How the Tunbridge Wells community has come out in support of Ukraine

Olympian Louis Smith
SOLIDARITY: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has illuminated the Assembly Hall in blue and yellow and raised the Ukrainian flag above the Town Hall.



Tonbridge churches hold a candle to the victims of war

VIGIL: Several hundred people in Tonbridge attended a candlelit gathering for the people of Ukraine organised by the town’s local churches. People congregated by the big bridge near the castle and held candles on Wednesday March 2. Photo: © Christy Low Photography


New flightpath for fundraiser taking to the skies in a light aircraft

A Tunbridge Wells microlight flyer has had to divert his fundraising flight which was due to cross Ukrainian airspace following the Russian invasion.

Graham Naismith and his pilot, Luke Christophides from Lewes, were due to set off from the UK on April 20 in their Ukraine-produced Skyranger Nynja.

The pair, who met at flying school in the summer of 2020, were fundraising for YoungMinds, a suicide prevention charity supporting young people in the UK.

But they are now also raising money for The Ukraine Crisis Appeal run by The British Red Cross Society, which has been helping Ukraine during almost eight years of conflict.

The duo’s first flight was from Deanland in East Sussex down to the Scilly Isles, up to North Wales and back. It was after this they decided to do a longer trip.

Mr Naismith said: “The plan had been to fly down to Greece and Turkey and then up through Ukraine to Moscow before heading into Scandinavia and back home. Our aircraft, a Skyranger Nynja, is from Ukraine.”

The original flight path would have taken them over 7,000+ nautical miles over 23 countries between 35 to 70 degrees of latitude.

Graham explained: “Recent events in the Ukraine have led us to change our plans and avoid Ukraine and Belarus and boycott Russia.

“In fairness, the Russians banned us about the same time. The contact we were dealing with who was assisting us had insisted for some time there definitely would be no war.”

The pair have a JustGiving page and are nearly halfway to their target of £1,000.

Their new route will be updated on the website, where you can also donate to their causes:


RefugEase sets up online shop

GEARING UP: RefugEase has sprung into action

Local charity RefugEase has launched an online shop to allow donors to buy items to be bought on location at the Ukrainian border, saving time and transport costs.

The Rusthall-based charity has been applying the same model since 2019 for other refugee crises, inlcuding those in Syria and also Afghanistan.

It will now be set up in countries bordering Ukraine – Hungary and Poland – said founder Valentina Osborn, who lives in Tunbridge Wells.

“When we heard about the situation unfolding in Ukraine we knew we had to do something, and the existing set-up was perfect,” she explained.

“Our partners communicate which items are most needed and we add them to our online store for people to donate by making a purchase. The item they buy is then added to a shopping list, and purchased and distributed directly on the ground.

“It saves us a lot of time and expense, as opposed to sending items from the UK, and we’re able to better cater to people’s needs by changing the items listed as the crisis develops.”


‘To Ukraine, with love’ – others in Rusthall rally round to help victims

SUPPLIES: One of the donations and (inset) Cllr Britcher

A call for donations to Ukrainian refugees in Poland saw a pile of over 50 bags accumulate at one collection point in a day, and groups are now mobilising around the borough to fundraise.

Rusthall community groups are planning a supper on April 9 to raise funds after Rusthall Community Larder’s recent call for warm clothes, blankets and sanitary supplies produced a mound of donations.

“We were able to plug in to the contacts and links which help the Larder operate, and some lovely people who use the Larder for food were able to drop off clothes in turn,” explained Cllr Alex Britcher (Labour), who is on the steering group for Rusthall Community Larder.

Last week’s relief effort was in response to a call by the White Eagle Club, a Polish émigré social club, which planned to take bedding, warm clothes and personal care items, including baby nappies, to the Polish-Ukrainian border to help refugees arriving there.

However, after all the generosity, Cllr Britcher said, the message now was: “No more clothes, please.”

And a variety of Rusthall groups, under the Bonfire and Fete Committee, are now planning the fundraising supper, as well as attending a planned meeting in Tunbridge Wells today (Saturday March 12).

Groups from around Tunbridge Wells also met in Sankey’s Seafood Kitchen & Bar last Saturday (March 5), organised by another Labour councillor, Luke Everitt (Southborough & High Brooms), to discuss which charities to promote, and formulate a community expression of standing with the Ukrainian people. Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark was among the speakers, along with people in Ukraine speaking on a big screen.

By Victoria Roberts


Also read about Russian businessman Alexander Pushkin of Pushkin Antiques, who has set up a website to help friends and family in Ukraine:

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