Wiltshire Walks for Ukraine

It was a gorgeous Spring day when I nursed my car gingerly along the familiar dirt tracks to the rendezvous in the middle of Salisbury Plain. The last time I'd been down this route I'd been at the wheel of a FFR or Commanding a 436 in the Royal Corps of Signals.

On those occasions I'd been invariably training to go on Operations in Iraq or Afghanistan and, in the early years of my career, the Balkans.

It's the conflict in the former Yugoslavia that my mind has been drawn to most recently. I've heard from many other veterans that I'm not alone in drawing comparisons with the shocking pictures coming out of the Ukraine to those events we witnessed in the 1990s.

Since events in the Ukraine started Field Crafting UK has been trying to find ways we can help. Whilst supporting Veterans in Action, by sourcing donations of medical supplies for their own effort, I found the Facebook group Wiltshire for Ukraine and a post by Olga Kott mentioning the event I was now heading to.

In contrast to my years in the Army I was running slightly late. As I cleared the crest of the last hill, dropping down to the meeting point I was met by the sight of the now familiar yellow and blue national flags of the Ukraine. With my window open I could hear the sound of the national anthem being played accompanied by singing.

As three groups of multinational families, of all ages, set out along three different routes I tagged on at the end, acutely aware that I was a stranger to them and not wanting to interrupt.

Despite still having difficulty controlling my right foot after an injury a few years back I managed to stay with the middle group and we started to chat.

Eventually I linked up with Olga, part of the driving force behind several truck loads of aid that have already left for the Ukraine. During the day the self employed seamstress runs her own business Olga Kott. However, in the evenings she turns her attention to helping her fellow Ukrainian nationals.

"My broken heart is with Ukraine now. We have lived in the UK for over 15 years. We love to be a part of this society and don’t feel foreign anymore, but we still do identify as Ukrainian. Our hearts ache for our families and friends in Ukraine and for the whole country.

Wholeheartedly we want to help people who try to save their lives and stay in Ukraine at the moment. And also, for people who try to escape from the county to a safer environment.

We will organise help directly to the children and mothers with children who need it. I also work with small charity - Hope & Homes for children – who have worked in Ukraine over last 10 years to keep families together.

They have a team in Ukraine at the moment who had chance to be evacuated but decided to stay during the war and organise emergency packages of food, clothes, medicine and tape to prevent explosions and broken glass-injuring people.

They are also preparing safe evacuation of children and families from the war zone.

We are also in contact with people who are supporting the refugees with whatever they need.

Please support my country in these dark days."

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