Freezing in the dark. Ukraine Impressionen, 14. bis 20. Dezember 2022


Freezing in the dark, a concern for many people in the Ukraine nowadays. We want to do something about this, we want to deliver power generators which are hard to get in the Ukraine.…On December 14 I arrived in Bonn with 5 generators from the Netherlands. Given the winter weather I decided to leave on December 15 with a traget to arrive December 17. I picked up 17 more generators from Mönchengladbach and winter clothes from the Tabea warehouse in Swisstal donated from Menschenfreude people and then left. I intended to stay overnight at Nowy Tomysil in Poland.

At times conditions change. On the A10 after Berlin a major car accident happened around 2000 in the evening and I decided to drive on the parking lot Am Fichtenplan Nord in order to have a chance to drive around the accident. Once traffic moved I drove around a tight corner on the parking lot and, while the Sprinter got along, the trailer got stuck on the sideline stones. With the heavy load in the trailer both left tires broke including one of the corresponding wheels.

Too dark, too cold, too unfriendly, too challenging….

My grandma once said there is no greater pain than what’s inflicted by yourself. Very true. What am I into next? Around 2030 I called the ADAC to get help but as I was already on a parking lot I was offered “support to help yourself”. Wow, it never occurred to me that ADAC thinks you are safe once you are off the street, so no help directly needed. Anyway, nobody would come to help fix it on the same day…and weekend is coming up and the people are waiting for the generators…

Change of plan. I got into a hotel nearby and left the trailer uncoupled and locked on the parking lot. In the morning I called almost a dozen wheel and tire providers, a few did not have anything to offer, some had the tires but not the wheels, and some needed more info on the wheels. Finally after many prayers the only chance I saw was to call a tow away company. It turned out to be a great service provider which occasionally also serves the ADAC, and they offered to take the wheels off, get some new tires and wheels organized inquiring all stocks available to them in the city. By noon I got confirmation that they had the material. By 1600 I was on the road again.

Winter conditions, deep snow, icy roads

At around 0400 in the morning of the next day I arrived in Lublin, got some hours sleep and departed at 0830 for the border. The challenge at Lublin already was heavy snow turning out to be forming the next challenge. The roads recommended by the App leading me on towards the border were small and virtually unserviced for those winter conditions. Deep snow and icy roads let the Sprinter and trailer slip constantly and at times I feared not to be able to make it.  Finally after a lot of fighting with the elements along with prayers I arrived at 1400 at the border.

Arrived at destination thanks to energetic help

A long queue of cars and trucks waiting. Custom clearance and passport control were finished 9 hours later at about 2300. With a guide on the Ukrainian side I drove to the target city in West Ukraine. In the city the weather conditions were terrible and the roads so icy that the Sprinter could not climb the mountain and I got stuck again. Thanks God we were already in the target city, so local people could be mobilized. With help of many from the local charity (and for sure some pushing angels) the whole 5 tons finally got free by pure pushing and I parked at a fuel station.

In my view close to a miracle that we got away with this like this as no tractor was available.

Gratitude for aid transports that do not leave people alone

A Van was organized and the trailer emptied. Then we uncoupled the trailer and parked it on a dark parking lot and drove the Sprinter to the destination. Unloading of the Sprinter in deep darkness and cold by many volunteers. But: Many happy faces about the charity goods and about the that somebody thinks with them, thinks about their conditions and challenges, and that charity does something about the cold, the darkness and ultimately helps to fight the conditions set by the war.

I was offered late night dinner by the local charity people . The plan was to go back on the same day as the expectation was that custom clearance would have been quicker. But the Sprinter was put into a truck category and could not be checked together with cars. Going back on the same day of course was not possible anymore so a hotel room was kindly offered which I gladly accepted. I could enter the room at about 0230 in the night. The conditions were good. they had at least cold water, and the heating was functioning to some extent, and they had light, what a blessing!

Power outage in the city – public system shut down

In the morning the electricity fell off several times till it totally broke down. I watched some small business outside in the city serving their customers with support of small generators, an obvious confirmation of the needs served this time with our charity activities. With the public system in the target city its 4 hours power on, 4r hours power off, not counting total breakdowns. And this is not Kharkiv, and not Odessa, where conditions are even worse.

After breakfast at around 1000 some accounting and distribution discussions followed by a meeting with the local city mayor and the local charity officials expressing their deep appreciation of the Menschenfreude donations. It was felt in time in this tough period. What a bunch of brave people!

The way back – dark and full of thoughts

I am leaving with a guide, heading towards the border. We got stuck at a military control post for some time but then could proceed. I was at the border at around 1200. Again a long queue waiting. The queue moves with the speed of a snail..

I had planned to be in Berlin by evening. Haha..Funny what kind of thoughts fantasy and hope at times is creating.I guess I will be lucky if I make it to Lublin today. Let’s see and pray again…

It’s dark as usual and it’s getting cold and colder, and late and later. Motor on, Motor off to keep a little warm. Gloves on, heavy winter gear on and blankets over the knees. Waiting in the dark for better times.

I start to get a weak glimpse of an idea what life in the Ukraine at these times is all about..I am thinking we should be more than thankful for every opportunity to work and live in a warm and bright and light environment in Germany and The Netherlands and use all power given in our hands to change the conditions of these brave people…

I am through the border finally, 9 hours later again, at 2100. After another 3.5hrs I reached Lublin following another snow ride. Back again on small unserviced roads. I was once very close again to get stuck, turning off the ABS finally helped along with constant prayers. God had mercy with me not to get stuck in the middle of nowhere. After 0845 on December 19, I left for Berlin and arrived at about 1800 in the rain. Tomorrow is for the return to home.

For many Christmas will be freezing in the darkness

For me, I have the impression this trip was meant to be a real time prayer school to learn trust and patience, I still have to learn a lot to get more relaxed, I admit. There are constant challenges, things nobody can do without help. I acknowledge that these charity trips are not meant to be for the faint hearted. But: No pain, no gain. I am getting humble being impressed by the behavior I saw from the Ukrainian people in these conditions.

Soon it’s Christmas. And the distribution logistics of the generators is running as we speak, thanks to the contribution of many. I am glad we all had gone the extra mile. Nevertheless we should continue to press hard. Time is running out, and for many, Christmas will still be… Freezing in the dark.

(Dr. Matthias Straub, volunteer at Menschenfreude e.V.)

(Video message from Maryana and Roman of the local charity)

Further information about our Ukraine transports

Donation account: Recipient: Menschenfreude e.V.
IBAN: DE41 6609 0800 0006 6116 99 

Oder per Paypal-Spende: 
Stichwort: Ukraine

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