Three people from Edmonton, including two firefighters, have recently returned from a five-day trip to Ukraine — delivering 14 tons of much-needed rescue equipment.
“Within 24 hours, we were unloaded from the plane, loaded onto our trucks and on our way and across the border to Ukraine — delivering the equipment right to the state emergency services,” said Kevin Royle, founder and director of Firefighter Aid Ukraine.
The Edmonton firefighter has made several trips like this over the past decade.
“This one was obviously a little bit of a different experience being that they’re involved in a full-scale invasion,” Royle said. “I was worried. I wanted to make sure that equipment actually made it to them and not into a bottleneck at a border.”
Royle said he’s heard stories of critical aid and equipment getting stuck in a queue at the border.
“I don’t want that to happen to our equipment,” he said.
Recently, images of Ukrainian firefighters wearing gear from Edmonton started circulating online.
“The moment that story on CNN hit the airwaves, I was getting phone calls,” Royle said. “I wasn’t surprised to see it there, because I’ve seen lots of images sent to me by firefighters in communities telling us about how amazing equipment we’ve sent in the past is and how critical it is to their job and their protection.”
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Royle said he’s glad the equipment is serving its purpose, but sad it has to be used in this type of situation.
“We’ve shipped over shipping containers and small packages over to Ukraine for eight years now,” he explained. “It’s not the last one either, so you’ll probably see more of it.”
President of the Alberta Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, Vitaliy Milentyev was part of the trip, too.
He said seeing the massive lines of refugees at the border was heartbreaking.
“Crossing the border was a very eye opening experience,” Milentyev explained. “You could see that it hits them very hard when they first crossed that border, realizing that they are now refugees.”
Milentyev said this isn’t the country he used to know and he hopes the the world starts taking more drastic action on this war.
“To people outside of Ukraine it may look like local conflict. For people inside the country it is a full-fledged war,” he explained. “I’m afraid if the world continues being where we’re at, supporting from a distance, Ukraine may feel a lot more pain before it’s over.”
Firefighter Aid Ukraine is actively collecting more equipment — canvassing donors, sponsors, businesses and communities for help.
“This equipment is what they need to save lives and drag people out of the rubble and fight these fires that are raging everywhere from all these attacks,” Royle said.