'It's like Dunkirk' - Norfolk men bringing back Ukrainians in Scout van

Adam Hale-Sutton

Adam Hale-Sutton (left) and Mike Kenny on their way to Poland to deliver aid and collect a refugee family - Credit: Adam Hale-Sutton

Nineteen refugees have been rescued from the war in Ukraine by a mercy mission from Norfolk.

Mike Kenny, from Hethersett, and Adam Hale-Sutton, from Little Melton, are part of a convoy which took supplies to the Polish border with Ukraine.

After delivering their cargo of medical aid, they picked up a family of 14 women and five children who had fled the conflict and are now bringing them back to the UK.

The pair - who are using the Hethersett Scouts' minibus - are part of a larger group of eight volunteers from the UK, driving three vans and a lorry.

Mike Kenny

The group which has set out from Norfolk and Hertfordshire to deliver aid and rescue a Ukrainian family from the Polish border - Credit: Mike Kenny

They delivered the aid to the Red Cross in Medyka, the busiest of the Polish-Ukrainian border crossings, across which tens of thousands of refugees have fled since the Russian invasion began last month.

Local aid workers then matched them up with an extended family of 14 women and five children wanting to get to the UK. All the men in the family were returning to Ukraine to take part in the fight against Russia.

Mr Kenny, a retired telecoms director, said: "They had to say goodbye to their partners, who are going back to Ukraine to fight.

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"It's heartbreaking, it really is. This family we're helping - it's like watching them being torn apart.

"I've got kids myself. There was a father there saying goodbye to his daughter. His two sons are fighting the Russians in Kyiv, he's going back to join them on the front line."

Mr Kenny, 47, said his group of volunteers had met many other people from the UK and across Europe who were on their way to pick up families who have fled from the fighting.

Local militiamen help an old woman crossing a bridge destroyed by artillery, as she tries to flee, o

Militiamen help an old woman crossing a bridge destroyed by artillery, as she tries to flee, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. - Credit: AP

He is sharing the driving for the 2,000-mile round trip with Mr Hale-Sutton.

Fellow drivers John Coyle, Rory Gallagher, Sab Askri, John Burley, Bob Page and Tony Bowman come from Hertfordshire.

"There's people from all over Europe we met who are just doing stuff," he said. "We met people from Spain, Denmark, Germany, they're all just getting in a minibus and trying to help people.

"It's like Dunkirk, with all the little ships. And there's me and Adam in the Hethersett Scouts' minibus."

Mr Kenny said the family they have picked up speak little English. They have contacts with a Ukrainian society in Reading, Berkshire.

The group left Krakow, in Poland, on Friday morning and planned to drive the 500 miles to Leipzig, in Germany, where they would be spending the night.

From there, the next leg will be to Arras, in France, on Saturday, where the UK government has set up a centre for processing visas.

"We're still unsure what processing they need," said Mr Kenny. "It's a little bit hard to understand with the UK government what the regulations are at the moment.

"I just wanted to do something to help these people. I don't know if these guys know where they're going to stay in the UK. I don't know if there's someone who could sponsor them, a company maybe."

Mr Kenny said the school where they collected the women and children from in Poland had beds for 400 refugees.

The United Nations believes more than 2m have fled from the bloody fighting in Ukraine - the majority to Poland.

"It's like the entire population of Norfolk and Suffolk being forced out of their homes," Mr Kenny added.

Mike Kenny

US Vice President Kamala Harris's cavalcade passing the mercy mission on its way to the Polish border on Thursday - Credit: Mike Kenny

While driving through Poland, Mr Kenny's convoy was passed by American vice president Kamala Harris, who was visiting the country for meetings with Polish president Andrzej Duda and prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

"Their cavalcade came past us," said Mr Kenny. "It was a massive convoy of police and special forces, vans with blacked-out windows."

Mike Kenny

Aid delivered by the group arrives at its destination near the Polish border - Credit: Mike Kenny

Mr Kenny's group came together after a "shout-out" from a Hertfordshire church for drivers and vans. It has launched a JustGiving page online to raise funds for the trip.

So far, it has raised £15,000 towards its £20,000 target, To donate, follow this shortened link: https://tinyurl.com/2d2dxppb.

Displaced Ukrainians stand in a line on the train platform after arriving from Ukraine at the statio

Displaced Ukrainians stand in a line on the train platform after arriving from Ukraine at the station in Przemysl, Poland. - Credit: AP

The EDP has launched an appeal for the people of Ukraine. You can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/edp-ukraine.