19th April 2022 | posted in News
Lena Rusa, arrived in Britain from Ukraine 20 years ago to study languages and lives in Darlington with her partner and three children.
She says she will never forget the moment she awoke to the news that bombs were dropping on her native Kyiv.
“I answered the phone at 6.58am, a friend told me what was happening and in the background, I could hear explosions,” said Lena. “I couldn’t believe it and was so frightened for my friends and my mother in Kyiv.”
Determined to do what they could to help, Lena and her partner Mel set out to fill their van with donations for Ukraine. When she outlined her plans on Facebook she was astounded at the response.
“Darlington is a beautiful town and the people of the North-East are wonderful, so many people got in touch wanting to help, the response was staggering,” she said.
Lena, who lives in one of our homes in Auckland Oval, Darlington, learned of a Ukrainian truck driver stranded in the North-East and with the help of the council was able to find him accommodation and a safe place for his truck.
“I then thought, we have an empty truck and driver here trying to get back to Ukraine and 12 tonnes of humanitarian aid – far too much for my van,” said Lena.
Firthmoor Community Centre became the centre of operations, with Darlington Borough Council providing support along with local volunteers.
Members of the travelling community helped Lena sort out all the logistics and travel documentation and with members of the Quakers Running Club, which Lena belongs to, helping load the goods, the truck set off and successfully delivered 12 tonnes of vital aid including first aid kits, toiletries, baby goods and tinned food to Ukraine.
Lena, a Finance Business Partner with local-based company CPI, has just heard that, with the help of neighbours, her mum has escaped from Kyiv and is now in the West of Ukraine. She is due to travel to Darlington to live with her daughter until it is safe to return home.
Meanwhile Lena is now focussing on a second wave of humanitarian aid.
“We heard there was a logjam of aid trucks at the border points, so I took a pause from collecting donations to focus on refugee services. It was such a relief to learn my mum had made it out and I have been arranging for her to get to Darlington,” says Lena.
“Now we have word that the border backlog has been cleared and with the war continuing we need a second wave of humanitarian aid,” said Lena.
Anne Rowlands, Chief Executive of Railway Housing Association, said: “Lena is doing an incredible job and is a real inspiration.”