Tim Pendlebury of Insight Vacations, highly recommended in the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2019sprang into action when he heard of a family in need.
Tim had met Natalia, her husband Vadim and their two daughters, four or five years ago when they were visiting Krakow. “It was a cold, wet night, and they were lost, looking for their accommodation. I knew the area and walked them 20 minutes for the clothes they needed. They only spoke Ukrainian, so we didn’t talk much, but we exchanged social media handles.
“The eldest of the two daughters, Alina, has been following me on Instagram ever since. When the war broke out, I contacted her to check on their situation and that her family was okay. She is in her first year studying journalism. at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. She told me that her mother and younger sister were indeed trying to get out of Ukraine towards the Polish border and asked if I could help her.
“I got in the car and drove six hours to the border. It was a freezing night. Due to the traffic arriving at the border from the Ukrainian side, they were forced to leave their car, leaving all their luggage, and walk the last 10 km to the border… not easy with an eight year old kid in – 5 Celsius!
“They then spent hours in immigration processing. I finally met them at 3:45 a.m. They had spent three nights in underground shelters listening to fighter jets and missiles overhead, had no hardly slept and had traveled a ridiculous amount of time to get out. from Kiev and then to the border. They were freezing, scared and angry. It was a very emotional second meeting for me and Natalia too… she told me that She had always known that our first meeting in Krakow was no accident.”
Natalia’s husband Vadim stays in Ukraine to fight. “Vadim is in the village where Natalia and Vadim’s parents live; they are too old to leave and he takes care of them. Natalia and Darya stay with Alina; the university allowed them to stay in a dorm there.
Tim is going back to the border this weekend. “We will leave at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning arriving at the border around 9:00-10:00 a.m. They are running out of blankets, so we will be buying a batch this afternoon to take them with us. We have cold nights ahead, until minus ten. We are ready and intend to bring a family home with us, in which case it will not be people we know.
“Over the past two days I have been in contact with friends of people still trying to get out of Kyiv where they are staying with young children in bomb shelters. It has become very difficult; the trains are packed and slow. I hope we can get some positive news of their progress. If not, we will bring back anyone who would like to come with us. We will offer our aid to the frontier in whatever capacity we can.”
Tim is aware that many people around the world want to help in some way. “Of course donating to charities is a great way to help. I put one on Facebook which receives great support by helping the organization Caritas Poland which provides the first aid and assistance to refugees arriving in Poland.
For the future, Tim wants to encourage tourism in Ukraine and is also passionate about his adopted country, Poland. “I plan to create a new itinerary with Insight Vacations, a ‘country roads of Poland and Ukraine’.
“As soon as this is over, my family and I will travel to Ukraine to visit Natalia and Vadim in their village and house. Here in Poland everything is fine, it’s very safe. People shouldn’t s “worrying about traveling to Poland. is a wonderful feeling of community effort and support for Ukraine, the whole country has opened its hearts and homes. We don’t foresee any problems here, and of course, with the negotiations in course, we hope the fighting in Ukraine will stop soon. Our ‘Highlights of Poland’ trip will start as usual in the spring, with the first departure on May 6. I would love to see you here!”
And meanwhile, Tim says Natalia and Darya are undoubtedly close friends for life.
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