And the engine comes to life, getting out of the cabin and having the engine running to get air in the system. A last inspection walks around the truck and its trailer, tires, lights, and the safety of the trailer being hooked to the truck.
As always, the truck and trailer are donated for Humanitarian Aid transport. Most of these transports are under The Red Cross. Visible by stickers on the truck and sometimes the trailer. I am happy with these stickers. Police and other authorities have no hunger to stop and inspect the lot. Earlier in the day I said goodbye to the family for a week. I have done these stints before. Takes you a week to get back home on average. Humanitarian aid comes in a wide variety. 20 tons of baby food, clothes, army kitchens, gensets, heaters, furniture, and building material. Name an item and I am sure it's transported. Loading at a place a guy showed up out of the blue, with a bicycle in his hands. Asking me to take it.
Of course, there is always space for the input of a good Samaritan. No doubt that it will end up in other hands who will need it. And add it to the bill of laden manually. All the transport documents are prepared by volunteers. The same would be the place of loading, farmers' sheds, and companies who donated the space and cater for the forklifts. It’s a well-oiled machine, driven by volunteers. Generally, people who don’t put money in a collectors jar. But take days and sometimes a week off aid to their fellow human beings. I was well impressed by the company that donated 20 tons of baby food on an earlier stint. When it was loaded a companies representative came down from his office to sign off the documents himself. That’s my country, and I am proud of it.
The phone rings, it is my mate, he is a professional driver and was happy to join me. What time do I arrive at the agreed pick-up place. We all call him Paddy. I do not have many friends, but the ones I have go back decades. A guy with a great heart. The parking place to pick up Paddy. He throws his bag for the week in the cabin. We check the paperwork for the transport together. We are good to go. The both of us like a challenge. We made a plan to keep driving as long as we can. A stop for a coffee is used to check the load and the truck.
We are on our way to see mayhem and destruction. Scenes I know so well and try not to think of the consequences for the people involved suffering the horrors. War zones are not necessarily at the front. Well, where we live we see it on TV. Being on the ground is a different reality. Moments of guilt come over you. Can’t we do more, why isn’t the world doing more to stop it. Returning questions that go through your mind. From behind the wheel I look at Paddy, he starts some fun, and that’s good, it takes my mind off the upcoming misery. We both smoke, I open the window a bit to let go of the mist we are in. He shares his mind on all the stupid stuff we pulled off in the past. I start to wonder how he will process the mayhem we will meet. Customs will come up.
That can be boring as there are long rows of trucks. As soon customs release you, the heaviest part of the trip has a beginning. The first contact with the people who will receive you. And guide you on the best options to reach your destination. You get a sense of daily life in a country that is in a war. Air raid warnings are one of them. The damage and repairs of infrastructure are ongoing. And in places the huge amount of damage to residential areas and industrial plots. In a way, it is a miracle to find that electricity is going. Being it from the grid or small gensets.
Amazing to see how fast people adapt and manage as best they can. The volunteer group where I drive for has volunteers building up houses. Great to see builders, plumbers, electricians and other trades spend part of their holiday to rebuild houses and other buildings that are desperately needed. And to cater for their appetite in materials. Other transports delivered bigger gensets for hospitals. Yes, the world supports those in need. After all there is humanity. It’s time for offloading. That is usually done in good spirits. Goods arrived. More progress possible. I usually share dinner and beers with the group volunteers on ground. Prior to departing for the voyage home. Paddy can consume copious amounts of beer. Which normally go along with some hilarious acts. Unwinding and a short escape of the environment we are in. Its amazing to see people from all walks of life involved in humanitarian aid. I am taking also time to sit and talk to the local people. Listen to what they have to say. How their perception is. How they see the future. The pain of the sacrifices made.
The worry for the man and woman on the front. It is amazing, at only 60+ hours truck driving we live a life without all the misery. Go to work, bring children to school. No missiles from a complete idiot on civilians. For some, it’s a returning daily event hiding in shelters. Will the light will be on tomorrow? Will there be water? Surreal for many in Europe. In a past trip talking to a local guy telling me he lost his house and everything in it. We sort of had the same size clothes. I gave him what I carried with me for the trip. I normally take in my private stuff some toys for children. Colored pencils, drawing paper, and small games. You’ll get smiles you’ll never forget.
There is no price that can pay the moment.
The best things in life are free and I know so well. I’ve seen Kosovar refugees many moons ago. A people running from a war. Even with smaller tractors carrying their lives possession. Gathered in a stadium. 1000’s of them. Seeing the despair, hopelessness. Doctors provide aid to the sick. What if you need medicine and didn’t have access to it for days? All these things playing out in front of you.
It impacts peoples lives in a very hard way. People who are normally hard-working people taking care of their families. Running for their lives. Thank God we do have organizations that provide aid. And volunteers to provide the aid in what ever form. What did I do? Is a small contribution to our fellow man. I wished we had more people to help out. It’s time to go. I feel blessed with children’s smiles. I feel for a moment I made a difference.
Will I return again? Time will tell.
Paddy is behind the wheel when we drive off and wave goodbye. Back to our normal life and no war to deal with. We look at each other, a silence follows. I know that the feelings and emotions will subside. And we are going in each our own routine. Driving and sleeping.
Get the truck back so a new crew can take over and deliver a new load. Upon arrival at the depot, we get a coffee and finish the paperwork’s and finances. Fuel receipts and any bills paid along the journey. Paddy is a tall guy, we have our embrace for a goodbye. Thank you brother for joining me. I get a smile, I know this topic of driving will come up again. Guided by beers and laughter. We go back decades.
And here is where our little aid run ends. Many people will travel the road to aid and support after us. One thing bites me, I see people. It is the first time it dawns on me that there will be a time ahead of us where Russians need aid. And also the first time I will not provide aid. I see people and humans. From what I have seen? These are not humans. Very sad actually there will be people in need who won’t receive aid. This has gone too far.