Caring Normanton couple were overwhelmed by the number of refugees they saw in Poland

Like many people Gareth Durham and Abbie Quinn have been moved by the plight of the refugees in Ukraine.
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And after a late-night television news report that left Abbie in tears, the couple, who own Phoenix Martial Arts in Normanton, decided to do something to help.

They put out an appeal to their business contacts and the 210 students of the martial arts school and within a matter of days had £2,000 and enough essential medical and baby supplies to fill their old Land Rover Discovery and trailer.

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Gareth said: “We thought about taking a van but decided the seven-seater Discovery would probably be of more use.”

Using a network of contacts Gareth and Abbie got in touch with 10 other people in different European countries, who together raised £30,000.

They agreed to meet up in Luxembourg and travel in convoy to Poland.

Eleven hours later the convoy reached Poland and the following morning they went to their first refugee centre in Wroclaw to drop off supplies.

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Abbie said: “We were taken aback by the amount of women, children and elderly people queuing outside in -2c waiting for food and blankets.”

A Ukrainian couple and their dog who were taken to safety by Gareth and AbbieA Ukrainian couple and their dog who were taken to safety by Gareth and Abbie
A Ukrainian couple and their dog who were taken to safety by Gareth and Abbie

The next stop was Katowice to go shopping and reload the vehicles which they dropped off the following morning in Przemysl.

Gareth said: “Once again we were overwhelmed by the number of refugees standing outside.

“There were all three emergency services, piles of rubbish, tents, lorries, buses, campfires: it was absolute chaos.”

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The couple registered as drivers and were taken into the refugee centre.

Gareth said: “We were asked if we would take a married couple and their elderly mother who were from Chystiakove, in the area of Donetsk, Ukraine, to safety.

“Their home is gone. They had nothing. Just a basket, a sack of food, a tiny suitcase and Archie, their terrified dog.”

Gareth, Abbie and their passengers set off to drive three hours north without the security of the other members of the convoy.

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Gareth said: “Despite all they had gone through the family still managed to smile.

“They had walked for days, caught a train and then trusted us to help them get to a facility which would house them for a little while.

After more than 11 hours of driving Gareth and Abbie then caught up with the convoy in Dresden where they met two women who had travelled from Mykolaiv and needed a lift to meet up with friends in Metz.

They made their way back to Paris and arrived home a week later, emotionally and physically exhausted.

Abbie said: “We had some great moments but it’s just impossible to forget what we saw.”

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