May 5, 2022 9.00 pm This story is over 24 months old

Minibus appeal as Lincoln man aims to help 100 Ukrainian refugees

Delivering aid and bringing refugees safely back to the UK

A Lincoln pensioner was so moved by the Ukraine refugee situation he took action and has delivered aid to Poland in a mini bus before safely returning refugees to the UK, including in Lincolnshire.

Malcolm Moore, who has a senior role in Lincolnshire Scouts responsible for adult support, has already made return trips between Lincoln and Poland, and the 69-year-old is determined to take more action.

After Branston Academy stepped in to offer the use of its community mini bus, Malcolm was able to make three successful but emotive trips to Poland and via Facebook he found 10 people who had the necessary paperwork who he could help transport to the UK. He has already helped transport 13 people, as well as their pets, and has set himself a personal target of supporting 100 refugees – 30 more have already asked for his help.

Malcolm Moore and his co-driver Nigel Burgin pictured next to the mini bus with Branston Academy let him use, but he is now appealing for businesses and donations to help him source a new alternative.

He said a big “thank you to Jo the headteacher and Carrie the business manager without whom I could not have started this project”, and the St Peter and St Paul Catholic community, the scouting community, and family and friends to helped to fund the fuel and other costs of the first two journeys.

However, the school needed the bus back after the Easter break. He is appealing for any companies who would be willing to donate a mini bus to help with the desperate situation faced by refugees. Malcolm has also set up a fundraiser to cover buying a mini bus and the associated fuel costs, and after he has finished with the vehicle he will donate it to Lincoln Scouts.

Donate to the mini bus appeal fundraiser here

Malcolm’s wife Mary (second left) pictured with refugees who stayed overnight with them in Lincoln before their onward journey to meet their sponsor in Edinburgh.

Malcolm has also found a Scout minibus in Fife that may be available, but said the “only solution to be able to continue this work is to buy a 17 seater minibus second hand, which will cost £18,000. This is a cost he cannot afford and Malcolm is appealing for help in sourcing a new one so he can continue with his mission.

Malcolm, who worked as academy business manager at Heighington Primary School before retiring,  told The Lincolnite there is “massive money going to the main charities, but none of it seems to filter down to support the refugees get to the UK”.

He said: “It seems refugees have to sort their own journeys by train, air or bus and deal with the complexities with their pets paperwork, look for a sponsor and complete the complex process of applying for admission documents into the UK.

“There are free travel offers by train anywhere in Europe and also air travel if you do not have luggage. Refugees with medical problems, senior citizens, large families with children often find it difficult to use these options.”

Nigel Burgin and Malcolm Moore with the first group of refugees, carrying their dog.

Malcolm has been volunteering with Polish School Lincoln sorting centre at St Marks, which is run the school’s headteacher Aneta Smolarek and her partner Derran Brown.

Scouts across Lincolnshire have been supporting this venture by collecting and sorting aid ready for transport to Poland, where they work with a charity who deliver it onward to Ukraine.

Malcolm and Derran previously drove the minibus together on April 5 via Harwich to the Hook of Holland, via the Netherlands, Germany and to Wroclaw in Poland where they delivered 1.2 tonnes of aid. This included medicines, hospital supplies, wheelchairs, walking aids, baby products and ladies sanitary products.

Malcolm has been delivering aid to Poland to support the Ukraine crisis.

Malcolm told The Lincolnite: “During the journey there, refugees sent messages about the reasons why they were unable to travel back with me.

“One lady had cancer and needed to attend hospital for treatment on the collection days, one family had received visas for all but one of their party and therefore all could not travel, and one family was notified about the loss of their grandad in Ukraine.

“They could not be with him, but equally could not face the journey, so I returned empty. Part mission failure.”

Malcolm (left) and Nigel (right) with Ukrainian refugee Vera (centre) at the Polish School Lincoln sorting centre at St Marks Shopping Centre in Lincoln.

Malcolm was determined that the second journey would not end in the same way and made arrangements with refugees, which this time included four pets. He travelled to Poland with his co-driver Nigel Burgin with over 1.4 tonnes of aid on April 15.

During the journey, one family informed them they had decided to take another route to the UK by air, and another was unable to leave Ukraine because bombs were falling. A third family had managed to get a bus from Ukraine but were unable to say when they would arrive, so Malcolm was unsure what he would face when he arrived in Poland.

Nigel and Malcolm with a Ukrainian refugee (centre, wearing red), her sponsor, and another woman who is coordinating refugees in Essex.

A family of four and their pet made it to the bus station who they were able to transport on a long drive to the Hook of Holland, but they encountered issues relating to the application to DEFRA for the pet’s travel.

It was eventually sorted while they were on the ferry, although they were informed the dog would need mandatory quarantine, which impacted the family. Their dog is now currently in kennels at Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire and Malcolm said he was told “DEFRA are overwhelmed with pet applications and have insufficient quarantine places to deal with demand from refugees”.

He added: “We travelled back to my house with Nazarelli, Yriena, Natalya, and their grandma Antonini where they slept overnight and mid-morning. I took them to Newark for their train to Edinburgh to be met by their sponsor on arrival. There was a lot of emotion on that journey for all of us. Our first home run.”

Three Ukraine refugees with their two hosts before they took them to their home in Worcester.

There was sufficient funds to pay for a third journey and Branston Academy made their mini bus available again during the May Bank Holiday weekend. Malcolm again set of to Poland and arrange to meet families at Wroclaw Railway Station.

At the last minute they had to unload the supplies as the warehouse was not available to receive their goods this time as a new bases was needed, so the minibus was empty. They were able to bring nine refugees from four families to the UK, including Bohdana, Iilya, Vira, Maria, Sofia, Kseniia, Svitlana, Katerina, and her son Iilya.

They have since met their sponsors in Lincoln, Harwich, Cambridge, Brompton, and Plymouth. Nigel also accompanied a non-English speaking refugee to London and helped her navigate changing stations to get on the correct train to Plymouth to meet her sponsor.