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After six solo aid trips to Ukraine, Mersey man Eddie says he’s no Bob Geldof – but he had to do something to help 

2 months ago

By The Guide Liverpool

After six solo aid trips to Ukraine, Mersey man Eddie says he’s no Bob Geldof – but he had to do something to help 

Like so many other people, Eddie Tunstall watched the news in horror as war broke out in Ukraine.

But unlike many, the dad-of-three couldn’t sit back and do nothing – and in the last 18 months he’s made six trips to Eastern Europe, packing a van or his car with urgently-needed aid.

“I’m no Bob Geldof or Mother Teresa, and I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says. “But as I looked at the telly and saw hundreds of thousands of people leaving Kyiv when war started, it was horrible.

“I just sat down and thought, I’ve got to do something. These people need some help.”

Eddie, 57, a rail industry manager, made his first trip in March last year.

“I hired a van and filled it with food, water, clothes, and toiletries, put Lviv in Google maps, and drove over there. It really was that simple.

“I wasn’t concerned for my safety – although I knew my family was, especially when I got over there and lost internet connection, so when they were tracking my phone I just seemed to be staying still! – I just wanted to do something. I can’t even put my finger on why. 

“I always watch the news and have seen dreadful things happening in the past, but this just stopped me in my tracks.”

Straight-talking and matter-of-fact, Eddie, who’s originally from West Derby, isn’t one for emotions, but even he chokes as he remembers the first time he went – and the response which has inspired every visit to Ukraine since.

“I got over there and wondered where I was going to take everything, and then I saw two policemen and spoke to a young bobby after asking if anyone spoke English. I just said I had a lot of stuff, and did they know anyone who’d want it.

“He pointed me to a building on the corner opposite and I just drove across, opened the van doors, and started to unload it.  Then some guy, a little older than me, came over and pointed to a bottle of water.  I had packs of 24 that cost about £3 from Asda and gave him one that he drunk as though he’d never had water before.

“I told him he could take them all but he wouldn’t take any more, just what he needed – one bottle of water that’d cost little more than 10p. It sticks in my throat even now and, yeah, that has probably inspired me to carry on.”

Eddie, who made his most recent trip to Ukraine last month, has taken help to a number of places, from Lviv, to Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and Zhytomyr, getting to know different organisations and more contacts each time so he can take aid he knows is wanted, and make sure it gets to those who need it.

Mission to Ukraine is one of the main groups he deals with over there.

As well as food, water, clothes and toiletries, his cargo has included new and nearly new baby clothes, baby food, medicines like Calpol and nappies; it’s included medication and calm oil for dogs distressed by the noise of bombing, and dog food which he now collects from a couple of organisations who donate it for free. When it was cold he took over more than 40 camping stoves.

“I just think about what might be needed. I’ve had donations from people in the village of Rainford where I live which has been brilliant, and local schools helped with shoebox appeals. I buy a bit myself. I have a half-decent job on the railway,” he says in a typically understated manner, “so I work lots of hours and overtime to pay for a trip.”

And he sheepishly adds: “Ask my wife, we haven’t had a holiday for a couple of years because I use all my holidays to do the trips.”

He doesn’t dwell on the horrific scenes he has encountered but takes comfort from what he has been able to do: “There are times when you realise ‘this is real’. In Poland I saw what looked like an old Tesco’s that had become home to about 3,000 people who’d just come over the border, and I registered as a volunteer to gain access.

“You wonder what on earth you can do. These people had left their homes with no idea where they’d go. It was mainly women and children because obviously the dads had stayed behind to fight; and the parents know the score, but what about the kids?

“I played football with a young lad to put a smile on his face.  They’re ordinary people, They’re just us. They’re just unfortunate.”

Eddie has even provided transport to the UK for an aunt and grandma of a Ukrainian guard he works with – ‘That’s some lift to give, I should have put that on the clock,’ he smiles – and he is planning a seventh trip early next year, when support for young mums and their babies will probably be his priority.

“What hits me most is how the Ukrainians stay positive. It’s like that Scouse thing, they just get on with it.  There are buildings destroyed, but in many ways in lots of places you wouldn’t know there was a war on because they just get on their lives.

“But they do appreciate the help.

“I just want to do what I can, with the young mums and babies to give them a start. You can’t change the world, but you can give people help.”

Find out more about Mission to Ukraine HERE.

Get the latest for Liverpool HERE.

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