Ukraine war: Sheffield woman tells of 'heartbreaking' experiences helping fleeing civilians at Hungary border

A Sheffield woman helping civilians fleeing wartorn Ukraine has spoken about the ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘horrendous’ stories she has witnessed.

Thursday, 14th April 2022, 10:17 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 10:20 am

Pam Young became involved in helping fleeing Ukrainians through the work of her charity, Village Ventures, and she has been helping out at the Hungary-Ukraine border.

The charity, which helps some of the poorest children and villages, has seen Pam work closely with Mali and Mauritius, and after a 2009 rally from Budapest came to aid Pam’s Programme in Mali, Pam felt like she had to help once news of the war in Ukraine broke.

"When this war broke out, knowing I have a Ukrainian flag in my place in Mali, I had no option, I had to come and help,” said Pam. “I had no option, so I just downed everything and came (to the Hungarian border)."

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Pam Young with the soon to be president of Hungary.

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Working at the Hungarian borders to Ukraine of Tiszabecs and Barabas, Pam has now been providing assistance in Hungary for three weeks.

At the borders, Pam is coordinating efforts to provide for the needs of the people fleeing the war in Ukraine, including providing food and shelter, helping people get across the border, and working with orphanages in Ukraine to help those in desperate need of support.

This week, Pam will be returning to Sheffield to recharge and have a break before returning due to the ‘horrendous’ experiences she has seen.

Pam Young at the Hungarian-Ukraine Border.

Pam told how she has built relationships with those fleeing Ukraine and has managed to communicate despite the language barrier.

"When I first arrived on the border, I said to my friend ‘it is going to be difficult to help because they don’t speak the language’, and my friend said ‘you’ll be OK’,” she said.

"Within minutes, I was OK, because what I do is it is my heart that talks – the people can feel what I feel for them, and then with a little bit of broken English they manage to understand.

Pam Young at the Hungarian-Ukraine Border.

"We also put Google Apps on so that we can speak Ukrainian or Hungarian one to another.”

The experiences she has faced on the border have been incredibly heartbreaking for Pam.

"You can see the trauma on the faces of the people coming in, it is absolutely horrendous. If you can see that they don’t even have any baggage, any suitcases, they have maybe one plastic bag full of their life – it is really sad and it is really tough,” she said.

Despite the heartbreaking circumstances, Pam’s generosity has managed to touch those she has helped. Pam received a letter from a Ukrainian woman named Tatyana, to whom Pam made a modest cash donation.

Tatyana and her daughters, who are incredibly grateful for Pam's donation.

In the letter, Tatyana shares her horrific experiences but expresses how grateful and thankful she is for what Pam has done.

"I dream of returning to Ukraine, I pray that my relatives all survive, I want to rebuild my house and return to my life, which Putin took away. I will wait for you to visit. I promise you to be as strong as possible, as strong as I was in my country next to my family and loved ones,” reads Tatyana’s letter.

"Most likely, Pamela, I will have nowhere to return to in Ukraine, where there were cities and life was in full swing. Now there are just fields with ruins. It is very difficult to start everything from scratch at the age of 39 with two small children in your arms. But I won't break.

"Thank you for everything Pamela. I will never forget those 100 pounds. As soon as I get on my feet, get my first pay check, I will give 100 pounds from Pamela to the needy and ask that when they are settled, they give this 100 pounds to other needy. Let 100 pounds from Pamela fly around the world.”

Pam is looking for donations to help provide essentials – donate here.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MARCH 09: Refugees fleeing Ukraine wait at the Western Railway Station on March 9, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's military offensive, according to the UN. Hungary, one of Ukraine's neighbouring countries, has welcomed more than 144,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine after Russia began a large-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24. (Photo by Janos Kummer/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MARCH 09: Refugees fleeing Ukraine wait at the Western Railway Station on March 9, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's military offensive, according to the UN. Hungary, one of Ukraine's neighbouring countries, has welcomed more than 144,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine after Russia began a large-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24. (Photo by Janos Kummer/Getty Images)