Pickup4Ukraine – Unterstützung für Kriegsopfer der Ukraine e.V. Updates Our Eighth Transport, February 2024 to Kyiv and Dnipro

Our Eighth Transport, February 2024 to Kyiv and Dnipro

The eighth trip was our most complex so far, not only because we brought three vehicles to Ukraine, but above all because of the incredible amount of donated medical supplies.


Vehicles: Thanks to generous donations in December, we were able to view and purchase suitable vehicles at the end of 2023. In particular, the contribution from Iryna Zemlyana, a Ukrainian activist, helped significantly with the financing. She was able to contribute over EUR 6,000 through fundraising in Ukraine. In the end, we had a Mitsubishi Pajero for the eighth trip, which was thoroughly checked again by the dealer, a Mitsubishi L200 pickup, which underwent a new inspection in Speyer, and finally a VW T5 Transporter – exactly according to the wishes of the respective recipients.

Donations in kind: During our presentation at the BIA in St. Leon-Rot, we received the spontaneous donation of a used drone in excellent condition with lots of accessories. Then, just before Christmas, we received two large boxes from Hamburg full of tactical medicine, i.e. paramedic materials for use directly on the front line. Annette’s daughter, who is studying in Hamburg, transported them on her train journey home with friends. A third package arrived by post shortly before departure. Thank you to Oleks for collecting, Thank you to everyone who donated materials and of course Thank you to the girls for the transportation😊. We could also deliver two used laptops – they are urgently needed (like all IT-infrastructure).

Ruslan from the Dead Lawyers Society also put us in touch with people in Augsburg, where paramedic equipment, a fixed and a folding stretcher and 38 cots were waiting for us as a donation. Annette took the opportunity to visit her son, who is currently studying in Augsburg, and to pack all the equipment into the family van and drive it to St. Leon for temporary storage in the Ehrnsperger garage. There it sat for a while together with the remaining half pallet load of rubber gloves from Freiburg (as previously reported.)

We received another generous donation from someone in the audience at the benefit concert in Wiesloch in the fall of 2023. She reached out to us a few weeks later and told us that an internal medicine practice was being closed down and the inventory could be donated. So a week before the planned transport, Roman and other Ukrainian friends, Michael and Annette drove to a place near Karlsruhe on a Saturday morning and joined forces to dismantle examination tables, computers, network equipment, monitors, printers and a wall-mounted sterilizer and loaded everything into the VW van along with an ECG and an ultrasound machine. We then drove to St. Leon and loaded the boxes stored at the Ehrnspergers’ and finally ended up in Walldorf at the Begegnungshaus, where we sorted and distributed the surgical material collected by Kati and Prof. Dr. Rainer Siebold to the cars, alongside dozens of boxes full of “trench candles”. These are candles made from tin cans, corrugated cardboard and wax from candle stubs. They serve as a source of light and warmth for the soldiers in the trenches during this dark time of year. The Begegnungshaus offers its kitchen to the community of Ukrainian refugees to make the candles. The tins come mainly from the animal shelter in Walldorf and the leftover wax was donated by countless friends and colleagues who had all dismantled their Advent wreaths or “discovered supplies in their cellars”.

The VW Bus was at this point loaded above maximum weight. It took a bit of “Tetris” between the VW Bus and the L200 until the permissible total weight of the VW Bus was reached again. Thanks to the AVR for allowing us to use the scales in Wiesloch.

In the last few days before our departure, Prof. Dr. Rainer Siebold received a load of material, in particular crutches and walking aids from an orthopedic and surgical clinic in Heidelberg, which we finally managed to accommodate within the cars.

Betsy Porter arrived from Oregon at the end of January. She is a school friend of Michael back in Houston. She had 2,500 EUR worth of TacMed in her luggage: Junctional Tourniquets and so-called X-Stats. They are life-saving because they can be used to stop massive bleeding of deep wounds that would otherwise be fatal. They are manufactured in the USA and are difficult to obtain in Europe. We say THANK YOU to all of you who donated specifically for the procurement of emergency medical goods.

Upon Serhiy’s request, we also procured spare tires for the Pajero that are fit to withstand bad roads and cold weather.

With this wealth of material, we were well equipped for our eighth transport.

Our colleague Dave offered to check the vehicles again before we left. We were particularly concerned about the “stuttering brakes” on the Pajero. Unfortunately, we were unable to read out any electronic error messages, but after a test route we reassured each other that the vehicle was ultimately ready to drive with the still-valid inspection and the check-up done by the dealer.

Weekend: First stage to the Polish-Ukrainian border

On Sunday morning, February 4th, Michael Sylvester and Betsy Porter set off in the Pajero, and Malte Rosenberger and Annette Ehrnsperger in the VW Transporter – as usual at an early hour. The third vehicle (the pickup) was already on the road from Saturday with Michael Roth, who preferred to drive the first stage in two sections. The temperature was above freezing, the roads empty, and so we were already at the German-Polish border by early lunchtime. We spotted at least one British pickup at our trusty rest stop, and the vehicles (and we) were happy to take a short break with refreshments. The Polish highway was free of snow and ice, the traffic was now a little heavier, and the first jolt in the VW appeared when the road surface changed from asphalt to concrete slabs. Strangely enough, the shuddering remained – especially when accelerating hard. We pulled off the highway to investigate the problem further, and, after that, the engine only started up again with some persuasion. There were several possible causes, and we hoped for something simple like a clogged filter.  Michael Roth said that evening that impure diesel fuel could have contributed to this. We went through the process for the customs papers and had a “borderline” dinner at the Dwór Kresowy Hotel, as we had done on previous trips.

Monday: Across the border and to Lviv

The next morning, we filled up the VW with the higher-quality diesel, and the problem didn’t reccur after that. Who knows? The clearance of all three vehicles at the border was quick and smooth, thanks to the detailed document preparation by the Dead Lawyers Society in Kyiv and Michael’s reliable administration. We arrived in Lviv in the early afternoon. On the way there, we noticed how much the road surface had suffered from the cold and wet weather in December and early January. We had to dodge potholes everywhere. In Lviv, we managed to maneuver all three vehicles into the designated parking spaces at our hotel with some difficulty.

Then we had time to enjoy the old town a little. Betsy and Malte had never been to Lviv before and there was a lot to discover and experience. We visited the Armenian church and Michael Roth donated candles for us to light in memory of family members and friends. Michael S. struck up a conversation with the Armenian deacon who offered to give us a tour of the church. It was impressive. He explained to us, for example, the different construction phases and styles, and was also able to describe details of the murals that we would otherwise have missed. The explanation of a painting of the 7 senses was particularly memorable. After the tour, our guide offered to “sing a little for us”. We accepted, of course. He filled the church with his wonderful voice. Unexpected. Unbelievable. Unreal and wonderful. Moving. At the end, he offered to include us in the prayers of the congregation. Each of us gave him a name. What a lovely person. We then visited the former Jesuit church, which is now used as a garrison church. One wall of the nave is dedicated to the memory of fallen soldiers.

A visit to the Cheese Bakery and the chocolate factory rounded off the afternoon. Donations for the army are being collected in cafés and restaurants – as well as at petrol stations, for example. We also discovered a rather drastic sign with a quote from the Ukrainian national anthem included on the picture collage below:

In the evening, we met up with Anton, the SAP colleague, and his family, as well as our old friend Mykola of EspresoTV. We were delighted that Malte was able to meet his friend Orest in Lviv and invite him along.

Tuesday: Trip to Kyiv

On Tuesday morning we set off for Kyiv and arrived there in the afternoon after an uneventful journey. Mariia and Ruslan from the Dead Lawyers Society helped us unload and stow away all the materials. We completely filled a storage room and a meeting room with the equipment, boxes and bags we had brought with us.

In the evening, Annette took Michael Roth to the train and Malte to the family who had invited him to spend the night with them. Michael S. and Betsy drove ahead to our accommodation. This time we were not – as usual – in Basseina Street, but, at the invitation of Oleksiy Makukhin, the director of the Babyn Yar Memorial, in their museum apartment. An apartment furnished in the style of the 1930s/40s (with a piano and library) in the middle of Kyiv. We had already met Oleksiy Makukhin together with his wife in Germany through Malte. We are very grateful to Malte for this extraordinary contact. We had visited the Soviet memorial to Babyn Yar in May last year.

The day ended with an excellent meal with Mariia, Nadia, Ruslan and Sasha in the “Supra Neo-bistro”, to which Anna Mikulitskaya, the Managing Director of SAP Ukraine, had invited us. There was a lot to talk about. Anna had to leave early to allow the cab driver to get back home in Kyiv before curfew.

Wednesday in Kyiv

A quick workshop appointment for the Pajero’s brakes was originally planned for Wednesday morning, but things turned out differently. The air raid alarm went off shortly before 06:00. First, we went into the apartment hallway – following the 2-wall rule. However, when ballistic missiles were said to have been launched in the direction of Kyiv, our friend Serhiy asked us to go to a “real” shelter, so we packed our things and moved to the underground garage of the neighboring Intercontinal Hotel,  a luxury shelter. Chairs, tables, beds, bean bags, water, tea and coffee – and you could even order breakfast…. We chatted with other helpers who are helping Ukraine with infrastructure security and resilience. We were happy to be able to spend such a long time in such comfort and stayed until the official all-clear was given. Malte and his host family were in the basement of the apartment building. There, they decided to go back upstairs to the apartment after the unofficial alarm had been given. However, the missile actually struck a residential building in the south of Kyiv shortly afterwards. Malte reported that he could still hear and feel the detonation in the apartment where he was staying despite being several kilometers away.

After the official end of the alarm, we were able to complete the next mission. A drone had been donated to us in the fall. We brought it to Nova Poshta and sent it to Kharkiv on Anton’s behalf. There it will be used for civilian purposes. We then met Nadia in the “honey” café and handed her the vehicle documents. You could buy chocolate tank barriers there. They were labeled with the slogan: “Hedgehog – against fear. Protects mood and serenity”. That’s Ukrainian humor.

Malte had organized lunch with Mrs. Kateryna Yushchenko, the wife of the former president, at “Hlek”. A committed, very impressive woman. It is wrong to introduce her as the “wife of…” …”. She organizes and helps so many initiatives so much. Great. Admirable. Oleksiy Makukhin joined, and later, Kateryna’s daughter came by spontaneously with her boyfriend.

We spent the afternoon at the Babyn Yar memorial. Oleksiy Makukhin gave us a detailed tour of the site and the individual artistic installations. Very moving and worth writing a separate post about.

In the evening, we had organized a dinner at the Musafir restaurant. Malte had invited people from Kyiv that he had essentially met online, and Mariia (and briefly Ruslan) came along. It was a wonderful evening together. Not too long, because we were planning to leave early the next morning with Serhiy for Dnipro.

Thursday: Drive to Dnipro and handover

And we were lucky, the night was quiet. We were ready to leave at 05:20 on Thursday. The route took us via Borispyl towards Poltava. After a first stop at a petrol station, we later had a wonderful second breakfast at the “U Sester” restaurant before turning south towards Dnipro. Perhaps a word about the road situation: in general, the roads, especially the highways in Ukraine, were good, but we noticed many, many potholes in the asphalt both on the way from the border to Lviv and on the stretch to Dnipro. This was due to the weather and to be expected at this time of year, Anton told us in Lviv. Sometimes it takes until May for all the damage to be repaired.

On the way, Serhiy filmed us driving. He was in his car and edited the videos, added music and uploaded them to his Facebook story. All while driving. We arrived at the agreed meeting point in Dnipro in the early afternoon. We were met by a press team from Suspilne. They took pictures of the handover to the two units and interviewed Michael and Betsy. The report is now available online on auf Youtube. The handover was emotional. Both units were extremely happy to receive the vehicles.

Serhiy’s brother was also there again. Representatives of his unit of the 79th Airborne Brigade came with the VW bus that we had given them in Kharkiv in October. Candles and cookies, USA flags and German-Ukrainian Velcro patches were also happily received. The pickup was handed over to a unit of a school friend of Iryna Zemlyana, a Ukrainian activist who had collected money for one of the vehicles. She was very moved when she learned of the successful handover online.

Serhiy then drove us into the city of Dnipro and again showed us the residential building on the riverbank that was hit and destroyed by a Russian missile a year ago, killing 46 people. We had seen it on our first trip to Dnipro in June last year and reported on it. In the meantime, however, a large construction fence has been erected and you could see excavators and other construction machinery behind it. The building is now being reconstructed. Opposite, a memorial to the victims has been erected at a bus stop.

Return journey and arrival in Kraków

With a lot of friendly help from the station staff, we stowed our luggage in lockers and spent some more time in Dnipro, walking through the streets and buying travel provisions in various bakeries. Perhaps one more thing about the weather: we had almost nothing but rain the whole week. Even that evening in Dnipro. So we sought temporary refuge in a café called “Little Mariupol”. Our train left shortly before 23:00. We had a four-person compartment to ourselves and had a lot of fun before going to sleep, with jokes and stories – a bit like a school trip, perhaps because all the stress was behind us. The night was quiet, long and relaxing.

The border controls, both on the train and on the Polish side in Przemyśl, were no problem. We had the opportunity to stop off at our favorite café in Przemyśl on Friday before boarding our train to Kraków. There we shared a compartment with a very friendly elderly couple from western Ukraine, who founded an aid organization 24 years ago to support poor people in Ukraine, for example with soup kitchens. In the meantime, they have expanded their model and also import used vehicles for the Ukrainian army. You often meet good people when you are not looking for them.

In Kraków, we took an Uber to get to the Air-B-n-B reserved by Michael. The online instructions on how to get into the apartment contained several steps, from finding the right entrance to the building, to entering the code there, to the right floor, to the right apartment door and the code for the key safe next to it. Surprise: We entered the code and the box was empty. When you’ve just spent 24 hours on trains across the Ukraine and then in Poland, it wasn’t funny. We rang the doorbell and a couple with children answered, who explained that they had rented the apartment. To make a long story short: The attempt to clarify the situation with the landlord and the helper he sent on site took just under an hour and was unsuccessful in the end. However, we had a stroke of luck: Michael quickly organized four rooms for us in the beautiful, comfortable hotel where Michael and Annette had found rooms even after the transport in December.

The next morning, Michael took Betsy to the train to Berlin, then Malte, Michael and Annette had some more time in Kraków. Among other things, we saw the Katyn Memorial and the statue of Jan Karsky, and visited the Old Synagogue in Kazimierz. This is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Poland and is now used as a museum.

Finally, our flight left shortly after 18:00 and Yuriy picked us up in Frankfurt. THANK YOU to Yuriy!!!

We have started planning our next transport.

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