A Dutch volunteer at the Mission Siret between Romania and Ukraine

Floris van de Poll, a volunteer of the Johanniter Orde, went to the Romanian border town of Siret in April. From a warehouse located there, Johanniter volunteers deliver aid supplies to western Ukraine every day in up to four vans. The necessary deliveries are coordinated in close cooperation with the Ukrainian recipients so that food, hygiene articles, medicines and other essential goods arrive reliably where they are needed. Read below the testimony of Floris van de Poll about the ten days he spent between Romania and Ukraine.

“In April I participated in my second rotation—the Rotation 63 – at Mission Siret. Coincidentally, it was exactly 10 rotations ago that I participated in my previous mission, thus the Rotation 53. The current team is very international. Volunteers from six different countries collaborated in providing daily humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Three members of the Italian Order of Malta were also part of the team, providing a good example of cooperation between the two Orders to support the many internally displaced and war-affected residents of Ukraine

Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022, a Johanniter mission started in the small town of Siret in Romania. There is a large warehouse there, located just under a kilometre from the border with Ukraine, making it easily accessible to places where help is urgently needed. The mission has five recognizable vans that we load with goods every day. This includes, for example, non-perishable food, water, hygiene products, clothing and medical equipment. Siret is a fairly small town on the Ukrainian border, however, it is an important passage for freight traffic between the Romanian city of Suceava and the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi. This roughly follows the course of the Siret River, and our mission also regularly visits this Ukrainian university city and the surrounding region, because many secondary humanitarian distribution posts operate here.

During this rotation I was team leader of the group. I was responsible for organizing all cross-border deliveries and managing the enthusiastic volunteers within the team to carry out the various tasks during the rotation. Our contact person who arranges rides to cities in Ukraine told me what we need for the next day. My job was then to make this happen from our warehouse in Siret, deciding which products need to be collected on the pallets and which other donations we need to load onto the buses.

Every day we drove across the border in a convoy of Johanniter buses with volunteers and goods to be delivered to hospitals, schools and social welfare centres in the west of the country. Many internally displaced Ukrainians seek shelter and food there. The goods are also taken to secondary distribution posts. From these places, other aid organisations drive to the fronts and distribute items to people who still live in these areas despite the war.

I heard about the Mission Siret during the Johannniter summer camp in Estonia in 2023, and not long after that I had already scheduled my first participation. What appealed to me most was that you do practical work in the mission in a relatively safe location in Ukraine or Romania. Because you hand over the goods to the people and authorities yourself, you realize that as a team you can actually do something for the people affected by the conflict.

In addition to all the impressive and depressing stories you can hear during the journeys across the border, Mission Siret is also a project to do something completely unusual and meet new contacts and friends. This was the first time for me to take on a role as a team leader, which also made it a nice personal development. I look back on an impressive 10 days that I will not soon forget. Besides the fact that I was able to do a lot of serious work for the mission, I also had a lot of fun and made great friendships as a result. If you are also interested in joining the mission and are in possession of a driving licence, visit the website www.missionsiret.de and do not hesitate to contact me.”