Chippenham man joins second aid mission to Ukraine


A volunteer from the UK has said it is “very hard” to leave Ukraine after seeing the impact of the conflict.

Ryan Williams, 32, from Chippenham, is on his second trip working with a charity that delivers aid to people near the frontline.

The aerospace worker said he found life in the UK lacked “meaning” when he briefly returned home.

“When you hear the artillery or see a Russian jet, you know you’re where the aid needs to be,” he added.

Mr Williams is volunteering with Alex21, a charity started in Germany, that uses local connections in Ukraine to make sure aid is delivered personally to the people who need it most.

He told BBC Radio Wiltshire his role has involved helping civilians in areas where utilities and food supplies have been cut off by the fighting, as well as supplying non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian military and police.

Mr Williams travelled out to Ukraine in early March, came back to the UK “for a few weeks” then returned to the war-torn country on 28 April after quitting his job, and has been there ever since.

He said: “It is very hard to leave.

“When I visited England [between his two stints in Ukraine] there were no air raid sirens, no missiles, and life didn’t really seem to have meaning there anymore.”

He said the first time he saw the aftermath of fighting, when delivering aid to a village near the town of Izyum, was “indescribable”.

“The houses were covered in bullet holes and the people had no gas, electricity or water,” he said.

“There were numerous Russian tanks in a farmyard, live RPGS [rocket-propelled grenades] and a Russian soldier dead in one tank. There were others for sure, but we didn’t check further.”

Mr Williams said he found Russian air raids and shelling unnerving at first.

“In Komar, in Donetsk, they [the Russians] were bombing just across the river. I went out at night and there were three separate blazes, it was crazy seeing them light up the sky.

“It’s odd though, you just try to get on with it. You’re trying to be aware and cautious, but you know what your goal is and you try to ignore the rest.

“I sleep through most missiles and artillery now. It’s crazy how quickly you get used to it.”

He said his friends and family back in the UK struggled to understand why he was in Ukraine and he often found it “impossible to explain”.

“The people are lovely and truly appreciate the help. We always have extra bits for kids and seeing their faces – giving them some distraction – the feeling is indescribable.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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