A Beckenham man and a huge team of volunteers have sent 17 ambulances and two off-road vehicles packed with supplies to Ukraine.

Oleksandr Hulitskiy, 43, purchased the first ambulance out of his own pocket, which was the beginning of a huge act of charity that continued to spread across London.

When the invasion began, Oleksander started researching ways he could help and came across a disused ambulance for sale.

He said: “At the end of the day, I said to myself a couple of thousand pounds is nothing compared to somebody’s life.”

He went to see the ambulance, which was in a poor state but decided to purchase it.

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Oleksander explained: “He asked me why I needed it and I explained that I was buying one to help my country.

“He said he was expecting someone to show up for it like this, but not as quick.”

“The price of the ambulance was 4k but he said 3.5k it is yours, take it, and I didn’t even ask for any money to be knocked off.”

By day three of the invasion, he had the first ambulance on his driveway.

Oleksander began asking the people around him for donations before it spread to the wider community and the response was overwhelming.

His drive was so full of donations that he had to ask people to stop because he couldn’t get into the house.

Oleksandr and his group of friends formed the campaign group Medical Life Lines Ukraine to more formally manage the continue the collection of funds, supplies and vehicles to send.

This spiralled into a huge collaboration with teams of volunteers across London with churches, schools and people’s homes working as a set of drop off points.

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Oleksander explained that a variety of people donate and assist with the efforts.

“The other day I went to another church to get the stuff and they told me this story that this one lady turned up to the church, and she actually was Russian, she brought so much stuff, mainly food.”

“She burnt her Russian passport right there and said she hated what her country was doing,” he said.

Once they collect enough items, they contact a WhatsApp group who then come to collect the items with vans that have been provided for free.

The vehicles and supplies are now collected and taken to a giant warehouse in Heathrow to be packed and stored.

The team then send them to Poland where volunteers from the group drive them to the Ukrainian border.

He said: “Every single vehicle goes through the garage when we purchase it, again by volunteers who don’t really charge anything.

“We change all the oils and make them roadworthy again because some of them have been sitting in the yard for a year or two.

“We do everything to make sure they will be ready… as we say ‘to fight’ because they are going to have a tough time there.”

The group opened a company called Make a Difference UK making communication with the NHS meaning they can get access to medical donations such as lifesaving equipment.

The team has no exact idea how much money they have raised but as of March 28 over £45,000 has been donated through JustGiving alone, but they expect that the campaign including PayPal contributions and cash exceeds £61,000.

Oleksandr decided to take three weeks off work to focus on the campaign, before returning to do half a day of his own work as a builder and the other half working on the ambulances and charity work.

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He said: “A friend of mine asked me ‘when are you going to stop?’ and I said ‘when the war is finished.’”

Oleksander was born in Ukraine but came to the UK as a student in 2006.

He now has a wife, three young boys and a house in Beckenham.

His mum recently received her visa to travel to the UK and came back with Oleksander when he dropped off the last ambulance off in Poland.

Oleksandr said: “My grandmother, my brothers and sisters from my mother’s side are still there because they said this is our land and we are going to stay here and fight.”

He pleads that more people get involved and take action to support the Ukrainian people.

“If more people like us try to do the same thing, the easier it will be for the people in Ukraine because they will feel this support and power that has been brought together because of the war.”

“One person, you think it is nothing, when thousands of one people do one little thing, it is so much,” Oleksandr said.

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