Communication Workers Union Humanitarian Aid
SEPTEMBER 2002 CONVOY TO MOLDOVA
September 11th, typical Scottish weather as we left Glasgow for the international ferry port at Newcastle, our journey had begun, what lay ahead I had no idea. I only knew that in a country called Moldova there were families and orphans in need of the goods that we carried.
At Newcastle we met all the other drivers, sixteen in all from the 4 parts of the country, some were old friends, others like me, meeting for the first time.
Parcel Force, Royal Mail and B.T had generously donated the vehicles, fuel cards and allowed the volunteer drivers time away from their work to make this Humanitarian trip possible. D.F.D.S Tor Line, gave us generous discounts on our ferry bookings. Steve Mercer at M.D.M, Hull along with the customs at the docks provided us with our “T” forms. It was a majestic sight; all these vehicles parked on the dockside, the Major of North Tyneside & Wear along with the local press wished us good luck with our endeavour and a safe journey.
At last the ferry pulled away from the dock, we arrived the following morning in Ijmuiden, near Amsterdam. The early morning sun greeted us and warmed our spirits as we headed towards Germany, the first of many borders that we had to cross on our travels. Just where we stopped in Germany that night I do not remember and as this was my first experience of “convoy” I did not know what to expect. I soon discovered a sense of humour, which in the days to come would hold us together as one. Imagine sitting in the middle of a truck park eating your dinner from your lap, when one of the drivers produces a table and chairs, the table resplendent with a vase of flowers, it was just wonderful and provided us with something to laugh about.
Next morning, as most mornings, we gathered at 06.30 for a quick cup of tea before beginning the days driving through Germany andAustria passing some beautiful scenery. The vehicles were fitted with C.B radios which enabled us to keep in touch with each other and to receive invaluable instructions from the convoy leaders as to turn off’sand which lane to take on the busy European motorways, although even this did not stop some of us getting lost, but it all added to the adventure of convoy life and provided some amusing moments over the C.B airways Next morning, as most mornings, we gathered at 06.30 for a quick cup of tea before beginning the days driving through Germany and Austria passing some beautiful scenery. The vehicles were fitted with C.B radios which enabled us to keep in touch with each other and to receive invaluable instructions from the convoy leaders as to turn off’s and which lane to take on the busy European motorways, although even this did not stop some of us getting lost, but it all added to the adventure of convoy life and provided some amusing moments over the C.B airways
As the miles passed by I found my thoughts wandering to what lay ahead and felt a sense of privilege to be an ambassador of all the people who had put in a great effort to make this trip possible, I am overwhelmed by their generosity. Many people had collected aid, but I especially remember one old lady stopping me, in her excitement she was desperate to show how she was trying to help, she opened her bag, in it lay two toothbrushes. “I have started to collect for the children of Moldova” she said. I thanked her, inwardly I recognised that now she had the opportunity to help. How many times have we seen pictures of unfortunate children and felt helpless, now my old lady trusted me with delivering her gifts to the children, we were the facilitators of compassion and love, a proud thought.
The next border was Austria-Hungary, this required more patience, as our papers needed translating. On this occasion, as on many others some of the lads played cricket, some made tea and some waited in the inevitable queues, the cricket and the tea drinking re-enforcing the foreign driver’s ideas of the “eccentric” British abroad.
Eventually the order was given,” lets rock and roll”. We proceeded to a wonderful truck stop near Budapest recommended by Ron, one of our drivers who had passed this way on a previous convoy. Here we had a chance to rent a cheap room where we could shower and sleep in a bed, I even found my face cloth. We had a “lie in”; Carl the convoy leader said that we did not need to be on the road until 07.00 the next day, happiness! Onto the Hungarian-Romanian border at Bors, the two-mile queue of trucks that lay ahead of us intimated that we were in for a long wait. Out came the cricket bat and on went the kettle, the tea and sunshine kept our spirits high. The convoy leaders, travelling in the wagon known affectionately as “THE ENTERPRISE” (with CLINGONS attached to the starboard bow) had arranged for Eti, a Romanian representative from the European Children’s Trust to meet us and her presence helped us to pass through quicker than expected, again much to the bewilderment of the other truck drivers. It was the E.C.T based in London that had invited CWUHA to Moldova and would facilitate the delivery of the Aid.
Travelling through Romania proved to be another eye opening experience! We soon discovered that the Romanian roads were in serious need of repair; it was not so much as “holes in the tarmac”, as “ tarmac in the holes”. To me it seemed a sad country even the trees had an air of despair, life from where I was sitting looked harsh and severe, despite this as we passed through the villages the people smiled and waved. I will never forget the look on one young boys face when Jack a convoy driver, gave him some sausages from the convoys personnel food supply, it seemed that Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny had all come together for him. The further East that we travelled the harsher the living conditions became apparent, the realisation that these people had so little made me thankful for the privilege of living in Western Europe, which was not a million miles away.