URGENT * CURRENT OPERATIONS THAT MAY NEED YOUR HELP *
TEMPLAR CORPS INTERNATIONAL – PORTUGAL
HELP UKRAINE – REFUGEE RESCUE OPERATIONS 2022
DATE: March 21, 2022
OUTPOSTS: LAGOS | PORTUGAL
OPERATION: RESCUE VEHICLE CONVOY
F+ Victor Varela Martins, KCTJ Commander of Lagos of the GP Portugal OSMTHU
F+ Jorge Amador, KTJ, Vice-National Commander Relief/Humanitarian Efforts of the Templar Corps
Miguel Pereira, KTJ, GP Portugal OSMTHU
The war situation in Ukraine has sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Europe this century. In the first two weeks, more than 2 million refugees, mostly women and children, headed to neighboring countries, hoping to be able to return home as soon as possible. Left behind were the men, fathers, husbands, children, brothers, prevented from leaving the country due to the war situation and the need to enlist in the Ukrainian armed forces.
Portugal is one of the European Union countries that has taken measures to welcome war refugees, making bureaucratic processes easier and faster. It also provided the institutions with financial and human resources to face the upcoming humanitarian crisis.
The Templar Corps International, through its Outpost in Lagos, was called upon to provide its service in the context of this crisis. The Ukrainian community in the Algarve, closely linked to the Orthodox Church, yearns to see their loved ones out of danger and, if possible, taken to Portugal where they can, in the company of their family, wait for better days.
To fulfill this mission, the Templar Corps International managed to gather the following material and human resources, to be part of a larger Humanitarian Column:
1 passenger double deck bus (53 seats);
1 vehicle with nine seats;
Individual hygiene kits
Feminine hygiene kits
Children’s entertainment kits
Medication and medical aid material
First aid kit
Basic life support + bandage and disinfection + pain medication and antidiarrheal for children and adults + material to treat sprains and other joint problems
First aid intervention backpack basic life support + bandage + manual transport of victims
Hygiene product kit
Baby food kit from 0 to 12 months.
7 volunteers, including medical personnel
2 drivers (firefighters and paramedics)
1 mission coordinator – Miguel Pereira
1 logistics manager and first responder
2 liaison volunteers (speaking Ukrainian)
The Project was able to ensure fuel, tolls, insurance and expenses to cover the approximately 7,500 km between the Algarve and the Ukrainian border (Poland or Moldova) and back.
There is the support of 2 Municipalities, 1 Firefighters Unit, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a Medical Care company and one large Supermarket chain.
Please help and donate.
Ask for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 20, 2022
The first vehicles left Lagos via São Brás de Alportel and Évora, to gather part of the cargo.
March 21, 2022
The Convoy stops in Lisbon and is joined by other vehicles from Firefighter corporations and other humanitarian organizations. The media was present to register the moment and interview the volunteers.
At 1pm the convoy started the journey, taking the direction of the Portuguese/Spanish border.
March 22, 2022
The convoy passed on the outskirts of Toulouse, France.
In Montauban, France we stopped for fuel and to take a short rest. It’s likely that we will go through to Chișinău, the capital city of Moldovia. Many refugees are gathering there while most aid resources are being sent to Poland and Hungary. We are in permanent contact with people on the ground, on our final destination and plans may have to be adapted as the complex war situation changes.
March 23, 2022
After driving past Nice and Monaco, we entered Italy. We have now crossed several borders and driven on 4 countries: Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.
The A80 is one of the most scenic European highways, alongside the Mediterranean Sea, with over 100 tunnels and high bridges. We’re heading for Genova. Traffic is heavy.
This stage brings us almost to Slovenia, just before we have a final rest today. Great surprise: the Highway company in Italy, as we are a Humanitarian Convoy, just waved all tolls! Grazie di Cuore!
Arrival in Slovenia, small get-together and dinner at the service station restaurant, dinner offered by Mr. Victor Romão, who had already contributed to this mission!
March 24, 2022
We are on our way to Romania but still in Hungarian roads.
We had a small mishap with the bus but it was luckily resolved with the helpful help of a team of Hungarian friends.
In Romania. We had to stop in Racsa, with clutch problems. We hope to be back on the road shortly. We are very close to the Ukrainian border with Romania, no more than 30km away. But the crossing is closed. We shall have to proceed to Moldova. That border is 500km away.
March 25, 2022
There is a more serious problem with our main bus. We decided to stop in Sapanta Maramures, in Romania to get road support. Just across the Tisza River, a stone’s throw away, there is Ukrainian territory.
This morning we found that in addition to the unresolved problem, there is a leak of antifreeze… And the car is currently out of battery… And it’s -3º outside!
While we wait, we met very friendly neighbors. Meanwhile another Romanian friend arrived and already invited us all for lunch… The Holy Spirit descends wherever he wants…
This our newfound friend Sérgei Mickael.
The missing car part arrived!
We had to unload part of the cargo. It seems that this going to take long. Probably we will stay here for the day and depart tomorrow morning.
While we wait for the problem to be solved, our friends took us to see a beautiful Orthodox wooden church nearby and then off to the border with Ukraine in Sighetu Marmației.
At the border we paid a visit to the International Red Cross Refugee compound, where we were able to meet some of the volunteers and were shown around the facilities.
March 26, 2022
Getting the bus to work is our main priority at the moment. We are waiting for the Volvo mechanic that comes from Oradea (200km away). He has to take a look and tell us if the problem needs a deeper and more time-consuming intervention.
We have delivered some of our cargo to the Refugee camp in the border. What they posted on their Social Media:
“We were worried that we do not have enough food in stock to be delivered to the town hall canteen in Taras, Ukraine (a canteen that feeds more than a hundred refugees from the conflict zone every day). On the morning of March 26, our colleague and friend Mihai Șofineți called us very depressed, not knowing how and where we could buy food. God works through people!
Around noon, a bus with volunteer firefighters, full of food and medicine, which was intended to arrive in Ukraine through the Siret customs, which came from Portugal, broke down in Remeți. That is the village where Mihai Șofineți lives, being also a local councilor. Moreover, Mihai is the head of car service and speaks fluent Portuguese. Miracles happen when you least expect them.
All the admiration Parabéns Bombeiros Voluntários de Camarate, we especially thank the gentlemen, Jose Tadeu Freitas, Bruno Correia, Igor Alves, Miguel Pereira [of the Templars], Mihai Sofineți and Ionuț Danci for what you are!” – Asociația Maramureș colț de Rai
A Romanian friend (we’ve lost count of how many offer their help!), invited us for lunch and said that his boss, who has Volvos, will take the part we need off of one of his trucks and bring it to us.
Once the case has been better examined, we do need to get to a Volvo garage.
And then a lady sees us on the street carrying boxes and calls us, in Portuguese, offering everyone a robust meal in her house…
March 27, 2022
Our main bus is being towed to a repair shop and we had to leave it behind for the moment. With the other vehicles we proceeded to the border town of Siret, where a Refugee Center needs our help. It’s a long drive and it’s very cold. We can see snow topping the mountains around us. After all, this is Transilvania.
There other teams of Humanitarian Organizations at the Siret border. We met people from Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Things are well organized and we were welcomed and started the registration procedure needed to bring Refugees to Portugal. We will be stayng for the day. It’s Sunday.
“The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”, Psalms 118:7
March 28, 2022
We picked up 7 refugees and one dog. The dog is part of the family so, no one is left behind. Bruno comes with us.
We will have to come back later to retrieve the bus when it’s repaired and carry a few dozen more people with us. At the moment we only have 7 places available in one of the vans. For them it will make a huge difference. And while the repair shop in Romania takes care of the old bus, we can go back to the Algarve, place our friends out of danger, give them a home and a taste of true Templar affection, rest for a day or two, and come back to resume our mission.
We stopped at a Burger King for some food. It’s reassuring to see smiling faces when we lay out the plans ahead for the Algarve. We don’t want to show the faces of the refugees. They have suffered a lot and they still worry about loved ones that had to stay behind. The pictures they show us on their phones show their houses turned to rubble. Suddenly we hear the noise of a truck outside, letting off pressure. It’s loud and some of our companions instinctively look to the sky, searching for airplanes or bombs. The fear is painted on their faces. We tell them everything is ok now, but do we really know?
A night we arrive at the border between Romania and Hungary.
March 29, 2022
On our way to Germany, via Austria. We should cross the French border sometime later today. A strange silence comes over us as we get past small villages and advance on the highway. Tall mountains were replaced by lush planes with spectacular forests and the odd church tower here and there. Then the mountains appear again. The driving is going well. We are tired, but looking forward to return home – even if only for a couple of days.
March 30, 2022
Final stage, crossing Spain. Over 1.200km in one go. We stop often for food and to rest a bit. But soon we are back behind the wheel. Our bodies long for rest. Outside we see the castles that remained from the Spanish reconquista. Some of them are Templar. And it shows. The light of day deems and we come closer and closer to Madrid’s outskirts. Home is where my heart is.
March 31, 2022
Almost at home!
I am happy that our brothers and sisters have the chance to see the fundamental principles of human dignity guaranteed, on which individual and social rights and a Democratic State of Law is based.
I sincerely hope that this chapter of their lives, that begins today, can be written with letters of happiness, health and hope. We are happy and hopeful ourselves.
Now let’s rest before the next stage.
[TO BE CONTINUED…]