On Sunday morning, volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners entered Ukraine with a shipment of humanitarian aid bound for Kyiv.
They got up just after dawn, exhausted from a night of interrupted sleep in a truly awful hotel on the outskirts of Przemyśl – crowded rooms, no air conditioning, little ventilation and no discernible fire safety precautions – and set off in three rental vans heading for the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing.
They spent hours sitting in their vehicles in the sweltering heat, their cargo checked and rechecked by border agents who looked bored, waved through then turned around, had to fill in reams of papers , then left to wait for centuries more before finally being let through.
On the Ukrainian side, on flat ground under a huge sky, they stopped at a busy gas station selling hot dogs and hamburgers, where young mothers sat waiting with small, very blond children.
There they met local contact Max Koronenko, to whom they had been introduced days earlier by Kilkenny firefighters donating vehicles and equipment to the Ukrainian fire service.
Max and his team of volunteers had, alongside the mayor of Trostyanets, delivered a fire truck and three jeeps loaded with aid to the town in northeastern Ukraine.
Now, together with the mayor’s office of Borodyanka, a town about 50 kilometers from Kyiv, and the mayor of Kyiv, they would bring delivery of the Penny Dinners to the capital.
In Kyiv at the moment there are long queues for food, with older people making up the majority of those waiting, while surrounding towns and villages have also reported severe shortages.
At the forecourt of the gas station, Penny Dinners vans unloaded some 16 tonnes of non-perishable food, medical equipment, toiletries and electric generators, which were then loaded onto Ukrainian trucks.
Initially, the Penny Dinners volunteers hoped to travel with Max and his fellow volunteers to Borodyanka, but the logistics of bringing their own vehicles back across the border proved too difficult.
At one point, it was suggested that the reporter fromcould ferry vehicles and volunteers across the border in an approximation of one of those thought experiments involving a boat trip with a fox, a chicken, and a sack of grain.
In the end, with hour-long queues in both directions, this was not to be the case, and Max and his fellow volunteers embarked on the eight-hour journey to Borodyanka, where they met the mayors, who coordinate the distribution of aid.
Caitriona Twomey, coordinator of Penny Dinners, saidthe Cork volunteers were happy that the help given by the people of Cork was going to the right people.
“Max and his fellow volunteers were very moved by the continued generosity of the people of Cork, and they told us lives would be saved through this delivery,” Ms Twomey said.