Proud Ukrainian woman’s efforts to fill a lorry with donations

Published: 5:32 PM March 11, 2022 "I'm proud to be Ukrainian." That is the pledge by a woman living in Blofield Heath who has been volunteering at a Great Yarmouth donation hub for Ukrainian refugees.

Oksana Croom, 49, has been taking part in the Fill an Artic in a Week campaign led by Mandalay Wellbeing CIC and The Priory Centre. Through the efforts of volunteers and the co-operation between businesses across the county, 800 boxes containing food, clothing, hygiene products and other essential items will be loaded onto a 16.5m-long truck headed to Poland on Saturday. Mrs Croom has been helping pack donations into boxes suitable for transport, as well as using her language skills to write the contents of each box in both English and Ukrainian.

A drop off sign.

The Priory Centre near St Nicholas Church will be open for drop-offs from Monday 10am. - Credit: James Weeds

Mrs Croom, originally from a village close to the city of Dnipro, has been living in the UK for 17 years, originally settling in Essex. She, her husband and their 16-year-old son moved to Blofield Heath in 2019. Mrs Croom, who has been helping out at The Priory Centre's Ukrainian donation drop-off point every day since Monday, said volunteering on the project was the least she could do.

She said: "I've been crying all the time, but I feel better if I am helping. "It's been heartbreaking. "I can't believe the courage of these poor people back home.

I'm surprised just how brave Ukrainians are and I am proud to call myself Ukrainian."

Oksana Croom

Oksana Croom is originally from the Dnipro region of Ukraine, but has been living in the UK for 17 years. - Credit: Supplied Mrs Croom's 76-year-old mother is still living in the Dnipro region. Mrs Croom speaks with her mother twice a day.

She said the village is currently not under serious threat, but security teams patrol the area at night and a strict 6pm lights-off order is in place to protect residents from overnight bombing. Mrs Croom said: "My mum is elderly and she wants to stay in Ukraine. It's always a worry when I speak with her." Mrs Croom most recently visited her home village in 2021.

She added: "Our president is amazing. I love our country, our culture and our freedom. "We want to live without Russia controlling us.

"I really hope it will be over soon and Ukraine will keep getting aid from all over the world. It is needed so much. "I have been pleasantly surprised by the world's response to our catastrophe."

The Fill an Artic in a Week Campaign

Businesses across Great Yarmouth have banded together to fill a 44 tonne truck with supplies to take to refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine.

The Priory Centre is hosting the Ukrainian aid drop-off hub for donations and volunteers will be loading a 16.5m-long lorry - provided by CJC Transport Consultants Ltd and PC Thorold's Fresh Produce - on Saturday from 8am.

Trevor Saunders, Rob Haslam, Great Yarmouth mayor Adrian Thompson and Paulina Doncel at the Priory Centre.

Trevor Saunders, Rob Haslam, Great Yarmouth mayor Adrian Thompson and Paulina Doncel at the Priory Centre. - Credit: James Weeds Trevor Saunders said: "We've been going flat out and it is a remarkable achievement. "By tomorrow, we should have around 800 boxes of food, clothing and equipment all ready to head out to Poland to help those most in need.

"Thank you to everyone who has been involved." The lorry will leave The Priory Centre and head to Poland at around midday on Saturday. There is currently a Local Giving appeal to raise funds for the transport.

For more information, please visit the Mandalay Wellbeing Facebook page and the Local Giving website.