May 18, 2022

A young Ukrainian man bringing aid to the war-torn country from his new Co Antrim home is also on mission to rescue his family.

elatives of Michael Jevdokymenko, including his three-year-old cousin, are stranded on the Polish border after fleeing the city of Lviv on Friday when it was attacked by the invading Russian army.

After dropping off much needed medical supplies to refugees at the border on Sunday he intends bringing his relatives back to Northern Ireland for a new life away from bombs and bullets.

Michael, who moved to the Ballymena area a decade ago as a child, told Sunday Life: “It will take us 20 hours by road from France to reach the Ukraine/Poland border.

“I have family at the border and the issue with them is that they are currently waiting for us to rescue them, to arrive and pick them up. My aunt tried to hide in the city of Lviv beside the border, but on Friday she had to escape because the Russians started bombarding that place as well. She is there with her three-year-old child.”

Michael explained how his relatives are originally from the city of Malyn, which is 200km from the Ukranian capital Kiev.

They spent two days getting away from the attack there,” he said. “Then they eventually reached Lviv, the closest town to the Polish border. The Russians started bombarding that area on Friday so that is why they are at the border. It’s not really safe at the border.

I am so worried for their safety and their lives,” added Michael

“I don’t even care what happens to me so long as they are safe. Imagine how they must feel.”

When the Russian army invaded neighbouring Ukraine a fortnight ago Michael said his first instinct was to enlist in the Ukrainian army.

However, he was talked out of it by friends who convinced him he could be of more use sending aid from Northern Ireland and rescuing refugees.

“My first instinct when the war broke out was to go back to Ukraine and help out with the army,” said Michael.

“But after speaking to my family I thought it would be more useful to stay here and with my father to go over to Ukraine to provide aid.

“We have a full van with medical supplies, everything that could be needed. The people of Northern Ireland have been brilliant, we filled the van on the first day after asking for donations. When we come back to Northern Ireland we want to fill the van again and return with aid to Ukraine.”

Michael’s aid efforts have won the admiration of the entire north Antrim community including its MP, Ian Paisley Jnr.

The DUP politician raised the plight of Michael’s relatives in the House of Commons last week, telling fellow MPs: “My constituent Michael Jevdokymenko has been contacted by his family, who have fled from Ukraine. They have no documents, no papers — nothing. They are at the border with a little three-year-old child. What assistance can we provide to give that family hope, to get them to Northern Ireland and to let them re-establish some semblance of normality? Where is the Christian compassion for which this nation was known?”

Michael is accompanied on his mission by Vladimir Jevdokymenko, Michal Bernard  —  owner of Bernard Woodwork — and Marek Serik. Praising their efforts, he said: “They really are doing everything they can to help the people of Ukraine.”


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