We like to keep in touch with the Fettes community and hear about the things Old Fettesians have been up to since leaving Fettes. It is especially great when we hear stories of OFs giving help to others in need. OF Mark Bushby (Mo 2013-2018) has recently been doing just that by travelling to the Ukrainian-Polish border to volunteer and provide support. We spoke to Mark shortly after his return to the UK about his experience:
“Like many, I felt pretty helpless to the situation going on in Ukraine. So when my dad sent me a message with an opportunity to volunteer on the Ukrainian-Polish border I wasn’t going to turn it down. I crammed my uni work in a few days to get ahead and flew out to Krakow in Poland with a friend from Bristol. From there I jumped on a train East to Przemyśl and was then picked up by someone from the refugee camp who took us to the site I would be volunteering at for the next 10 days. The organisation I was volunteering with was called Siobhan’s Trust and was situated just 50 yards from the border. It was originally set up by David Fox Pitt MBE who drove out to the border when the situation unfolded a month prior. For 10 days and nights, I worked as part of a small team; feeding refugees who had just escaped Ukraine. On average, we were churning out 3,000 meals a day with about 6,000 refugees crossing the border on a regular day. Despite working up to 19-hour days and sleeping in negative temperatures in a tent, it was hands down one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life. Every day we were able to put smiles on people’s faces and create moments of joy amongst an otherwise devastating situation. I can remember on one particular day meeting a World War II veteran who was escaping the Donetsk region with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was deaf in one ear, and we had to use a Ukrainian volunteer to translate between us. He told us about how he’d fought the Germans and later been captured by the Russians who took him into the depth of Siberia. He later escaped and spent 55 years as a miner and told me of an occasion when the mine had collapsed in on him. What a remarkable individual! I played him a few tunes on the bagpipes which he thoroughly enjoyed clapping along to.
Every day brought its own challenges and novelties. At one moment I’d be helping to take supplies over the border into a Ukrainian hospital, the next helping a lady to escort 12 dogs over the border! It’s hard to emotionally absorb what I witnessed, with fully grown men and woman crying on a daily basis as well as speaking with soldiers who had just come from the front line. If there’s one thing that stood out above all else though it was the character of the Ukrainian refugees. They had such an incredible level of pride; barely accepting any help and support but being incredibly grateful whenever we did provide them with food and comfort. I do hope that sometime in the near future we can help them to rebuild their cities and see their country for what it truly is. An unforgettable experience that will stay with me for life.
I continue to work directly with a Ukrainian development agency who have been doing the app development for my business ‘Armago'. It’s been incredible how they’ve continued to work as normal, despite the events unfolding in their country and I do hope that other businesses can continue to work with Ukrainians to help provide them with jobs through this time.
To support Siobhan’s Trust who I volunteered with please visit: https://siobhanstrust.uk/donate”
Thank you to Mark for sharing his story about volunteering and the meaningful work he carried out.
If you have any OF News to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.