Viktor Zolotukhin with other members of Nerja's Ukrainian community at a protest in the town last week. / sur

'An avalanche of help': International community rallies to bring 50 Ukrainians back to the Axarquía

A bus left Nerja on Sunday headed to the Poland-Ukraine border and is expected to arrive back on Friday, taking the refugees to Las Piedras hotel in Alcaucín, which is run by British couple Adrian and Hannah Stone

Jennie Rhodes
JENNIE RHODES

The international community of the Axarquía has once again come together in a show of solidarity towards Ukraine. Initiated by Viktor Zolotukhin, who is originally from Ukriane but has lived in Nerja with his family for 20 years, the community has come together to raise enough funds to send a bus to a refugee reception centre on the Ukrainian-Polish border with a view to bringing 50 refugees back to the Axarquía. Local businesses, organisations and individuals have helped raise the money and the town hall has also collaborated.

The bus set off from Nerja on Sunday and on board was Viktor’s uncle, Vasyl, who runs a pizza restaurant in Torrox-Costa. He is accompanied by two other people who will coordinate with the centre in Poland.

Gareth Arnold, who also lives in Nerja and is involved in the operation, told SUR in English today, Monday 14 March, “Viktor and I have been friends for many years. His kids go to the same school as mine and he was already a focal point for the Ukrainian community here.”

Gareth went on to explain that while they don’t know who will be coming to the area as yet, he believes that the priority is to try to get people who may have family or other contacts in Spain. However, he stressed that until Vasyl and the coach arrive in Poland, they don’t really know how it will be coordinated.

Avalanche of help

Once the bus arrives back in the Axarquía, hopefully on Friday, the 50 refugees will be taken to Las Piedras hotel in Alcaucín, which is run by British couple Adrian and Hannah Stone. Adrian explained to SUR in English that they have enough space over this weekend to be able to provide somewhere for them to stay initially. “We know Gareth and had been wondering how we could help, so when he got in touch we were able to offer some of the space we have,” Adrian told this newspaper on Monday.

He went on to explain that the hotel will act as a “reception centre” for the first few days, as offers of more long-term accommodation come in. “The reaction has been immense. We’ve had an avalanche of help,” said Adrian.

Inundated

Not only have people around the Axarquía offered longer-term accommodation, but Hannah and Adrian have a team of volunteer cleaners, people offering to give Spanish lessons, a UK registered nurse, the local Civil Protection volunteers, offers of transport, Ukrainian interpreters and the Nerja-based Food For Thought catering service will be providing food over the weekend at Las Piedras. Hannah and Adrian have been inundated with items needed to get the hotel ready after a call was sent out via social media over the weekend for bedding, beds, chairs and tables, toiletries, medical supplies and so on.

“For now there’s nothing more we need,” Adrian explained. “It will be in the medium to long-term as the situation develops when we will know more about what’s needed.”

While the team aren’t asking for more donations for Las Piedras at the moment, they have asked for anyone able to offer accommodation, or sponsorship to help with the ongoing costs that host families may face, to get in touch with them by emailing: help.ukraine.nerja@gmail.com

Volunteers sorting through the donations for Las Piedras in Alcaucín last weekend / a. stone