'Sadness, shock and disbelief': Brigstock birdman tells of mercy mission to Ukraine

He travelled 3,500 miles across Europe to deliver aid into Ukraine

By Alison Bagley
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 4:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2022, 8:58 am

A Brigstock bird of prey expert has returned home after a ten-day mercy mission to deliver aid and transport refugees from war-torn Ukraine.

Wayne Davis, owner of Avian Environmental Consultants, took a break from his job of using birds of prey to patrol some of Britain's top venues and headed east in a borrowed minibus.

Using a support network of falconry friends, he collected aid parcels from cities across Europe, aiming to rendezvous in Romania with a Ukrainian falconer and his mum.

Wayne Davis (on left) with friends he made en route

After driving 3,500 miles, delivering much-needed supplies to refugees and shuttling six families to reunite with others, Mr Davis spoke of his experience staying with exhausted refugees in Lviv, in west Ukraine.

He said: "They had just escaped. They had their cats and dogs with them. They had escaped with just a plastic bag with their things in. That's when it hits home.

"I could see the sadness, shock and disbelief in their eyes. It's something I'll never forget."

Mr Davis' journey started by collecting toiletries, clothes and medical supplies from Belgium and Germany before going to Romania. After discovering he couldn't collect his friend and his elderly mother due to issues with their visas, he carried on to Krakow in Poland.

One mum and her children left Ukraine with Wayne's help

He then decided to travel to Ukraine to deliver the aid.

At the border he bumped into a British-Ukrainian man who was heading to his homeland to fight in the war.

Mr Davis said: "He helped me with the border guards and translated. It took five hours. We met another guy at a garage who said his office was in Lviv. Above this was the charity DIFFER and a refugee centre so he escorted me all the way through Ukraine. There are checkpoints everywhere and tanks. He introduced me to the refugee hostel where I donated the aid directly to."

All the aid paid for by members of the International Association of Falconry and Mr Davis' own Facebook group - The Ancient and Venerable Order of the Houbara - and was delivered directly to the refugee centre.

Wayne was helped by English-speaking Ukrainians

DIFFER, before the war a gym and fitness centre in Lviv, has taken in more than 700 people and will continue to welcome anyone who needs shelter.

Once there Mr Davis spent two nights to see if he could help transport people away from Ukraine using the minibus loaned by David Thompson, founder of Corby car race team Nielsen Racing.

Staying on the sixth floor, he was woken by air raid sirens and spent the night in a shelter sleeping on yoga mats. While there the airport was shelled.

He said: "The majority of the refugees didn't want to leave. They had just got there and they felt safe. There was one woman who had two children. She wanted to go to Poland so I said I would take her. She had to say goodbye to her husband and her brother. It was horrible."

'DIFFER' A gym in Lviv has been turned into a refugee centre. Families sleep on yoga mats and use treadmills to store their few belongings

In Krakow Mr Davis collected and transported three others to Berlin and gave a lift to another on their way to Switzerland.

He said: "I did what I could. I'd go again. I'm glad I did it. I helped six or seven people get to where they wanted to go.

"I'd love to go back in better times and go out for a meal with the people I met. I made some really good friends. They are beautiful people and it's a beautiful place.

"It seems so surreal. Travelling in Ukraine was nothing I could have anticipated. You try to understand humanity.

"The message they asked me to pass on was 'stop the war'."

Mr Davis has urged people to support refugees being helped by DIFFER - click here to donate.