Melton volunteer army mobilises for Ukraine refugees

A project started by members of Melton’s Polish community to collect provisions for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war quickly snowballed into a remarkable effort involving dozens of other town residents and businesses.

By Nick Rennie
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 4:45 pm
Some of the many volunteers involved with processing donations for the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees organised at the Polish Club in Melton

PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134220001
Some of the many volunteers involved with processing donations for the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees organised at the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134220001

Donated clothing, medicines and toiletries piled up at the weekend at the Polish Club, on Sandy Lane, and an army of volunteers joined forces to box them all up ready to be driven in lorries to Poland, where around one million people have escaped across the border away from the invading Russian military.

The initiative was started by Magdalena Antończyk and Karolina Wosztyl last week and their appeals for donations were picked up by other Melton people and shared on social media.

Sharon Brown, landlady of The Grapes pub in Melton, was one of the many volunteers who pitched in at the weekend.

Magdalena Antoczyk and Karolina Wosztyl, co-organisers of the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees at the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134240001

She told the Melton Times: “There were about 30 volunteers involved at one point.

“It took that because it was hard work.

“There were kids there and old age pensioners, who had bad knees and bad backs, but they all got stuck in.”

Sharon added: “The Polish ladies who started it all off, Magdalena and Karolina, thought they would only get a couple of car loads and then go and drop it off.

Women sorting through the piles of donations for the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees organised at the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134159001

“They were a bit overwhelmed at one point by how much was being donated, they didn’t think people would help this much.

“There were a few tears. They were just so overwhelmed. It was really emotional for them.”

Melton’s Polish community has strong ties with the western part of Ukraine because many of their relatives originally came from towns and cities there in the 1940s when it was part of Poland. They were either sent to Siberia by Stalin or fled the country after the Second World War as that part of Poland was absorbed into the former Soviet Union.

Poles are also concerned that President Putin’s forces may continue their aggression in eastern europe and invade Poland as well.

Women sorting through the piles of donations for the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees organised at the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134138001

“It is great that the Polish community know we are all there for them,” said Sharon.

“Although this war is in Ukraine, Poland is under threat as well and what they are doing for Ukraine in helping the refugees is outstanding.

“As we do in Melton, when we heard about this appeal for donations, we started putting shouts out and everybody just jumped in.

“Van drivers who probably use them to make a living didn’t want to take money for diesel for helping out.

Boxed up provisions for Ukrainian refugees are loaded into a van outside the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134250001

“Businesses were donating boxes and all the packaging and tape, the whole town has been absolutely amazing again.”

The donations were floodiing in at such a rate at one point that extra storage was sought.

Southeringtons removals company helped out and residents offered their garages, including borough councillor Pam Posnett.

The volunteers have delivered the goods to distribution centres in the region where they are then being taken in HGVs to Poland and the Ukrainian border.

Sharon added: “We had to stop taking clothing donations at one point because we were told there was a shortage of medicines and things like nappies, sanitary products and toiletries for the refugees and people began donating them as well.

“We will continue collecting stuff for the forseeable future because we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for or how bad it’s going to get.”

A couple helping out with the processing of donated provisions for Ukrainian refugees at Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134300001

Provisions can be dropped off at The Grapes and Kidzone while local schools have also been involved in collections.

This is just the latest in a tradition of Melton people joining together to help disadvantaged people.

Vast amounts of provisions were donated for people fleeing to the UK from Afghanistan following the Taleban taking over the country last year and targeting those who had assisted UK and allied forces.

The Covid pandemic has also significantly increased the number of Melton residents struggling to pay their bills, triggering a concerted campaign of distributing donated food and clothing to those affected. Sharon and others collected food for 101 Christmas hampers to deliver in December to individuals, couples and families particularly in need.

Melton Borough Council, which has provided a garage to help with storage for the donations, has lavished praise on those taking part in the current local campaign for Ukraine.

The authority posted on Facebook: “Once again we are astounded by the generosity of our community in Melton.

“The donations that have been provided to the Polish Club on Sandy Lane are amazing and will offer vital support to those affected by the current situation in Ukraine.

“The volunteers at the Polish Club have already sent five lorry loads of donations to Poland and will continue sorting through the overwhelming amount of donations that have been given.

“They want to thank everyone who has helped for their support but kindly ask that, for the time being, residents please refrain from dropping off any more items.

“We will remain in regular contact with them during this time and will let you know when they will once again be accepting donations and what items will be most valuable.”

Cash donations to help Ukrainians can also be made online at www.dec.org.uk the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Local photographer Adam Shaw was one of the volunteers at the Sandy Lane drive at the weekend and he took the photos on this page.

The Melton Times has made a donation to the DEC fund for publishing these photos.

Volunteers process donations for the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees organised at the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134230001
A loaded HGV with donations for the relief effort for Ukrainian refugees organised at the Polish Club in Melton PHOTO ADAM SHAW EMN-220803-134209001