Governments and NGOs have pledged billions of dollars worth of humanitarian aid for Ukraine. It would have nowhere to go without hundreds of European truckers who are volunteering to drive across the Ukrainian border.
No single government agency is responsible for transporting crucial aid into Ukraine. Instead, civilians ranging from independent operators who own their own trucks to employees of trucking companies are getting behind the wheel. Many work without pay, and all are risking their safety to enter a country at war with Russia.
Tons of humanitarian aid is flowing to war-torn areas of Ukraine
Most aid destined to Ukraine travels through Poland, where humanitarian groups gather up food, medicine, and other supplies in transit hubs like Warsaw, Lublin, and Rzeszów. From there, two groups of truckers move aid across the Ukrainian border. For shipments large enough to fill an entire truck, the UN’s logistics arm has hired a fleet of trucks to haul aid from Polish cities to Lviv in western Ukraine.
But for any shipments smaller than a full load, humanitarian groups can contact TruckersLife, a Polish NGO that until the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 25 was focused on giving truck drivers first aid training and building outdoor gyms for drivers at truck stops. Since the invasion, TruckersLife has been connecting humanitarian groups with truckers willing to drive into Ukraine to deliver aid.
Most UN and TruckersLife aid shipments stop at Lviv, which is 50 miles (80 km) from the Polish border and has been relatively safe from the fighting, outside of a recent bombing attack. From there, Ukrainian Railways has carried nearly 6,000 metric tons of aid by rail to cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv. Ukrainian NGO Razom has organized van shipments of aid to northeastern cities like Sumy while constantly changing routes to avoid Russian troops and bombs.
TruckersLife has connected 170 NGOs with about 400 truckers, according to Anna Kuzynin, who heads the organization’s aid efforts. TruckersLife has been recruiting drivers through posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram with the help of trucking influencers like Iwona Blecharczyk (a.k.a. “Trucking Girl”). “It’s been a positive surprise that so many truck drivers and companies have called us and told us, ‘If you need any help, please connect me [to NGOs that need drivers],’” Kuzynin said.
The Ukrainian State Border Guard Services reports that nearly 7,000 vehicles transporting aid have crossed the border between Feb. 25 and March 14. “They have very, very big hearts,” said Kuzynin, adding that truckers across Europe have been supporting Russian, Belarussian, and Ukrainian drivers stranded outside their home countries without food, fuel, or cash. “Since my time working in the foundation, I see truck drivers really want to help each other, and they have the biggest energy to volunteer.”