The owners and workers of Ucramarket, a grocery store located at number 8 Méndez Álvaro street, in MadridThey never imagined that they would turn that small business into a humanitarian aid collection point, much less that the destination would be his own country: Ukraine. “We’ve been non-stop since Saturday. Today we send two or three vans who will go to the Romanian border and return. We did not expect to organize all this, we thought to fill nothing more than a vehicle and we are overwhelmed”, tells RTVE.es Katerina, one of the shop assistants of that place.
Saddened, like the rest of her colleagues, by the situation that her family and compatriots have been experiencing since she began the gwar in ukrainedraws strength from where he can to continue serving customers and at the same time manage all the donations that arrive each day.
“We collect canned food, medicine and clothing military or protection, and thermal for children too”, summarizes Kristina, a young woman born in Madrid, but of Ukrainian parents, who goes every day as a volunteer to lend a hand in the organization and load the vehicles.
They are tons of solidarity the ones they are receiving, they say, and the ones that are then in charge of sending to a population that has been suffering an invasion for a week that, they say, “hurts a lot” from a distance.
They receive food, baby milk and thermal clothing, among other products
before such wave of generosity and empathyKaterina only has words of gratitude: “I feel very proud of the help that they are giving us, of Spain and of the Ukrainians who live here, I feel super proud“, emphasizes the young woman, who is 26 years old and lives in Madrid with her husband and her nine-month-old baby.
Although it is difficult to quantify the aid, he believes that they will be able to exceed one hundred tons of basic products, despite the fact that it was never in the business plans in which he works to make a “massive” collection or become a kind of “NGO”. What the staff had planned, he says, was to send a single truck to his country, but the support received has been so great that the association ‘Culture without Borders’ contacted them to help them expand the initiative.
“It’s exciting,” says Katerina, who indicates that there are already three vans that have been sent to Ukraine, with three tons each. They will be joined by the “two or three” that will leave this Thursday and that are, in reality, the same vehicles that come and go, regardless of the kilometers that separate Madrid from Ukraine when it comes to helping in such an urgent situation.
On the narrow sidewalk outside the store – a small grocery store selling Ukrainian foods – more than a dozen volunteers of different nationalities work tirelessly in a chain to collect the products and put them inside boxes in an orderly manner. On one side, food, on another, hygiene products, on another, drugs, and so on with all the packages they receive from neighbors in the neighborhood or residents in any other area of the city. In fact, throughout the morning numerous people have passed through Ucramarket who have crossed the capital from end to end.
During this continuous movement, a volunteer who works wrapped in a huge Ukrainian flag He sticks different signs on the front of the store to indicate what is most needed at any given time. This Thursday morning, for example, they have warned that they should not carry more clothing for adults because they are going to prioritize the shipment of canned food (not in glass jars), powdered milk, thermal or military clothing and animal feed. They also say that tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, headphones or batteries are useful.
“It is very important that we each bring what we can. They are human beings and, like everyone else, we would like them to help us“, says an older woman unable to hold back her tears. Although she is from Madrid and the war is physically far away from her, she assures that she is closely following what is happening and that it seems like a tragedy to her. That is why she has gone to the store to deliver a thermal bag for babies and some hats.
Hundreds of people have gone to leave bags or boxes: “All help is little”
Teresa and Jesús, a married couple who are also listening with concern to the news coming from the Ukraine, have left the volunteers several bags full of food, compresses, baby products and even cans of cocido madrileño because, they say, “it’s quite energetic”.
Jesus explains that they have not doubted for a moment that they had to contribute their “grain” of sand: “Refugees arriving in other countries They are lucky to have what they are given in those countries, but those who are still inside may now have a worse situation,”
“It is necessary. Each of us must contribute what we can (…) These people they haven’t had time to prepare anything and that help has to come from others who have a little more peace of mind to think about what is necessary. At the moment we have to feel part of the world and not only with our beret from our townTheresa adds.
“Right now we have to feel part of the world and not just our people“
As they drop off their bags, more people keep arriving to ask how they can help or to drop off their donation. Among them, Ángel, who has bought canned food and painkillersor Marí Carmen, who takes cans of stew, lentils, tuna, anchovies, sardines and cookies out of her shopping cart. “All help is little,” says the woman.
A young woman delivers hospital supplies: “It’s the hardest thing to get”
close to them, Oxana, a young Ukrainian resident in Madrid, parks his car right in front of the store to be able to take out a dozen boxes full of hospital supplies. According to her, she says, they have collected it together with residents of his urbanization and it includes donations from some toilets whom he knows: “There are intravenous medicines, things for the operating room… This is the hardest thing to achieve,” he says.
She believes that although solidarity “won’t stop the war yes, it can quickly help those who are suffering from it. It includes in this group of victims his own parents, who live in Kiev and that they are trying to leave the country. “They are analyzing which of the borders is less collapsed and, as they go with more people, some do not have a passport to leave, so they see how they can do it,” says the young woman, who is also very concerned about how the conflict will develop.
The Oxana boxes will surely be loaded directly onto the vans, but there are other products that reach the hands of the volunteers in bags or that come directly from the shopping carts and therefore have to be packed. This work would not be possible without the help of people like Maria, who has the mission of assemble the receiving cartons.
“Is he third day we come to help, to bring thingsWhat gas money, which is very important, and help a little. We try to make as many boxes as possible so that they can put the products and organize them”, explains the woman, who indicates that one of the fundamental donations is precisely those cardboard boxes.
“Here we bring more boxes”, says two minutes later a neighborhood resident whose face can hardly be seen because of the pile of cardboard he carries stacked in his arms. Next to him, two other men ask for help to remove heavy packages from the trunk of a double-parked car.
Volunteers travel 4,000 kilometers in a van to deliver aid
The last link in the chain of solidarity It is represented by the transfer by land of all those boxes and there are several Ukrainian volunteers who travel about 4,000 kilometers in a van that separate Madrid from Ukraine just to leave the aid at one of the borders and then return for more.
“This is how we fill it up and they leave directly for the border (…) We took it to many places in the Ukraine”, explains Kristina.
Later, Katerina details that the first three vans reached the border with Poland, but that the “two or three” that come out this Thursday They will try to go to the border with Romania, which is precisely the closest to the town of Chernovtsi, where their relatives live.
Once there, Ukrainian military will be responsible for distributing the aid for different cities of that country that has been resisting an invasion for seven days in which, according to data from the Ukrainian Government, more than 2,000 civilians have already died.
“We have no other way to help them. We do it like this. This is will, will and willKaterina emphasizes.