Ukraine

Enfield Ignatians Rugby Club, whose colours are coincidentally yellow and blue, has organised around 50 boxes of vital materials to be delivered to eastern Europe. Prompted by a call for help by a Polish school in Enfield, Polska Szkoła Sobotnia, club president Kevin Linnane issued an appeal to everyone at the club to donate specific items designed to alleviate the suffering of displaced Ukrainians.

Items began to be donated during the rugby club’s home fixture at Donkey Lane last Saturday. Martin Baker, from Enfield Ignatians, said: “By midday on Sunday, the clubhouse was groaning with items, which were subsequently boxed and made ready for distribution.

“It wasn’t just club members who rallied to the call, as local residents who had read about the initiative on the club’s Facebook platform also donated generously.

“It may be a small gesture but the club’s thoughts and prayers are with all the people suffering untold miseries, and for all those who are on the front line offering both support and care. We will not forget.”

In addition to food, and specific items for adults and children, the club’s shopping list also comprised first aid kits, wound dressings and tourniquets.

Cooking Champions, a social enterprise providing hot meals for vulnerable people, is raising money through a special Ukrainian menu on Friday, 11th March. The food is available at the cafe in St Peter’s Church in Grange Park, from 9am to 2.30pm and at a special fundraising event in the evening, from 7pm to 10.30pm, with all profits going towards helping citizens of Mykolaiv, Ukraine. The menu has an eastern European theme.

Bush Hill Park Rotary Club has raised funds to support the international work of The Salvation Army as it supports refugees and people in need in eastern Europe. Glenn Furlong, a corps officer with The Salvation Army’s Enfield branch, has friends and colleagues working in Moldova, close to Ukraine. In presenting a cheque for £2,050 to him, club president Steve Everett said: “I am delighted that our Rotary club can contribute directly to people in need, and I am grateful to the members of the club for their corporate and individual responses.”

If Enfield residents are keen to donate items to people in Ukraine, London Aid for Ukraine is co-ordinating collections and has a dispatch point at South Lodge Farm in Enfield Road (EN2 7HX). It is open from 8am until 7pm, Monday to Saturday. A list of items they are accepting is available here.

On Thursday night (10th), a choir called R Voices will be performing at St Paul’s Hall in Church Hill, Winchmore Hill, with all proceeds going to the British Red Cross. More information is available here.