Hunters and anglers mount huge Ukraine aid effort

by Deborah Hadfield

Around the world, people are watching the relentless and ruthless assault on Ukraine. Many are not just horror-struck. They are moved to action. The Russian attack is leaving millions of people homeless. 

The refugees’ suffering is a call to action for shooters and hunters all over Europe.

The Kimblewick Hunt in Buckinghamshire is one of many collecting aid. The response to the Kimblewick’s call is overwhelming. People have been donating warm clothing, blankets, back packs and sleeping bags. Four lorry loads are on their way to Poland. Eleasha Sallis of Kimblewick Kennels, says people have come from far afield. She says: “We’ve been staggered by how far people have driven just to come and help to do their part.

“Sunday really is what blew us away. It just took everyone’s breath away. We had a convoy of cars down the road. We had everyone from the kennels helping. All the team and the kids were helping ferry stuff out of people’s cars. We had the public coming to drop stuff off and they were staying for 45 minutes to help with sorting, clearing, and putting things into categories. It’s been emotional.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine Equestrian Relief has taken nine horse boxes loaded with aid from the UK to Poland. Stephen Barnes, who works with the High Peak Trail Hunt, is leading the mission which has raised more than £35,000. Hunters and shooters from all over the U.K during the mammoth journey. Stephen says ‘The biggest challenge is logistics Getting people there, moving stuff around, picking it up, stopping and sorting it, and taking it down there. The logistics of moving people around through borders away from the UK and also managing people and keeping us all on a route to a destination.’ For Stephen the most special moment was meeting the refuges. He says: “The highlight for me was definitely the refugee reception point. When you have a language barrier and people just come forward and give you a hug, that’s amazing.”

Taras Oliynik works for Ibis Hunting & Guns in Kyiv and has stayed behind to fight the Russians (full story here). He says the work people are doing to help refugees makes all the difference to fighters on the frontline. He says ‘My family are now in France. I know a lot of women and children are now in Europe, and probably in the UK. So, thanks a lot for everyone who have helped them and have them in a safe place. And that’s a really huge help for us because we can fight without worrying about our families.”

Hunters and shooters from Oxfordshire also took aid to Poland for refugees. Shooting ground and gunmaker EJ Churchill paid for the fuel. Shooter Richard Binning, who’s a farmer and land agent from Oxford, was one of the drivers. He says: “A really warm glow delivering donated goods that these people needed. It also made us realise what a local effort it is. Our contact was with the local town council he had literally got his brother in the local football team to help us unload the vans. The best part was the support that the Polish people felt from us being there.”

Feeding people is the top priority for the International Council for Game & Wildlife Conservation (CIC). Its members and partners are helping refugees who have crossed the border into neighbouring countries.

Local hunting associations are running food distribution centres. The CIC is donating meat equipment and materials.

The Angling Trust in the UK is running a fundraising appeal. The money is going to the Red Cross. Martin Salter of the Angling Trust says that people value how anglers, as a community, can play their part. He says: “We’re doing this as anglers as well as members of the human race.

“I spend a lot of money in tackle shops. I spend a lot of money on baits. And I think, well, perhaps a proportion of all I’m going to spend on my pleasure could go to providing medicines or providing warm clothing for people that really need it. So, perhaps a little bit of our fishing budget this year could go to helping not just fellow anglers but our fellow citizens in Ukraine who really do need our assistance at this terrible time.”

Angler Ian Smith, of Outlaw Pro, a fishing supplies company in Billericay, Essex, has donated £10,000 to the Trust’s appeal. He gave all of the takings from his stand at The Big One fishing show in Farnborough, Hampshire. He says: “I think because Ukraine is so close there’s always somebody that’s been really personally affected. Whenever I’ve spoken to people, friends, relatives, work colleagues, we’ve agreed how terrible it is. And then there’s always an additional comment to that: ‘Oh, yeah. My next-door neighbor sister lives there or, oh, my brother’s girlfriend – she’s from there.

“There’s always some connection somewhere to that region of the world. It’s just such a barbaric war, the way the bullying has gone on with these people who just want to live in peace.”

Richard Walton sent thousands of coats to refugees with the Coats to Syria appeal. The keen stag hunter in the South West of England has set up a Just Giving page to raise £5,000 for Ukraine. He says most people have been affected by what they’ve seen on the television. He says: “It really does give an easy way for people to donate directly to charities and the wonderful thing about the disaster emergency fund is that the government is actually match-funding any donations made.

“It’s a very fluid situation, and it’s why I decided that it was important to give money to charities who can actually react and respond to that fluidity.”

In Ireland, Tipperary gamedealer Paul Fletcher of Premier Game set out in April 2022 with deer meat for Ukraine. He is driving from Ireland to the Ukrainian border in Poland with venison burgers, sausages and meat, donated by Irish deerstalkers from the Wild Deer Association of Ireland. The crisis in Ukraine has moved them to take action. Paul is making the 5,000-mile round trip alone and is funding  the costs himself. 

Christopher Scheibe is an angler with a fishing lodge in Norway. He is leading convoys from Germany rescuing refugees who’ve escaped from Ukraine. He says it’s getting more difficult. Speaking from the Ukrainian border, he says: “We haven’t been very successful in the last two or three days at the Polish border itself, because we are exactly where the bombs went off.

“Eight kilometres is the distance to the airfield and the military base that was bombed by the Russians. So, the refugee stream has trickled here.

“Of the refugees that are here, I have to say they’ve all been brilliant. It’s a long trip. Some of them have been on foot for four days with small children. Some of them have been traveling for eight or nine days, sometimes without food. So far every single family or every single mother that we relocated, among the first question that they ask is, where can I work?”

Christopher says he’s fascinated by the spirit and positive attitude of the refugees. He says: “They will take our help, but they don’t want to be dependent.”

Christopher has faced problems bringing refugees back from Poland. He says: “Earlier today, we were somewhat frustrated in Krakow. We were at the train station, and it was full of refugees, completely filled to the brim. And we couldn’t get any because we weren’t registered. He says it can take three days to get registered.

“I was talking to another refugee group from Hamburg who had brought in excess of 2,000 people out of Poland into Germany. They’ve been arrested by the police and threatened. We do understand that the police are trying to secure or try to work on the security for the refugees, but they’re all believing the story of people being here to trade in organs and put people into prostitution, which is kind of weird when you’re there with a double decker bus with 60 people in it.”

Most of the refugees are women and children. Once they have visas they’ll need somewhere to live. Around 50 Scottish states have offered refugees houses and jobs. The fieldsports community is helping at home and on the front line.

As refugees flee Ukraine, the things they need change Some of the aid taken to Poland has already been dumped. People are being asked to check what charities need before they donate. One thing is certain: as the crisis gets worse, millions more people from Ukraine will need help. The fieldsports community is rallying to support the refugees.

Christopher Scheibe drives refugees

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