Paolo Arrigo takes aid out to and refugees back from Polish-Ukrainian border

Seeds of Italy/Franchi Seeds' Paolo Arrigo talks about his recent trip to the Polish-Ukrainian border to bring back refugees and take out aid, as well as how the UK can help.

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Credit: Paolo Arrigo

As the war in Ukraine rages on, many have been prompted to offer any support they can. For Paolo Arrigo this meant a car journey to the Polish Ukrainian border to bring back refugees to addresses en route to the UK or to the UK itself, taking out aid in the process. 

Arrigo said: “I decided I couldn't watch another TV report and giving fifty quid to a charity, for me, wasn't enough.”

“The European Union values were unity, togetherness, working together for a better future… Those are values that I hold dear. My mentality was, if I don’t go to the border, he’ll be on our border.”

Arrigo’s aim was to bring back refugees, but he also took aid items to Caritas. 

“Aid goes to both refugees but it also goes to the fighters so they have very specific needs. It was great to speak to people on the ground at the border and ask what they actually need.”

But Brexit did complicate what he could take out: “You’re not allowed to take out tins of food, or fish, or meat. Which is what they need.”

After dropping off the aid they did take, Arrigo travelled to Dorohusk and registered as drivers with the police. 

His aim was to bring refugees back to the UK, but he couldn’t. Arrigo said: “The UK Government has authorised 1 in every 100 is allowed into the UK. The EU has stepped up to the plate and is allowing any Ukrainian refugee free travel anywhere they want to go in the EU.”

Arrigo took two children and their mother to Katowice. “The kids were the same age as my kids. There were loads of tears. She’s left her husband to fight. Mum was sobbing; the kids were exhausted. I was able to go back to my wife and kids, they can’t. 

“We took three people away to safety; there's a million and next week there'd be 4 million. This is a Dunkirk moment.”

Arrigo is also able to clear up any concerns that “Ukrainians were getting first evacuation and other nationalities weren’t getting through” as he witnessed “people of all nationalities coming through.”

Arrigo also commented on sights we’re not necessarily seeing in the UK, of convoy’s coming from every direction towards the Ukraine border: “every half hour we were seeing convoys with blue flashing lights, escorted by police; convoys of tanks on trucks, fire engines on trucks, ambulances, equipment… When you see a convoy of tanks it is really sobering.”

Arrigo also witnessed overwhelming support. At a toll gate in Poland, a worker tore up the ticket once they realised Arrigo and his friend were heading for Ukraine with aid; on the return journey, as they were stopped by customs, they were simply thanked and told “you’re the 20th today.” Arrigo said: “There are cars coming from all over Europe just to pick up refugees and take them back.

“Poland is completely behind Ukraine. Every shop has a Ukrainian flag, every motorway board flashes up with Ukrainian flags. We are lagging so far behind. The British people on the ground are doing amazing though.

“Not everyone can do this, but so long as they’re doing something for the war effort – because this is now a war effort. This is on our doorstep.

“Putin has made a huge mistake. He’s completely underestimated the spirit of Europe.”

That won’t be Arrigo’s one and only journey, either. He plans to go back. Arrigo has created a crowdfunder to aid this – https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/aid-out-refugees-back – which they will use to buy high grade aid from medical supplies and walkie talkies to tents and sleeping bags as well as food aid and to help cover some of the costs. 

Arrigo will be on BBC news at 6 tonight (7 February) to talk more about his experience and ways to get involved. 

You can watch Arrigo’s videos of his journey on his Facebook page as well as on YouTube.


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