Civilian SUVs and trucks are playing a vital role in the humanitarian effort in Ukraine.

They are used to transport troops, stage supplies, deliver medicine and equipment, and by frontline units to engage the enemy. Vehicles are in short supply and urgently needed.

We learned this in March last year and felt compelled to do our bit. So we began buying trucks and filling them with medicine, bandages, boots, and other supplies. We drove the first trucks ourselves (and we still do almost every weekend) to western Ukraine and delivered them directly to frontline soldiers, who drove it east to deliver the supplies to first-responders and used the truck for combat operations.

Since then, we have built a network of volunteers to drive them from London and cities in Europe into Ukraine, raised over $2 million, and purchased and delivered more than 300 trucks laden with supplies. Below this message are a few photos of the vehicles and their recipients. These vehicles go straight from our team to those who need them most, and that means that we lose both trucks and men from time to time. It’s as real as it gets for our recipients and we want to continue to help them. All the money that Trucks for the Troops receives goes directly to this effort. We spend zero on staff, premises, or merchandise. Every dollar is spent on equipment and getting it to the front line as quickly as possible. Nothing else.

Civilian vehicles are vital

Despite the tens of billions of dollars in support from the U.S. and Europe, there is an acute shortage of SUVs for the war effort.

Donations are put to work immediately

We purchase vehicles and supplies within hours of receiving a donation, and deliver within days. This is starkly different from the timeline for large aid organizations and government support.

Timing is critical for survival of the wounded

The #1 factor in the likelihood of an injured soldier surviving is how quickly the soldier receives medical attention. That is why the U.S. military goes to extraordinary lengths to evacuate wounded from the battlefield immediately and to establish infrastructure to treat them. Many of our vehicles are being utilized to evacuate wounded and, without them, lives would be lost.

Prior to February 24th, 2022, none of us seriously considered that Russia would launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border, and inside the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine itself, was a bluff, we thought, following on from several similar escalatory build-ups in recent years. When the morning news broke that day, we were stunned. The scale and savagery of the invasion left us fumbling for a personal response in those early days. We donated to defence efforts and to Ukrainian volunteer groups but felt powerless: we each have a link to the region, through family and work, and, sitting in our own comfortable homes [in London], we were struck with an acute sense of our own inadequacy.

At the same time, the courage, resourcefulness, and tenacity of the Ukrainian defenders of Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, and the entire front line, was inspiring. The whole of Ukrainian society had mobilised: the Territorial Defence Forces were turning away volunteers, for there were too many men eager to fight, volunteer groups took up arms as partisans, welders made tank traps, textile workers wove camouflage netting, and the Ukrainian diaspora in Europe started a flow of supplies across the Polish border that would give us our first ideas of how we could help.

Anna had for several years been in touch with a network of civil-society groups in Kyiv, active since the Maidan protests in 2014, who were desperately trying to supply individual units with equipment. Whilst the US, UK, Polish and other allied governments were focused on getting Javelins, NLAWs, Stingers and other essential weaponry into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers, those same units also urgently needed body armour, helmets, Individual First Aid Kits, drones and, crucially, off-road vehicles. We decided to buy a pick-up truck for the Ukrainian army.

Having acquired a used truck that had spent its previous life on construction sites, we bought Celox blood-clotting bandages, CAT tourniquets, chest seals, and other combat medical supplies. Anna put out a general call to the Ukrainian community in London on Facebook for donations-in-kind, and overnight we ran out of space in the truck due to the amount of long-life food and winter clothes. Over 2 days in mid-March, Tom and Chris drove it from London to the Polish/Ukrainian border and handed it over to an army representative.

We bought a second truck, and this time drove it across the border to Lviv, in western Ukraine. Our third trip involved a convoy of friends and colleagues driving three trucks to Lviv. Thereafter, we picked up the pace of vehicle supply, and started receiving written reports, photos and videos from recipient units detailing how they were using the vehicles, and how crucial they were to operational capability at the frontlines. 

The Ukrainian army grew from 200,000 strong to 700,000 in a matter of two months. It was inevitable that the supply of appropriate support vehicles would lag the speed of manpower mobilization, and we were frequently hearing that soldiers were using their own civilian sedans to evacuate their wounded. Our trucks, all 4-wheel drive, were allowing units to supply their front-line positions with ammunition, conduct medical evacuations, execute hit-and-run strikes, and go behind enemy lines to direct drone reconnaissance and strike missions. Some were turned into ‘technicals’ by the mounting of a heavy machine gun for direct fire support. 

The response to our effort from the front line was overwhelming. With each passing day, the connections grew more personal and what started as an effort turned in to a mission when we began to hear news of the loss of fallen soldiers we had come to know.

From April onwards, we continued supplying pick-up trucks, and started providing ambulances to combat medical units. As the scope and scale of the project increased, so our operations became more efficient and regularised. Anna would receive requests from units for vehicles, and, using her network within Ukraine, would scrutinise each such application and allocate trucks based on unit role, its proximity to frontlines and prioritised need. Vehicles would be sourced from all over the UK and Tom, Chris, Zarah and Pawel, as well as a group of London-based volunteers, would spend their weekends driving across Europe to Lviv, and sometimes on to end-users near the frontlines in the east or south of Ukraine. 

Our approach is simple: we help the guys and girls on the front lines, and we don’t let anything distract from or dilute that help. We spend no money on staff, or premises, or social media campaigning or ‘merch’: all funding goes on trucks and supplies. We are all doing this voluntarily, combining our project work with full time roles in law and finance. We use our homes to store the trucks and supplies whilst they are waiting to be despatched, and we contribute materially to the costs of the project. Many of the volunteer drivers are construction workers who clock off work on a Friday afternoon, drive a truck to Ukraine, fly back to London on Sunday and get back to work on Monday morning, only to repeat this the following weekend. We do this because we know our efforts are saving lives. Our work is direct, impactful, and more important than anything we do in our day jobs.

As of the end of July, 2023, we have just purchased our 300th vehicle. Mostly pick-up trucks, many ambulances, and a few specialty vehicles. We have delivered them to approximately 50 units of the Ukrainian army. And we estimate that 135 have been put out of action by enemy fire or mines. 

We know there have been casualties, both KIA and WIA, and it is heart-breaking every time we receive such news. But the reports coming back to us from recipient units on the front lines continue to show us the great need for vehicles, and we are not going to let these guys down.

Anna, Chris, Pawel, Zarah, Tomasz