Artillery vehicle

Ukrainian War: British man dodging Russian artillery fire and evacuating civilians in a van | world news

Dodging artillery fire and Russian drones, a Briton is part of a team rushing into recently liberated villages in eastern Ukraine to evacuate civilians and bring them to safety.

“The destruction is just ridiculous,” Chris Parry told Sky News after a recent mission to a village east of Lyman saw them fired upon by Russian forces.

“We were being shelled by artillery because they were watching us with a drone, then waiting for us to park, then they had a minute or two to try to hit us.”

Once in the village, they knock on the doors and try to explain through an interpreter that they are there to help and not Russians who are going to take them to a forest and kill them.

“And today there was a pretty big artillery fight between the Ukrainians and the Russians, in which we were in between.

“So we were often affected by that. Running to the car with people, trying to get in the car and then leaving as soon as possible was pretty high on the priority list.”

The evacuees are brought back to Kramatorsk and then to Sloviansk for treatment, Mr Parry explains.

Chris Parry evacuated Ukrainian civilians from recently liberated villages

Describing himself as a bit of a thrill seeker, he says the scariest moment was probably when their group heard a drone overhead.

“At least with the artillery you hear the Russian artillery firing and then you hear the whistle.

“And as soon as you hear the whistle, you drop to the ground and hope he’s far enough away that you don’t die from shrapnel.

“But with drones, it’s a silent killer, which scares everyone a bit.”

Chris Parry evacuated Ukrainian civilians from recently liberated villages.  Pictured with Tasha Dubovik, local volunteer in Lviv
Image:
Mr. Parry with Tasha Dubovik, a local volunteer in Lviv

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A year ago, Chris Parry knew very little about Ukraine, but as soon as he heard the news of the invasion, he knew he had to go help.

He flew to Poland, with the original intention of joining the Ukrainian army, crossed the Ukrainian border on March 5, and ended up in supplies to Kharkiv at the start of the war.

In May, he worked to evacuate the besieged city of Severodonetsk before it finally fell in late June.

“It was getting bombed pretty much every minute,” he said, describing how his team worked with coordinators to reach people and get them out of town.

Then came a tricky part – returning home to the UK to tell his parents he had worked in Ukraine, not Poland as they had thought.

“They were proud, (but) very worried,” he said.

“I don’t want to worry them more than they need to, but I think it’s important that people hear about volunteer opportunities as well.”

Chris Parry evacuated Ukrainian civilians from recently liberated villages

Mr Parry, who was born in Cornwall and lives in Cheltenham, worked as a running coach before the war broke out.

In the months he worked on the front lines in Ukraine, he says he saw things that will stick with him.

Discussing an operation last week, he said: “I picked up a woman and she had four young children aged between 5 and 12, and they had been living in their basement under occupation since March.

“Her husband had been kidnapped by the Russians, so of course they are extremely worried about him.

“We finally got them to safety. In the car they were crying, just terrified.

“But when they came here and they came out and we gave them a bed and the lights were on, they gave me a big hug – they’re just overwhelmed with joy but also at the same time, c This is when the shock really hits them.

“Because there’s no more bangs, they’re safe and it’s kind of over. But they left it all behind.”

Mr Parry is currently fundraising to buy an all-terrain vehicle so he can continue to evacuate civilians.

“As we found out today, I apparently need a 4×4 vehicle,” he said, referring to a tricky entry into a village where the roads had been destroyed by tanks.

“For those who wish to support future evacuations, I have created a donation page where we are trying to raise funds for a vehicle that will allow us to continue to evacuate during the winter.”

The online fundraiser aims to raise £17,500 and can be accessed on JustGiving or via his @Christoburg Instagram page.