Factory Records co-founder Alan Erasmus has arrived in Ukraine to fulfill his promise to help in the fight against Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces.
The 72-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, flew from Manchester to Poland last week and crossed the Ukrainian border by bus.
Before leaving, he messaged shocked friends and told them, “I’ve fought bullies of one kind or another all my life.”
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Now in Lviv in the beleaguered west of the country, as Russian shelling draws ever closer, he told MoE of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before his eyes as he helps the thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting over to the East.
He clarified: “My plan was not to come and shoot people: I am 72 years old, my eyesight is crap, my hearing is even worse. It was always to identify areas of donation.”
He arrived in Lviv at 1:30 a.m., just as a large number of refugees had just arrived from further east. Alan shared an inn room with a family about to be separated – the husband was leaving for the front.
“The plan was initially to go to Kyiv, I had the chief aid coordinator’s number but his advice was to stay in Lviv and now I’m based here while I sort things out.
“I managed to book a room here for ten days, it was hard to find a place to stay at first – when I arrived I was walking through the square at 1.30am full of people, families dressed for winter, with all their luggage as if we were going on vacation.
“But it was hundreds of people with their children, their cats and their dogs in cages, their whole lives wrapped up to leave.”
Alan said Lviv residents lived in “constant fear” of what would happen next.
He said: “Lviv is some distance from the east, but there is fear, people are nervous and scared in this situation.
“There was a family I spoke to, I saw them get into a taxi loaded with all their stuff, they were heading to Romania, because they fear the use of chemical weapons next.
“You find that there is a lot of stress and tension in people’s faces, but the spirit is anger and the determination to face the Russians, and they will. People’s spirit looks like a lion, they are very provocative.”
Despite his own recent diagnosis of diabetes, Alan felt compelled to take on his mission of mercy in Ukraine to do all he could to help.
He said: ‘I was recently diagnosed with diabetes, my diabetes nurse actually called me on Monday or Tuesday to say ‘where are you? You have a date here” and I said I’m sorry I can’t do it I’m in Ukraine. My meds aren’t quite right so it’s affecting my energy level a bit .
“At 72, I should have planned a little better, but I saw this happen and I just thought how can I help? I’m going to go get aid recipients. You sit there and see something thing like that, and for me, I just booked a ticket to Krakow, it was the closest I could get.”
Alan already works with the Legacy of War Foundation, an international charity that supports civilians affected by conflict, and has set up a JustGiving page which he invites people to visit.
Alan said: “My plan wasn’t to come and shoot people, I’m 72, my eyesight is crap, my hearing is even worse, it was always to identify the don areas.
“I hope to get £10,000 on the JustGiving website. I call it a Manc mission.
“My personal security is not something I think about. It’s about getting people to donate, donate what you can and those funds can be used maybe not today, but at some point they will help.”
Echoing comments he made to friends before leaving Manchester, he said: “I’ve fought bullies of one kind or another all my life. Putin is no different. is a very important moment in history.”
While in Krakow, he made contact with a project that is finalizing the publication of Polish/Ukrainian picture dictionaries for children so that refugee children do not lose their education and can start learning again without major interruptions in Polish schools.
Alan is also in the process of identifying other refugee projects in Krakow that are willing to accept funds and that will support young families in need.
He said: “Seeing the queues of refugees seems normal at first sight. There are queues of Western European families, not the typical images of refugees familiar from television, in stylish winter clothes like if they were queuing at the airport for a ski vacation.
“As you get closer you realize they’re not on vacation – they’ve got all the stuff they can carry, kids with suitcases to pull, cats and dogs on leashes and bags and they are actually fleeing the Russians.”
“This is a huge displacement of people – they all need our help.”
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READ MORE about the Ukraine crisis and Boris Johnson’s no-fly zone pledge here
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