Aussie man’s brave mission to Ukraine

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Australian businessman’s lifesaving ambulance convoy to Ukraine frontline

An Australian man has risked his life more than once this year travelling into a war zone to deliver ambulances to the people of Ukraine.

Most people wouldn’t voluntarily enter a war zone, but James Spenceley has recently crossed into Ukraine for the fourth time since the war broke out.

The Australian businessman is on a mission to deliver lifesaving ambulances to the front lines.

“We’re in Mykolaiv, which is about 20km from the frontline around Kherson in the south,” he said.

The town typically has a population of about 500,000, but that number has essentially halved since the war began.

James Spenceley is delivering his fourth convoy of ambulances to Ukraine. Picture: Supplied

This is Mr Spenceley’s fourth trip to the war zone since Russia invaded almost eight months ago.

The founder of international telco Vocus Group and chairman of Airtasker has followed the invasion very closely, as his wife Viktoriia is Ukrainian.

“We were just looking for a way to help,” he said.

Successful 3rd day delivering ambulances in ukraine, always lots of interesting things flying by as you get closer to the front.

On Tuesday his team crossed over the Polish border with seven ambulances in tow.

They delivered the first to the Red Cross before they moved on to deliver the critical care vehicles to first responder teams on the frontline.

“Mykolaiv is probably the hardest-hit town,” he said.

The city of Mykolaiv is getting hit by six to eight rockets each night. Picture: Supplied

“The guy from the Red Cross was telling me they get six to eight rockets every night.”

Just as he spoke, a warning alarm sounded through the window.

“It’s just gone off actually,” he said.

The crew will deliver seven ambulances this trip. Picture: Supplied

He cracked open the window and the eerie scream of the siren rang through the night.

Mr Spenceley said he’s pretty safe in the middle of the hotel, but he walked into the bathroom anyway. It’s the safest space he can get to before the rocket approaches the town.

“I’m definitely more used to it,” he said.

The ambulances can transport 20 people at time for urgent medical care. Picture: Supplied
So far the team has raised another $260,000. Picture: Supplied

“We were walking to dinner tonight and the siren went off and that was pretty eerie because the streets are pitch black.

“It’s not like the first time you hear it when your whole body goes cold and you think something is going to land on your head at that very moment.”

Mr Spenceley decided to help fundraise money to purchase ambulances after discovering the Ukrainian army was losing them at a rapid rate from bombings and damaged roads.

Mr Spenceley said the first time he heard the rocket siren his body went cold. Picture: Supplied
The ambulances are adorned with Australian flags. Picture: Supplied

“Once we got in the country, we saw just how much they appreciate the ambulances and how many lives it can save,” he said.

An ambulance can evacuate around 20 people to urgent medical care in one trip, a need which is becoming more pressing than ever as Russia has turned to targeting civilian populations with more force.

The Ukrainians are determined to fight for freedom. Picture: Supplied

Mr Spenceley said the thing that struck him about the Ukrainians was their resolve to not back down as the war raged on.

“I was talking to a volunteer soldier and he had kids about the same age as I did,” he said.

“And I said to him how do you do that when you have kids at home, how do you reconcile that you might not see them again?

“He said, ‘The thing that I fear most, more than not seeing my kids again, is that my kids don’t get to grow up in a free country’, and that’s the feeling here.”

Had to stop and have a chat with these kids selling icetea and biscuits to raise fund for their Army.

When Mr Spenceley was in Lviv in August, he came across two primary-school-aged kids running a lemonade stand on the side of the road.

They said they were raising money for the Ukrainian army.

“There is no sugar-coating it, the kids know they are at war, they know members of family won’t come back,” he said.

Children are motivated to help contribute to the war efforts. Picture: Supplied

“They don’t seem afraid of it, they just seem motivated by it.”

Overnight, Mykolaiv residents grieved the loss of a six-year-old child who was killed during a rocket attack.

Despite facing the devastation of their people and country every day, the Ukrainians showed a single-minded determination to win the war, Mr Spenceley said.

A six-year-old child was killed during a rocket attack in Mykolaiv. Picture: Supplied

“The more Russia throws at them, it’s having the reverse effect,” he said.

“It’s strengthening the resolve that Ukrainian people can’t live under Russian terrorists.”

Mr Spenceley reminded Australians that even though the war might not feature on our television screens as often, it still raging on.

Mr Spenceley urges Australians to keep supporting Ukraine. Picture: Supplied

“Nothing’s changed here, there’s still cities getting hit with rockets, there’s still front lines with people in villages that are caught there, a lot of fighting, a lot of injured and unfortunately, a lot of people are dying,” he said.

“They need as much support as they can get.”

His GoFundMe fundraiser has raised more than $260,000 to bulk purchase an extra 10 ambulances.

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