11 April 2022
AA Patrol Leader, Gary Holian showed his true colours recently when he volunteered to support an aid convoy delivering urgent aid to the Poland / Ukraine border.
Gary and his wife, Nadia, are part of a team who help to arrange support for those affected by the war in Ukraine. The team, based at The Ukrainian Centre in Ashton Under Lyne, Manchester, sent their first shipment of 500 boxes containing much needed aid to the Poland / Ukraine border last month.
As the couple watched the situation in Ukraine escalate on the news, Gary felt the need to do more than he was already doing. At this point, he was introduced to a friend of Nadia’s Ukrainian family, who informed him that a second aid convoy was leaving for the Poland / Ukraine border in four days’ time.
On hearing this news, and knowing he had annual leave booked from work, Gary immediately volunteered to join the convoy. He passed his details to the organisers on the Tuesday and left for Poland three days later (Friday 25th March).
Major setback in Krakow
“When we broke down, it felt like a case of ‘so near–yet so far’
The aid convoy consisted of nine volunteer drivers and five vehicles. The plan was to drive the laden vehicles from Preston – Dover – Calais – Belgium – Germany and on to the Polish border where the vehicles would be handed over to a team of Ukrainian colleagues.But, as the cohort approached Krakow, Poland, two of the vehicles developed engine trouble and couldn’t be repaired at the roadside. Gary was aware that the AA were already supporting the Ukraine support effort, so he contacted the groups European Breakdown headquarters in Lyon, France. After a brief conversation with European breakdown coordinator, Naty Boisson, help was on its way!
Gary said: “When we broke down, it felt like a case of ‘so near–yet so far’ but after just one call to the AA team in Lyon, with a brief explanation of our situation it was all hands to the pumps! Naty made all the necessary arrangements, and we were quickly recovered to safety.
Gary (4th from left) with some of the volunteers
“The aid parcels were transferred from the broken-down vehicles to the remaining vehicles for onward travel to Medyka, Poland. We later received word that the aid we had sent was successfully delivered across the border and directly to the people of Ukraine. Hearing this news made our flight home much more comfortable.”
The AA is also supporting Ukrainian people in other ways. https://www.theaa.com/about-us/newsroom/support-for-ukraine
The motoring organisation has donated to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal and is matching staff donations. Charities and local councils have also been offered unused office space at AA’s Fanum House headquarters in Basingstoke, where they can store aid parcels awaiting shipment. Free temporary AA signs have been used to flag donation points at Folkestone.
The AA Charitable Trust is offering free 2-hour driver refresher lessons to Ukrainian refugees in the UK and has already signed up the first applicants. The AA is also keen to employ Ukrainian refugees in the UK and is already in discussions with RefuAid to help facilitate this.
Edmund King OBE, AA president said: “We have all seen the terrible news coming daily out of Ukraine. Sometimes we feel helpless and just really want to help just as Gary and his team have done. At the AA we are keen to do what we can to support Ukrainians.“Like many others, we are devastated at what has been happening in Ukraine. We are now offering job opportunities as well as providing free storage space, signage and European breakdown cover to support refugee donations.
“For Ukrainian refugees in the UK, the AA Charitable Trust is offering free Drive Confident refresher courses via AA Driving School and BSM to improve their confidence and brush up on forgotten skills, as well as helping them adjust to driving on the other side of the road.
"The course will also cover road markings, signs, roundabouts and can be tailored to the needs of the individual. We hope the course will help Ukrainians in some small way to adjust to life in the UK.”