Midwife returns home to Bury after helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing from Russian invasion

A grandmother from Bury who flew to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war with Russia has returned home.

Wanda Warrington, known as Wendy, spent three weeks working as a volunteer medic in Przemysl - a short distance from the Polish-Ukrainian border.

The qualified nurse and midwife, from Tottington, speaks fluent Polish and says she felt 'compelled' to help Ukrainians fleeing the terrors of bombs and shelling as a result of Russia's invasion of their country.

55-year-old Wendy is a grandmother to five grandchildren.

Granada Reports journalists Victoria Grimes and Jahmal Williams Thomas flew back to Poland to catch up with Wendy as she prepared to finish her time there.

Wendy said: "It has been an emotional rollercoaster - I didn't know what each day would bring and I seemed to ricochet from one thing to the next, so many people need help - but I have done what I set out to do, and that was to help people."

The 55-year-old was given three weeks' leave from her role in the NHS by Pennine Care Trust and used her own money to fund her trip to eastern Europe.

The grandmother has family in Poland - with her parents and grandparents born in the country - her grandfather moved to the UK after surviving the Auschwitz concentration camp.

For her, there was no doubt that she wanted to join other volunteers from the North West in travelling to the Poland Ukriane border to go and help.

  • Wendy and Simon spoke to Lucy and Chris in the studio - and there was a special surprise for them at the end!

Here Wendy tells us about some of the people she has helped:

  • Mercy mission

As soon as we arrived back in Poland, Wendy was called by desperate volunteers to another refuge centre in Korczowa, about 35 km from Przemysl.

A young pregnant woman who had fled from Kharkiv with her two small children was unwell.

Juliana was travelling alone with children Arsen, four, and Valeri, two.

Juliana was travelling alone with Arsen, four, and Valeri, two. Her husband is still in Ukraine, defending his country.

After examining Juliana, Wendy realised there was a problem.

"She says she's eight months pregnant but I think the baby feels too small," Wendy said.

"Juliana is lacking iron and I am concerned about her so we need to get an urgent ultrasound scan."

Juliana was thought to be eight months pregnant.

There was no-one free to take Juliana for the scan, but luckily Wendy's husband Simon was there to step in.

After three weeks alone at home, he drove for 27 hours to be with Wendy in Poland as she prepared to return to the UK. 

JustGiving page has raised close to £7,000 towards medical supplies, which Simon brought to Poland in an ambulance donated towards the relief effort there.

It will be distributed to where it is needed most.

Wendy's husband Simon Warrington made a 27 hour jounrey to Poland to support her in an ambulance full of items given by people in the UK.

And for Juliana, there was much-needed good news, as she is actually only six months pregnant and so her baby, a girl, is a healthy size.

Shell-shocked from her journey, she managed a glimmer of a smile when she learned the news from Wendy and Simon, as they drove her and her boys back to the refugee centre. 

Juliana and her children will sleep in a storage room there, until they find out where they are headed.

Wendy said: "I thought the baby felt too small for eight months and that's why I was worried, but after the scan we found out that she is actually only six months pregnant and everything is okay.

"It's made my day - just to see the mum's relief and the smiles from her children - this is why we came here."

A tearful Simon told us: "It does make me think of my own grandchildren and I just want to give them a hug and tell them I love them, but we came out here to help and to make a difference and that's what we are going to do.

"I'm just here to support Wendy - it's her who has done the hard work and made the sacrifices."

  • Ivana

Wendy delivers medical aid and supplies to a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine.

Whilst in Poland, Wendy made several perilous journeys over the border into Ukraine, where she delivered medical supplies and brought those too poorly to travel alone to safety in Poland.

Ivana is another patient who the Bury nurse will never forget. The 23-year-old is terminally ill with cancer.

She had to say goodbye to her boyfriend Vladislav who remained behind in Ukraine to fight for his country.

"We drove by ambulance to the hospital to pick Ivana up," Wendy said. "As we were putting her into the ambulance, air raid sirens started to go off.

"It did frighten me a bit but I just carried on because she needed a medic who could administer pain medication during the journey. It took five hours to get to Warsaw."

Ivana and her partner Vladislav say good bye to each other in the ambulance. They don't know if they will ever see each other again.

Wendy added: "I will never forget the moment she said goodbye to her partner and the tenderness between them.

"They both knew it was unlikely they would see each other again. Ivana is now in a hospice in Warsaw. 

"It's bittersweet because we know what the outcome will be but I'm pleased that she is getting the care she needs and can have her pain managed and can be comfortable.

"I didn't want her to be by herself."

  • One final mission

Reza and Simon Credit: ITV News

Wendy and Simon continued with their care for those in need right until they arrived back in the UK.

They answered a call from an anguished family who needed help to bring a great grandmother, Reza, to safety in London.

The 87-year-old was too ill to travel without medical assistance and so Wendy and Simon cared for her and two other Ukrainian women on their flight home. 

"Reza can't speak English and we can't speak Ukrainian but her smile when she saw was reunited with her family said it all," said Simon.

Wendy and Simon. as they prepare to leave Przemysl.

Wendy added: "It has been an epic journey - there were lots of happy tears.

"I just can't believe this is how we ended our time here. It was an honour to bring these people here to safety. It's been so emotional, they are such lovely people."

"It's made the whole journey worthwhile finishing like this because the family were desperate and had no idea how to get them to the UK.

"They were amazed that we could help and just so grateful. The things I have seen here will stay in my mind and my heart forever.

"Until you have been here and seen inside the humanitarian centres, spoken to the people and listened to their stories, you cannot quantify the true horror of what people have gone through.

"These people didn't ask for this - they were just living their lives and now it has been snatched away from them.

"They arrive in Poland tired and dehydrated, carrying their worldly belongings in plastic bags. in my eyes, it is inhuman.

"Being able to give some comfort means everything,  it can be as simple as a smile or just holding a hand or giving a hug, even a power pack so that they can charge their phones and speak to their families.

"Sometimes it is the smallest gestures that make the most difference and it is those that they will remember forever."

Wendy and Simon have five grandchildren.

Wendy and Simon are now looking forward to seeing their five grandchildren.

Wendy said: "I have missed them so much, but I know they are proud of me and I hope that when they grow up, they will look back at what grandma and grandad have done and that will inspire them and help shape them into wanting to be good people and help others.

"I am so sad to be leaving but I will be back. There is still so much more here for me to do."