A NEWPORT man who travelled to war-torn Ukraine to help people living with the impact of the Russian invasion has spoken about his experiences.

Former Argus reporter Joseph Draper, who now lives in Bournemouth, “powerfully felt” that he had to help Ukraine after Russia invaded on February 24.

“A lot of people were overcome by shock and heartbreak, seeing this happening in the middle of Europe,” said Mr Draper, 24.

“I felt powerfully that I had to help, and I heard about this humanitarian convoy – led by Tom Littledyke – to Lviv in Ukraine.”

The National Wales:

Pub landlord, Tom Littledyke, addresses the convoy before heading to Ukraine

Although it was last minute, after arranging time off work, he joined the group in bringing 12 vehicles of aid to Ukraine in March.

It was here that they met Sofia Sydorenko – who was an “ordinary person doing an ordinary job” until recently.

She now runs a network of supply lines from her tiny flat in Lviv.

“Sofia and her team put their lives at risk every day,”

continued Mr Draper.

“Ordinary people are doing the majority of work on the ground, with less than one per cent of donations going to them.”

The National Wales:

Sofia Sydorenko (left) who helped arrange the rescue of of Natalia (right), her parents and four cats from Mariupol

Part of what Ms Sydorenko does is helping organise evacuations from placed under siege; during one of these evacuations six of her drivers were captured by Russian forces.

One of these drivers “miraculously” escaped the concentration camp where they had been tortured – returning with broken ribs, smashed teeth, and nails ripped off.

“We saw the human cost of conflict and the impact on the refugees,” said Mr Draper.

“I had a sense that I had to do more to help.”

The National Wales:

The team in Ukraine

Although back on British soil now, Mr Draper is preparing to walk the entire Jurassic Coast – which is more than 100 miles – in four days, raising funds to send to Ms Sydorenko who will “know where the money is best placed”.

He will be joined by his friend, Joe Holt, on taking on the challenge – which is essentially four marathons in four days – from July 16 to July 19, with the duo camping along the way.

“I hate camping,” admitted Mr Draper.

“I see no point in it whatsoever so it’s not going to be the most pleasant experience.

“We’ve raised more than £600 so far, so I’m feeling the pressure to get it done; all it takes is a sprained ankle or injury to force you to stop.”

The National Wales:

Joseph Draper training ahead of the challenge. Picture: Max Willcock

He opted for the Jurassic Coast walk at it’s not far from where he lives - and to pay homage to refugees who have been forced to flee their homes on foot.

He hopes the challenge will empower people to take on their own challenges or to donate to those helping on the ground in Ukraine.

The National Wales:

Joseph Draper training ahead of the challenge. Picture: Max Willcock

“This [conflict] will impact all of us and the world which our children will inherit,” said Mr Draper.

“Ukraine didn’t choose this, but we can choose to help – even if it’s just by donating; it’s that easy.”

People can donate online at https://bit.ly/3uuAZlJ