Army veteran on Ukraine border describes thousands of beds in row full of ‘haunted’ faces in abandoned shopping mall

An Army veteran and community councillor is planning to cross the Ukrainian border to deliver medical supplies. Hannah Jarvis, from Abergavenny, is making her third trip to the Ukrainian border to assist a charity with delivering medical aid and this time plans to cross into the country.

She described the “harrowing” sights she has encountered on her trips to the border with charity Bridge to Unity, but says that donations have started to dwindle. She said: “What we’re finding as a charity is that donations are starting to dry-up but the fighting is continuing and so supplies are very much still needed.”

Hannah said that the first trip to the border was “a bit of a shock” for her and the team travelling from the charity. “I think we were just overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees,” she said. She described going into what appeared to be an old shopping mall, and seeing “thousands of beds in rows,” with women sleeping next to young men.

READ MORE:Ukrainian family split up as two get to Wales but five-year-old stranded with no visa

“It was quite harrowing the look on their faces, it’s quite haunting,” Hannah added. “These people have lost everything and they don’t know if they’ll ever go back home, or if they’ll have a home to go to. That was quite hard to see.” Hannah added that a contact has told her that medics on the front are having to leave their posts to get medical aid, “which is taking them away from where they need to be.”

Hannah, 39, is a community councillor in Llanfoist Fawr and Govilon, as well as Office Manager for a member of the Senedd. She has worked with Bridge to Unity to fundraise and gather medical equipment to deliver to the Ukrainian-Polish border to Zintegrowana Sluzba Ratownicza (ZSR), a not-for-profit organisation based in Poland. She served in the Welsh Royal Regiment for 12 years, serving in Iraq in 2007, the last time she was in a war zone.

While this is Hannah’s third trip with the charity travelling to the Ukrainian border, it will be the first time the team crosses into the country. Firstly stopping in Auschwitz to deliver supplies to ZSR, they are then travelling in their donated vehicle to deliver medical supplies to the bombed Zhytomyr maternity hospital in western Ukraine.

Community councillor and army veteran Hannah Jarvis (third from right) heading to the Ukrainian border on a previous trip with Bridge to Unity

Hannah says that she is “slightly more nervous” on this trip to cross the border, but doesn’t feel that she and the team are taking any unnecessary risks. She said: “I think having seen what we saw the first time just drove us to want to help more. As a mother myself, I can’t say no to helping other mothers.”

As an Army veteran, along with the director of the charity, Matt Simmons, Hannah says they feel “a bit more connected” to the situation due to their past experiences. “That drives us because we can handle seeing what we’ve seen a bit more than other people,” she said. “We know what’s coming, we know what to expect and I guess that means that won’t phase us as much as someone who’s never seen that, so we can just get on with the job and do what we need to do.”

Among the supplies Hannah and Matt are taking for the front line are syringe drivers, monitors, tourniquets, defibrillators, and trauma kits, as well as items for the maternity ward, such as gowns. Hannah says that the charity is willing to continue to travel to the border to deliver supplies, but that this is becoming “increasingly hard” due to donations dropping off. She encourages those in the UK who want to help to donate, if they can, to the charity’s JustGiving page or to sign up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme. She added that fuel is also a significant cost for making the trips, reaching around £1,200 for each trip.

The war in Ukraine is now in its third month and, according to the United Nations, more than 12 million people are believed to have fled their homes in the country since the conflict began. Just over six million have left for neighbouring countries as of May 11 and another 6.5 million people are thought to be displaced inside the war-torn country itself.

“I think for anyone, veteran or not, it’s really disturbing,” Hannah said. “I think both Matt and I thought that nothing would phase us [having gone] to the places that we’ve been to, but actually it did. Like I said earlier, it was probably the scale, the numbers were just overwhelming.

“We were in just one holding point and I think there were about 5,000 people in that warehouse. That was just one of many of the holding points. I felt overwhelmed, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, thinking, ‘How do we fix this?’ Millions of people have fled and there’s no short-term fix to this. Where are we going to put these people, find them houses and jobs in the long-term?”

If you would like to donate to Bridge to Unity’s JustGiving page, click here.

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