Staff working at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham have teamed up to support disabled children evacuated from the conflict in Ukraine.
Dr Andrzej Frygier, a specialty trainee in haematology, and Lee Ellerker, an engineer who sub-contracts with Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, have been working together to raise money and send aid to support over 60 children at a Polish orphanage since April this year.
No stranger to humanitarian aid, ex-military veteran and former UN worker Lee began taking goods and supplies out to refugees at the Polish border at the start of this year as part of the Hull 4 Ukraine effort. Andrzej has also been volunteering his medical skills on regular trips back to his native Poland since the war began.
But after a chance meeting between the pair in the gym, both Lee and Andrzej, who has family living near to the Polish-Ukrainian border, realised they could achieve much more by working together.
Enlisting even more support from Lee’s friend Shaun Willox to get the charity appeal off the ground, the team is now raising money to send food, supplies and sensory equipment over to Poland. The aid will support 62 children, some as young as 8 and many with severe disabilities, who are struggling to cope with the mental and physical effects of the conflict. A further 30 children are expected to join them soon.
“Since the war began, I have stayed in touch with my professional network in Poland who are offering their time and skills to help refugees, and when I make the trip over, I volunteer with them too. This direct involvement has given me a clearer picture of the real scale of problems and what people fleeing the war are going through.
“My colleague Wojciech, a haematology consultant in Poland, told me about group of disabled children who had been evacuated from the war zone to Biskupin, a small town in Kuyavian Pomeranian district of Poland. The children had been bussed out of Ukraine amid nearby shelling to a hotel where the owner had generously offered to accommodate the children for free.
Wojciech told me how, when they arrived, most of the children needed urgent medical attention, and he was there on the spot, triaging and volunteering his medical care.
“At the beginning, there was no funding to provide even the basics for them, like food, medical supplies or equipment, or to pay for utilities; everything was purely based on the generosity of nearby volunteers.
“With the help of the local authorities, the children have since been found more suitable accommodation on an old hospital wing in Torun, but their health needs are many and complex and they still very much need our help.”
Andrzej has supported the children’s medical care from his own monies and with support from colleagues at the Queen’s Centre for Oncology & Haematology at Castle Hill Hospital, who have helped him and Lee raise over £2,000 so far to pay for blood tests, personal care and nutrition.
“It’s humanity that has been shaken by this war; the innocents who have no place on the battlefields have had their homes and lives torn apart.
“Having witnessed conflicts myself, I knew I had to help the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom. Freedom is something we take for granted, and only when it is threatened do we rise. So I choose to rise and help the humanitarian effort in Poland and the Ukraine.
“Up to now I have raised £13,000 for humanitarian aid and we will keep going until they need help no more.”
“Seeing the appalling destruction in Ukraine and knowing there are so many suffering and needing help, I knew I just had to get involved. I am currently hosting a Ukrainian family and have been meeting other Ukrainians, and it feels so personal.
“I have seen so much kindness and support by our country and I know so many wish to help. I’m pleased to be working alongside Lee and Andrzej, I know we can do really good things together.”
“I used to talk a lot with my grandparents about their Second World War memories, and now it’s all happening again and very close to Poland.
“There’s an overwhelming spirit of solidarity with Ukrainians across the whole of Poland and the whole world. I simply asked myself, what can I do to help? It’s a question I think everybody should ask themselves. Everybody will have a different answer, but it’s important to do something. Even if it’s only very small, every single sign of solidarity counts.”
How you can help:
The team is seeking donations to purchase supplies and specialist equipment which can be transported to Poland and further into Ukraine, as well as to pay for adaptations to the building/children’s care environment – please consider donating via their GoFundMe page and watch the video to find out more.
Food, medical supplies, personal care items, toys and equipment are also welcome – please email email@example.com to discuss in more detail.