45 HOURS: Veterans and a deputy bring humanitarian aid to Ukraine

(To Gian Pio Garramone)

Meeting point in the immediate outskirts of Milan, we all come together to give the vehicles a final arrangement and leave for Ukraine. It is 8.00 am on Friday 11 March and this is where my story begins of an experience that lasted 45 hours uninterrupted to bring humanitarian aid within the Ukrainian territory.

The initiative, in which I had the honor of participating, was promoted by two associations of veterans of the Armed Forces and very popular on social networks, such as Good Guys in Bad Lands e Not Dolet Italy. The same received the active support of the Hon. Metteo Perego of Cremnago. The initiative had the support of the large associative chain of the two associations, also thanks to the tam tam on social networks.

The organization was frenetic and in a short time a lot of material was collected. But the question was "who are we taking it to?"

The common will is to get and distribute such aid throughout the territory. The main concern of the convoy organizers is to make sure that everything collected can actually reach families who have failed or who do not want to leave their homes, and not to deposit the cargo in an anonymous collection hub. From here starts a search for contacts on the spot with relative reliability assessment. Hon. Perego di Cremnago manages to get in touch, through institutional channels, with two Ukrainian parliamentarians who offer to pick us up at the border with Hungary. At this point we have everything: means, humanitarian aid and the certainty of being able to deliver it inside Ukraine.

Let's go!

The meeting with the Ukrainians will be on the border with Hungary. We want to be fast, also because all of us have only the weekend available, and on Monday we will all have to go back to our jobs.

We cover about 1300 km in one go, and we arrive at the meeting tired but punctual. We cross the border and in Ukrainian territory we meet the two parliamentarians, Mikailo Laba and Dmytro Liubota.

The welcome is very cordial but while we are exchanging pleasantries, we have to run inside because the siren sounds that announces a possible bombing. And we have been in Ukraine for a few minutes!

After the alarm we can proceed with our business. We are escorted to a warehouse manned by police forces who check our vehicles before allowing us to enter. The large warehouse is a few kilometers from a railway track. They explain to us that in this place they manage to bring a lot of humanitarian aid from all over and then, thanks to the railway, to send them where they are needed most. This is the only sure way to get supplies and basic necessities to the population in cities under siege. On the roads it is too dangerous.

We are told that our aid will be put on the next train in preparation for Kharkiv, now infamous for its condition as a city on the front. We download everything thanks to the help of local volunteers who are trying in some way to do their part.

Before leaving, we exchange our last words with the Ukrainian delegation which is keen to show us the videos of the damage to the cities on their mobile phones.

It's time to say goodbye. I shake hands with the small delegation, meet their eyes which convey a deep sense of gratitude and bewilderment to me.

We leave with a fatalistic "Good luck!"

Photo: author