A British leader has described the ‘incredible welcome’ he received as he and a friend drove two ambulances full of medical supplies to Ukraine.
Charles Blackmore, who founded market intelligence specialists Audere International in 2015, drove one of two vehicles from the UK to Lutsk via Warsaw, arriving in the Ukrainian city on Friday evening.
Speaking from Warsaw Chopin Airport on his way back to the UK, he told the PA news agency: “To receive this amazing welcome by the deputy mayor of the Oblast, the region where we were going, where there were patriotic speeches and songs, and the appreciation, made the trip interesting.
The two ambulances traveled across Europe to deliver the supplies (Audere International)
“When you go through checkpoints, when you go through cities under curfew, when 70% of the city of Lutsk – or 200,000 people – have left the city, you enter a ghost town.
“And when you see what’s happening, being able to help people was a very important journey.”
Audere, which provides intelligence to parties wishing to invest abroad, has already been active in the effort in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, assisting with evacuations and conducting five supply operations.
Mr Blackmore said it was important that the company, which did business in Russia and Eastern Europe before the invasion returned, “put its shoulder to the wheel” and help in Ukraine .
“We had participated in the evacuation of people out of Afghanistan last August,” he said.
“We did not expect seven months later to be involved in a second evacuation, this time in Europe.
“But when it happened, we decided that we really wanted, and we had the right operating model, to be able to contribute to humanitarian aid, evacuation and support for the Ukrainian people.”
As part of this effort, the company delivered two tons of food and 300 liters of liquids, as well as essential items like first aid and clothing, and numerous medical supplies.
But Mr Blackmore was prompted to do something more personal after speaking to an American friend of his, Herb Holtz.
Mr Blackmore explained: ‘He said, ‘I want to do something meaningful.
“’My grandfather was Ukrainian, he left in 1905. I want to do something other than write a check’.
“So I said, ‘Let’s buy a few ambulances, one each, and start by dismantling them, taking them to Ukraine and seeing the end result’.”
The ambulances were from a charity in the UK and were filled with two tonnes of medical supplies.
And although they were delivered to Lutsk in western Ukraine, Mr Blackmore said he was assured the vehicles and supplies would go “straight to the front line”.
“They go to Bucha, for example,” he said.
“And we’re very happy that the ambulances have been really well prepared, properly maintained, so that we know they’re going to last what was obviously going to be a long journey for them.
Charles Blackmore, left, said he and his friend Herb Holtz, right, received an ‘incredible welcome’ (Audere International)
“And they, I suspect, are going to be used a lot if the situation continues as it is right now.”
Mr Blackmore praised the generosity of the British people, saying: ‘There are so many people doing so many things, whether they are working in food kitchens, helping refugees or volunteering to drive ambulances in Poland.”
He said Ukrainians “really appreciate” the UK’s help and support.
And while he said there was a “sense of satisfaction” to have done his part to help, he stressed there was “more to do”.
“What impressed us the most was the good humor and determination of the Ukrainian people,” he said.
“And it’s very important that we stand even closer to them and give them more support and we’re going to seek to do that ourselves.”