The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen the best of humanity come to the fore as people and organisations across the North West step forward to show solidarity with and offer practical help to the people of Ukraine. Here are some examples, together with eyewitness accounts from our region, of the effect on families and relatives caught in the fighting in Ukraine.
Horwich man Chris James Balshaw has described to the Bolton News the horrors of living in Ukraine during the crisis. Balshaw and his family lived Ukrainian city of Kherson, which became the first major Ukrainian city to fall to the Russians. They were forced to hide in an underground car park beneath their apartment complex for four days. They managed to make their way to Moldova, but have been told they must move on with a matter of days. With no money or food supplies, his family is under great stress.
A Wirral resident who moved from Ukraine to Wallasey in 1996 after marrying reports how she fears for the safety of her mother, who lives in the Ukrainian city of Odesa.
Local government and communities step up
Local governments and communities in the north west have responded to events in Ukraine in a number of different ways.
Ribble Valley Borough Conservative Party Councillor Ged Mirfin tweeted how Lancashire County Hall in Preston was lit up in blue and yellow.
Former Labour MP for Bury North James Frith, posted on Facebook on 3 March, asking for volunteers at Bury Polish Centre to help with sorting massive donations of aid, so that the existing gifts to the people of Ukraine can be despatched to make way for even more items that have been pledged.
Council leaders in Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn and Burnley have stated their willingness to accept Ukrainian refugees. Cllr Mohammed Khan leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, stated:
“We are shocked and horrified by the unprovoked and escalating invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Putin’s aggression is being rightly condemned across the world. I understand that Ukrainians across Blackburn with Darwen, and the UK, must be feeling incredibly anxious at this time. Blackburn with Darwen stands in solidarity with these residents. We all have to remember that many Russians in the UK and in Russia oppose Putin’s autocratic regime. Immediate action is needed from the government to work with local councils, like ourselves, to prepare the necessary support and resources needed for refugees who come to the UK. Blackburn with Darwen has a proud history of supporting those in need, and we will do what we can to maintain this throughout this time. Residents have been asking what they can do. They may wish to make a donation towards the internationally recognised British Red Cross appeal or keep an eye out for donation points across your local community.”
Local businesses coordinate support for Ukraine crisis
Businesses in the Lancaster district have been making special efforts to accept donations from area residents wanting to offer aid to the Ukrainian people. Lancaster City Council organised an online meeting on the 3 of March to coordinate relief efforts. A spokesman for the Council noted:
“The Lancaster district has a long and proud tradition of showing its support and compassion for those suffering as a result of war and conflict around the world. Following the tragic events of the last week, many people locally have asked what they can do to support the people of Ukraine in their hour of need. Join us to discuss this important issue and how we can work together as a community to support Ukraine and its citizens.”
Carnforth pub The Canal Turn organised a relief truck of aid which departed on 4 March and they are appealing for volunteer labour via their Facebook page. Many of their colleagues in nearby Preston are running similar schemes, encouraging donations of blankets, toiletries, first aid and towels.
Local media respond to reader demand for action
Local newspaper the Warrington Guardian has responded to reader demand by listing centres in Warrington where donations of items to Ukraine may be dropped off. Many centres request donations of children’s toys and games, but also practical everyday items such as toiletries, nappies and wipes, as well as long shelf life food. They are, however, noting that clothing donations are no longer required.
The aim of all these collection centres is to depart the North West for the Ukrainian border for the 4 March. Humanitarian activity and solidarity with Ukraine has been just as pronounced in the major cities of our region such as Manchester and Liverpool.
North West Bylines readers report local action to support Ukraine
A North West Bylines reader told us:
“Ukrainian friends of mine are getting involved in the relief effort – they have a number of vans going to Poland on 3 March. However, they have now have more storage space for another five days and have had other offers of vans and drivers.”
They took this photo of donations in the Whalley area waiting to be sent to Ukraine in a truck leaving on 3 March.
Ditching the doomscrolling… Getting involved
It’s very easy for us all to feel helpless, hopeless and powerless in the face of the modern rolling news onslaught of terrible images showing destruction and suffering of innocent people in Ukraine. Jim Greer, principal lecturer in social work at the University of Cumbria’s Department of Health, has some very sound advice:
“People shouldn’t constantly scroll news if it is causing them distress but rather limit their daily amount of exposure to distressing content. There are of course ways in which people can contribute positively by giving money or donating their time to charities who are trying to get medical supplies etc. over there. Turning our concern into positive action in this way means it is possible to stay connected with the plight of others while not feeling helpless in the face of frightening events.”
It’s a sentiment we at North West Bylines wholeheartedly agree with.