Russia-Ukraine war: Banbury group makes more than 100 trips transporting aid to soldiers

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The team has been assisting and caring for the people of Ukraine for almost two years

Nearly two years into Russia’s military attack, the war continues to have devastating consequences for civilians and a significant impact on the global economy.

With the Russian troops still stationed on the eastern front of Ukraine, non-profit organisations are still operating and in need of funding while delivering humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Noxaiduk, a non-profit organisation from Banbury dedicated to helping the people of Ukraine for almost two years now, has been fundraising, sourcing vehicles and supplies, and transporting them straight to the people in need in Ukraine.

Jayne Wheat, 57, has been one of the organisation’s volunteers from the start. She said: “Our objective is to support Ukraine in any way we can.”

Noxaiduk was established by Magdalena Kwiecinska in 2022, and the Banbury community has been working seamlessly to send aid to people in Ukraine and refugees in Poland ever since.The group organises their transportation and provides aid to various organisations and specific locations, such as hospitals, orphanages, refugee centres, and houses for individuals.

The 104th journey was made by two volunteer drivers on January 12, who left the UK for Lviv, a city in Ukraine, in a loaned van "packed to the brim" with food, clothing, medical supplies, and donations for both soldiers and civilians—including more than 500 sets of thermal underwear for the soldiers, gifts from The Haven Church in Banbury, and artwork created by Ukrainian children residing in Banbury and the surrounding area.

One of the drivers was 53-year-old carpenter Matthew Waring (Matt). He said: “I think the most important thing is that we are saving lives, which is brilliant. I play a very small part. I just do a bit of driving. I do what I can. I am very proud of what I have done to help. There are lots of people who just do incredible things."

Matt has been a volunteer for the group since April 2022 and has made numerous trips to Ukraine so far.

When discussing how the most recent trip unfolded, he said: “It was very cold. I think it was minus 20 degrees at times. It was incredibly icy. Lots of snow. On the way back, the motorway was closed. We expected it to be bad.

“It is probably one of the most important times to go when you're taking aid because lots of other people stop over the winter because the weather is so bad.”

James Clarke, 53, father-of-four and managing director of Hook Norton Brewery, lent the van for the journey to Ukraine.

The former firefighter has been supporting the organisation since March 2022 by sourcing older 4x4 vehicles and vans and travelling to Ukraine. According to James, more than 45 drivers on the road and several dozen Banbury residents contributed last year.

James said: “We raise money to buy the vehicles and cover the fuel costs, but all the people who drive there cover their own costs and flights back. The difficulty of the journeys is nothing compared to what the Ukrainians are going through.

“We are looking for donations. We want to keep this going; we hope it won’t be too long, but it could be. We want to help. Sometimes in life, you need to take up a cause and do what you can to support it.”

According to the United Nations, there had been 27,449 civilian casualties in Ukraine, with 9,701 civilian deaths and 17,748 injuries from February 24, 2022, which marked the start of the large-scale armed attack, to September 24, 2023. However, it is believed that the real total could be considerably higher. Of those killed, 555 have been confirmed to have been children.

Jayne Wheat said: “I’m outraged. I’m incredibly upset. I’m appalled with what those innocent people had to go through and are still going through on a daily basis. People are still dying.

“I am worried that the world is losing interest in Ukraine because of other world battles. I am appalled that another country can just invade an innocent country for nothing more than greed, narcissism, and wanting to rule the world."

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, last updated on December 31, 2023, the invasion has resulted in more than 5.9 million people fleeing Ukraine. More than 950,000 refugees have fled to Poland.

As the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion nears on February 24, the prospects for a peaceful settlement between Russia and Ukraine remain elusive. The Russian troops are still located on the eastern front of Ukraine.

Jayne Wheat said: “If anybody wants to donate or has donated, we are incredibly grateful, and we always want to ensure people that whatever they donate gets where it is intended to go. We deliver straight to the people who need it.

“We don’t just cover Banbury. We will cover anywhere where people send requests. We will do our very best to help them.”

Residents can get in touch with the organisation by joining their Facebook group.

Matt said: “We have terrible things happening all over the world. People are struggling to pay their bills over here, and I do understand it.

“I think every little bit that somebody donates, be it cash, food, or medical aid, even a box of paracetamol, at the moment, makes a difference to somebody. Between all of us, we can help a lot of people.”