ONE woman’s desire to take supplies to Ukrainian refugees in Poland has grown into a humanitarian effort uniting people across Scotland.
Hundreds of donations have been pouring into Glasgow’s Hindu Mandir temple as Scots are eager to find a way to help Ukrainians amid an ongoing Russian invasion.
Kasia Sebastainowicz, 34, posted to Facebook on February 25, one day after the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, asking friends and family for supplies to take to Poland.
“The next morning, I had more than 200 emails. It was so unexpected,” she said.
“I just said to myself ‘I have to help’. I have family in Poland who have taken in a Ukrainian family. I have Ukrainian roots too – my grandfather is from Ukraine.”
After receiving an “overwhelming” response, she enlisted her friends Akshay Goenka and Gillian McCallum to help – leading to the creation of the Helping Ukraine initiative.
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“It has burst like a bomb,” 33-year-old Mr Goenka said. “We have people across Scotland helping. We have people coming from as far west as Oban, as far north as Perth, as far south as Dumfries and up to Fife in the east.”
The initial plan was to have a single van, driven by Kasia Sebastainowicz, make its way to Poland this Friday. However, that may not be enough after an “overwhelming” response.
Mr Goenka added: “The support we have received has been fantastic.”
“We are so thankful to the people of Glasgow and Scotland. We have been overwhelmed with the donations.”
“Now it seems we are going to need three or five lorries.”
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The team, who jokingly referred to themselves as “Kasia’s army”, are now appealing for help with the haulage of the supplies.
“I am putting out an urgent appeal for anyone who has contacts in any transport companies, logistics companies or haulage companies to come forward and help us.
“The initial plan of a man and a van is not going to work.”
Gesturing to the heaps of medicine and clothes around him, Mr Goenka added: “24 hours ago we could sit down.”
Ms Sebastainowicz, who started it all, spent the day working in her job as an office admin and was moved to tears upon seeing the work of the volunteers.
She said: “I’m speechless. I never expected this.”
Lorraine Reeves, 41, was amongst those who saw the Facebook post and now intends to spend each day this week helping the collection from 10am to 10pm.
“On Monday I was watching the news and I saw how awful it was in Ukraine. A post came up on Facebook asking for volunteers at the temple and I knew I wanted to get involved.
“I am off work until the weekend, and I wanted to help.”
With many of the organisers taking charge of driving donations across social media, Ms Reeves has taken charge of the day-to-day sorting of the donations as they come in.
Each type of supply is taken to a separate pile to be later packaged and labelled. Whether it is medicine, clothes, sleeping bags or nappies each item has its place in the room.
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Every time a new person decides to stay and volunteer, Ms Reeves ensures they are rewarded with a cheer and applause.
The 41-year-old woman said: “I am quite happy to take the lead. We had a good set up on Monday and it has been working so far for us.”
“Local primary schools are getting involved now too. It’s just been amazing. The support is overwhelming.
She added: “We are even getting from Scottish children to children in Ukraine. It has just been a rollercoaster of emotion.
“We just need to get this done and get these supplies to the families.”
“My children are at home safe, we need to help those that aren’t,” the mother-of-two added.
Each day around thirty to forty people have been volunteering at the Glasgow temple with upward of a hundred people coming in to donate each day.
Some organisations have set up donation drop-off at their own venues. Brothers Steven, 34, and Mark Simpson, 40, have been accepting aid and supplies at The Kraken Chippy in Cambuslang.
“We put out a post on Facebook on Monday saying people can use us as a donation point and now it is taking over the shop,” the 34-year-old Steven Simpson said.
His brother added: “We are just a cog in the machine now. By the time we drop this off, the shop is just filling up again.”
By Tuesday evening the brothers had driven to the temple six times with wither their van or car filled to the brim with donations.
Pauline Freeman, 47, had spent the entirety of Tuesday at the temple sorting donations and “intends to do it every day”.
“I saw the post on Facebook, and I felt compelled to help. I felt powerless and I needed to take action,” she explained.
Describing the piles of donations, she added: “It’s just brilliant. Glasgow people have the most giving hearts.”
Another collection of Scottish donations, coordinated by Mossgiel Organic Farm in Mauchline, has already left for Poland. The team has been updating the Helping Ukraine organisers on the logistics of bringing aid across the borders.
You can help support the Helping Ukraine initiative by donating here or follow their page for any updates. The team is at capacity for donations and will no longer be taking supplies from this evening.