Charity Medical Life Lines Ukraine stand with flags in front of a refurbished ambulance ready to send the Ukraine. Pictured with an American Flag a flag with their charity logo and a flag that is half the UK flag and half the Ukrainian flag.

Refugees praise ambulances for Ukraine

Ukranian refugees have praised continued support for a London-based charity refurbishing ambulances to help against the Russian invasion.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the 24 February 2022, Aliya Aralbayeva set up Medical Life Lines Ukraine along with Sally and Gerard Strahan and Daniel Whitehead.

The charity has refurbished and sent 57 ambulances and counting over to Ukraine with the support of Ukrainian refugees now living in Wimbledon after fleeing the war.

Olena Stupak, 34, from Kharkiv, said: “We are broken inside, the world will never be the same for us.

“Every day we see the horror of war and what it does to our country, our friends, our people.

“From the depths of my heart, I want to express immense gratitude for our host family the Pedders, we have felt immeasurable support and kindness from the British people and charitable organisations like Medical Life Lines Ukraine.”

Olena who moved to the UK with her sister Svitlana Stupak, 39, in July 2022 described the fear they experience daily when calling their parents who have remained in Ukraine.

Svitlana said: “Every night before we go to sleep, we pray for our parents, for our friends on the front line, and for our country.

“We understand that nobody ever knows when they are having their last conversations with their loved ones. “

“After each bombing by Russians, you try to call your parents to find out what has happened to them, if they don’t answer quickly your heart stops and your throat tightens, you try not to imagine the worst even though you’ve seen it happen to so many Ukrainians and their children.”

Olena said: “In October my friend called me to say that my first love had gone to fight for us and protect us and had been killed by the Russians. 

“They don’t just take away life, they take away the opportunity for people to grieve and say their last goodbyes. 

She added: “His little son couldn’t say goodbye properly because the Russians are even bombing the cemeteries.”

Medical Life Lines Ukraine has also donated 21 generators, an all-terrain rescue crane, tonnes and tonnes of medical aid including trauma medicine, bandages, tubes for anesthesia, used fracture boots, crutches, wheelchairs, walking frames, clothes, bedding, and children’s toys.

Charity leader Daniel Whitehead has visited Ukraine with a convoy of ambulances twice.

On one of the trips he described a dinner volunteers had with Ukranians they were handing over the ambulances to.

Traditionally in Ukraine, everyone gives a toast at dinner.

Whilst one of their volunteers, a former American diplomat, gave a toast one of the Ukranian men looked distant.

Whitehead described speaking to the Ukranian man afterward and said: “He had tears running down his face and was saying ‘everything I grew up with was a lie, I’m just finding out another lie. 

“’I would never have thought I’d be sitting around a table with Americans and British saying thank you for supporting Ukraine’.”

Each ambulance costs around £15,000 to buy, refurbish, and send to Ukraine.

Two volunteers are needed to drive an ambulance in shifts, when volunteers sign up to deliver the ambulances they are asked to commit to raising £7000, roughly half the cost of the ambulance. 

Many volunteers raise much more than that.

John Calloway, 74, who raised £11,000 drove an ambulance in a convoy in July 2023.

He described the Ukrainians he encountered as grimly determined.

Calloway said: “They’ve got to keep fighting, and they absolutely will, there’s no doubt about that. 

They’re fighting for their country, for their communities, and their future.”

The charity’s next fundraising event, a concert with gifted Ukrainian musicians, will take place at St Margaret’s Church in Putney on Sunday 21st April at 5pm. 

Donations are welcome as entry is free, to make sure you are on the guest list you will need to email Sally at [email protected] to secure your place.

For more information on Medical Life Lines for Ukraine, you can visit their website or donate and help send more vital equipment here.

Featured image credit: Aliya Aralbayeva

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