Gateshead man drives to Poland-Ukraine border to deliver half a million pounds worth of aid

Ed Blackbird will drive his vehicle over to Poland this weekend to hand-deliver the donations to Ukrainian refugees. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A Gateshead man is preparing for a two-day journey to the Poland-Ukraine border to distribute five tonnes of humanitarian aid to refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine.

Ed Blackbird, who owns Direct Deals Blinds in the town, has hired a motorhome and trailer, filling them with hundreds of items donated by the local community.

He will travel on Friday to Hull and cross the North Sea by ferry to Rotterdam, before making the 13-hour road trip through Holland, Germany and Poland.

He told ITV News Tyne Tees: "We will be travelling for two days, crossing from Hull to Rotterdam and then straight into Ukraine. I don’t want to go into Ukraine. I probably won’t be allowed to go into Ukraine, but we need to get as close as we can to help these people with what we have in the factory."

He is placing a letter and cuddly toy on his dashboard to keep him focused on the task, which was donated by a four-year-old girl called Phoebe.

In the letter, she wrote: "I’m so sad to hear about the terrible things happening in your country. Whenever you’re feeling sad, please cuddle Hope. Sending lots of love and kisses, from Phoebe."

He said he was touched by the generosity of the community, but particularly by Phoebe's letter.

He added: "Phoebe is four years old. I’ve been an emotional wreck since receiving this letter. So I messaged Phoebe last night and I would love to have this on my dashboard with this letter, just to give me some strength, heading down to Ukraine."

Ed said by his calculations everything that had been donated to his appeal was worth around half a million pounds. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Hundreds of items that could not be loaded onto the motorhome will be transferred to the Polish Centre in Newcastle and will be transported by them to the border via a fleet of lorries.

Ed's daughter said: "The things that we’ve got are just unbelievable. Nappies, wipes, baby food, clothes, blankets, towels, medication, bandages, everything, literally unbelievable."

Members of the public who donated items said they felt an emotional urge to help the Ukrainians in some way. One woman said: "It’s awful. Awful what’s going on. I wish I could do more. I’ve donated quite a bit. Me and my husband have donated quite a bit."

Another woman said: "As a mum and seeing other mothers and children having to flee such a terrifying situation, it’s heartbreaking, so yeah, we just hope that this does make a difference and I’m sure they will appreciate what’s coming for them, but we hope that they get to peace and to safety. That’s the main aim of everything."

And a man who runs a rugby team in Sunderland and owns a pub in Burnopfield said: "We kind of just put the word out yesterday and we managed to accumulate about 350 bags of donations, so it’s been a matter of loading three or four cars and bringing them to and from all day."

Watch Kris Jepson's video report