the odyssey of helping in the front from an orthodox church in Alcorcón

At 9:15 a.m. on Sunday mass begins in a local Alcorcón that the Ukrainian Orthodox residents in Madrid use for worship. Liturgical decoration, women with covered heads and dozens of people. A queue of people at the doors of the premises listen to the service from outside because the capacity is full.

This is the first stop for humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine. Vasil is a Ukrainian volunteer who has spent eight years coordinating with bases in war zones to send basic necessities from Spain. He has been living in Madrid for 20 years, but he plans to return to his native Lviv (550 km from Kiev) if the conflict situation worsens. From their country of origin they periodically send a message to WhatsApp with the medicines that are missing in the war zones and hospitals. They request bandages, syringes, analgesics, band-aids, ibuprofen, nolotil and antibiotics.

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Two women attend Sunday morning mass at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Alcorcón where many have come to donate.  (AF)


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Two women attend Sunday morning mass at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Alcorcón where many have come to donate. (AF)

Two women attend Sunday morning mass at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Alcorcón where many have come to donate. (AF)

He is in charge of contacting the Ukrainian community in Madrid and spreading the message. From Maidan 2014, Vasil has sent an average of two bags of clothes of 60 kilos each weekly to Ukraine. In recent days donations have multiplied.

The Ukrainian has arrived at the church this morning to go to mass and collect the bags with the donations. The Ukrainian Orthodox faithful from the south of the city come to this place in San José de Valderas, while Catholics do it to a church in Las Margaritas (Getafe)where food, clothing and medicine have also been received throughout the weekend.

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One of the boxes with gauzes and medicines.  (AF)


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One of the boxes with gauzes and medicines. (AF)

One of the boxes with gauzes and medicines. (AF)

The drug journey

Olena, an Orthodox Ukrainian who frequently visits Alcorcón, helps Vasil carry all the bags of medicine to his car. Once loaded, this volunteer heads for a Ukrainian convenience store. Valmojado Street in Alucheowned by Victor Z. Havryliu, owner of the Grandestour coach company. At around 12 in the morning Nicolás receives him, Víctor’s first hand and who is in charge of organizing the multitude of boxes that arrive at the premises. In this space he also sells tickets to Ukraine and, while he checks some bags, he explains to Vasil that at 10 in the morning of the same Sunday another bus left with 44 passengers with their luggage loaded with food and clothing.

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Vasil with the car loaded with donations.  (AF)


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Vasil with the car loaded with donations. (AF)

Vasil with the car loaded with donations. (AF)

They have been collaborating together since 2014, but the donation boom has increased since Thursday, when news broke that the Kremlin had attacked some Ukrainian cities. “There are people who call me directly and come to my house with bags,” explains Vasil. And if these years the collaboration has always been on the part of the Ukrainians in Madrid (more than 23,000 live in the capital), now Spanish society has also turned to the cause.

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Some passengers waiting to get on the bus to Kiev in Méndez Álvaro.  (AF)


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Some passengers waiting to get on the bus to Kiev in Méndez Álvaro. (AF)

Some passengers waiting to get on the bus to Kiev in Méndez Álvaro. (AF)

The volunteer explains that some of his friends have left with their own cars for the Ukraine to collaborate: this is also the case of Ilona’s fatheran 18-year-old resident of La Cabrera who recounts that her father left in his vehicle for Lviv -near Poland- to facilitate transportation for those who want to leave the country to the border.

With all the products separated in boxes – medicine on one side and food on the other – Vasil sets course for Méndez Álvaro. It’s half past one in the afternoon and it’s a fair bit of time, but he manages to get to dock 60 where 35 Ukrainians wait in line to get on the bus. All the material collected during the morning will remain in the Ukrainian store in Aluche until Tuesday, because the Sunday bus has already managed to fill it, but it has to go to the station to deliver the donations in bills that it has received in recent days.

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Bus destination Kiev.  (AF)


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Bus destination Kiev. (AF)

Bus destination Kiev. (AF)

Every Sunday, a bus from the Grandestour company leaves the South Station of Madrid Sur at 2:00 p.m. bound for Kiev. It has the capacity to accommodate 73 travelers -who now carry basic necessities with them- but it also transports all the merchandise collected by the network of volunteers. This will be the final destination (in Spain) of the humanitarian network. At the Lviv (Lviv) stop, Ukrainians coordinated with Vasil will review the material and transfer it to military bases and war hospitals.

Once at the station, Vasil delivers the donations to the bus driver with whom he has also collaborated for years while the passengers weigh their luggage. Liana is a middle-aged woman who had a job in Spain, but she has decided to return to be with her son. The same thing happens to Eugenio. this ukrainian He is originally from Mariupol., the first city of Donbas invaded by the Russians this week. Despite the fact that it is one of the most dangerous points in the country, she says that she prefers to return because her mother and her children live there.

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Eugenio travels back to Mariúpol.  (AF)


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Eugenio travels back to Mariúpol. (AF)

Eugenio travels back to Mariúpol. (AF)

At 2:00 p.m., the bus departs from Madrid’s South Station loaded with sanitary products and equipment for Ukraine. What’s more, the ukramarket store, on Calle Méndez Álvaro, has been collecting donations all weekend. On Saturday, four vans driven by volunteers left and on Sunday they opened their doors for those who wanted to drop off basic necessities until four in the afternoon.

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