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LBC follows Ukrainian man's journey over Europe to help save his country

3 March 2022, 11:59 | Updated: 4 March 2022, 12:35

By Daisy Stephens

LBC has been following the journey of Taras Chaban, a Ukrainian-born man who's been living in Britain since the 90s and is now on a mission to help his home country.

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Mr Chaban has embarked on a journey from Britain to Ukraine with vans full of supplies, from helmets to pillows, for the desperate Ukrainian defence of their homeland - and those caught up in the violence.

He said there would be "hopefully not too much bombing overnight in Ukraine", speaking to LBC from southern Germany and said he had already encountered two "echoes of war" which hit home why his efforts are so vital.

The first was when they stopped to refuel in Belgium, when a man saw the pro-Ukraine signs on their vans and told them his 23-year-old son was fighting for the Ukrainian army, based in an area that has already been heavily bombed.

"It was quite hard listening to him and listening to his story," said Mr Chaban.

"Because his son is there, he's guarding munition, he's already engaged with Russians a few times."

He said he was "full of admiration" for the man.

"He was very calm and composed and I was thinking - I can't imagine myself being so calm if my son was in this sort of danger where you don't know if he's going to live the night or not.

"That was hard."

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Mr Chaban is carrying a large range of supplies, from medicines to helmets
Mr Chaban is carrying a large range of supplies, from medicines to helmets. Picture: Taras Chaban

The second indicator of war Mr Chaban encountered was an interaction with the German police after they spotted the Ukraine signs on the van.

"They stopped me, they pulled me over and they asked me if I was carrying any guns to Ukraine," he said.

"So I guess that's the reputation we have now.

"Hard men, carrying guns."

Once the police had opened the van and checked the contents, Mr Chaban was allowed to continue.

In his next video message, Mr Chaban recalled another encounter he had with a Ukrainian man along the way who spotted the Ukrainian signage on the vehicles and gave them a box of medicines he had in the trunk of his car.

"He gave us this big, big, big box of various medical supplies that we took and we're going to take across to Lviv," he said.

"As we were chatting actually it turned out that he grew up about 10 miles from where I was born, so - small world."

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In his next message, he said he had "mixed feelings" looking at the infrastructure while driving through Poland.

"Driving through it today and looking at some of the brand new roads, brand new bridges, very, very impressive motorways," he said.

"Happy for Poland, but also very sad looking at how this infrastructure is literally bombed to the ground in Ukraine today as we speak."

Beginning in Woolwich in southeast London, Mr Chaban said people had been donating a wide range of supplies.

Hours later he arrived at the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone.

While waiting to board the train, Mr Chaban said people had been "very nice" along the way, saying one lady had "wished us good luck" and asked where she could donate.

"It's really nice to feel support here as we are crossing from the UK into France," he said.

One of his latest addresses was made from the Polish/Ukrainian border, where he was sharing a hotel with a large number of refugees.

Speaking just after 9pm on Wednesday, Mr Chaban said they would not cross into Ukraine that night because of the curfew on the other side making it impossible to move at night.

"First thing in the morning we are crossing into Ukraine and delivering what we have," he said.

He said it was "very sad" looking at the refugees.

"It's woman and children," he said.

"Aren't really any men with them.

"Women and children."

Mr Chaban entered Ukraine on Thursday
Mr Chaban entered Ukraine on Thursday. Picture: Taras Chaban

On Thursday morning Mr Chaban crossed the border into Ukraine.

Speaking from the western city of Lviv in the early hours of Friday morning, Mr Chaban said it took him between five and six hours to cross the border the previous day, with security checks needed on both the Polish and Ukrainian sides.

He said he saw large numbers of refugees, both on foot and travelling in vehicles.

"We saw massive queues of refugees going out of Ukraine into Poland and a very, very, very long queue of cars trying to get out as well," he said.

He said they got to their destination - a warehouse in Lviv - where the supplies and donations were successfully distributed.

Supplies were unloaded at a warehouse in Lviv
Supplies were unloaded at a warehouse in Lviv. Picture: Taras Chaban

"It has been a very busy day yesterday," he said.

"We finished late in the evening, very late in the evening."

He said Lviv felt "calm", although said there had been two air raid sirens since he arrived - one on Thursday evening and one early on Friday.

He added they were short and he did not see any aircraft.

He also said supermarkets in the city were open and supplies were "fairly normal... considering there is a war in the country".

He laid out his plans for the day, saying he would meet his Ukraine-based contacts and then cross back into Poland later on Friday - only to reload and return on Saturday.

Mr Chaban plans to return to Ukraine tomorrow with more supplies
Mr Chaban plans to return to Ukraine tomorrow with more supplies. Picture: Taras Chaban

LBC will be following Mr Chaban's journey - come back to this page to see how he's doing.