THE WAR suddenly felt a lot more real for me.

I joined more than a dozen volunteers in Southampton as donations flooded in for Ukrainian refugees.

While working in a busy newsroom, I only saw footage of the Russian and Ukraine war online and on the news.

I came across many distressing videos and stories, but because I was thousands of miles away, it was difficult for me to imagine myself in their place.

Daily Echo: Rebecca Aftanas and Trisha GreganRebecca Aftanas and Trisha Gregan

Even though I still felt worried, mad, and scared, the online videos didn’t do any justice. 

But, I headed out to help the Southampton Polish community who were collecting donations. 

As I arrived I immediately saw people running down the hall, picking up heavy boxes, sorting out food cans, and folding blankets. 

They were doing all they could to help.

And all of a sudden, everything felt real; reality struck hard. 

Without wasting any more time, I jumped in to help out. 

It was day three of the group’s efforts collecting essential items such as food, clothes, medical supplies and more to be sent to the refugees and troops on the Ukrainian borders. 

Daily Echo: Wioletta Nowakowska and Weronika SzewczukWioletta Nowakowska and Weronika Szewczuk

Whilst preparing the boxes for donated clothes, I spoke to volunteer, Lisa Jott.

“It makes me happy that people are donating whatever they have,” she told me.

“Working here makes me so happy, it’s better than my job.”

She added: “I am very happy that these donations will reach the women and kids at the border who need them the most.”

Another who was lending a helping hand at the Polish community group, Trisha Gregan, said: “It makes me feel good that I am doing something useful to help the people that need a hand.”

Meanwhile, club chairperson Wioletta Nowakowska, said she was having trouble sleeping because she is worried about the people of Ukraine.

“I can’t sleep as I am always thinking about the items the people at the borders might need.

Daily Echo: The centre was flooded with donationsThe centre was flooded with donations

“The needs of the items keep on changing, like right now, we really need warm blankets, and maybe tomorrow it’s going to be different.”

Speaking with all of the volunteers seemed like a wake-up call. It taught me that when two countries are at war, distance doesn’t matter and no act of service is too insignificant.

All I can say: Do whatever you can to help.

How can I help Ukraine from Southampton?

Lots of supplies – mainly for women, children and the elderly - are needed and will be taken to the border with Ukraine.

Items needed vary but include nappies, wet wipes, baby milk, long-life foods, sanitary towels, tampons, pet food, warm blankets, sleeping bags, gloves, and hand warmers.

Cash donations have also poured in. More can be dropped off at:

  • Polish Social Club, Portswood Road. Days and times vary but are listed on its Facebook page.
  • MLJ Auto Center, Floating Bridge Road. Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm.
  • Sea Life Play Centre, First Floor Marlands Shopping Centre in Civic Centre Road. Monday-Saturday from 9am-7pm. Sunday 10am-7pm.
  • The Cricketers Arm pub in Portsmouth Road, Woolston.
  • Co-op in Spring Road.

Donate cash at