A Northern Ireland businessman who led a community appeal for help from Ukraine and then drove it to Poland called the trip “incredible”.
Paul Devenny, who runs Enviro Fire Water & Air Ltd in Warrenpoint, County Down, returns home this evening after a 3,000 mile journey to drop off medical and other supplies.
The businessman said he felt compelled to act after watching Sky News’ coverage of the death of the 10-year-old Ukrainian woman known as Polina.
Ukraine war live news – latest updates as mayor ‘shot dead by Russians’
“I have a daughter myself, and there’s a saying that for evil to triumph, good men just have to do nothing,” he said.
“I couldn’t in my heart start normally last Monday morning.
“I walked in, had a meeting with my team and we were like ‘let’s do it’. From then on it was just 24 hours a day.”
Donations of medical supplies, baby food and hygiene products filled every corner of Paul’s office at a nondescript business park in Warrenpoint.
Main developments of the war in Ukraine:
• Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russian military action will stop ‘in a moment’ if Ukraine meets its conditions
• Boris Johnson meets foreign leaders to build a united front against Vladimir Putin
• President Zelenskyy will address British MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday
• Foreign Secretary defends UK support for refugees as only ‘around 50’ visas have been granted so far
• Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asks for military planes to help fight the Russians
“We are all one community”
Mr Devenny’s warehouse was commissioned as an overflow storage facility as deliveries from local businesses and individuals continued to pour in.
“The community, you saw it yourself, there are old people, there are young people, everyone just brought stuff,” he said.
“We’ve been calling for what’s needed and what’s required, and it just hasn’t stopped. It’s been fantastic.
“We have a large population of Poles and Ukrainians, and we are all one community now.
“Heaven forbid this happened to us, and nobody did anything. And that’s why I think we need to stand up, make ourselves count and do something.”
Read more: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mapped out – what happened on Day 12
The community should be “proud”
Mr Devenny, along with employee Brian Wilkinson, left Warrenpoint at 5.30am on Friday morning in two fully loaded vans.
They headed south to Dublin, where they were joined by a Polish volunteer, Jakub Kalwat, and a Ukrainian volunteer now living in Dublin, Gatis Vaivars.
“My wife’s family is still in Ukraine,” Mr Vaivars said.
“But they are not in Kiev, they are close to the Polish border.
“At the moment they are safe, but you never know what can happen next.”
The team boarded an 8am ferry to Holyhead in Wales and crossed Britain to Harwich, for a 11pm sail to Hook of Holland.
Starting at 8am on Saturday, and with alternating drivers, the two vans were driven on a 14.5-hour journey through the Netherlands, Germany and Poland.
The team arrived in the city of Kielce in Poland at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and immediately began unloading their cargo.
He was transferred to a group of Polish volunteers for the final journey across the border and to Kiev.
Paul and Brian were to return to Co Down tonight.
Reflecting on the trip, as he spoke to Sky News from the road somewhere in Germany, Paul said: “It’s been absolutely amazing.
“It’s a massive achievement for our entire community who did what they did.
“There were only sixty sleeping bags.
“These sixty sleeping bags are going to warm sixty people in Kyiv tomorrow night, and they were in Ireland two days ago.
It is absolutely amazing that our community has done what it has done. We should all be proud.
“We should all realize what can be achieved when we all come together.”