Dr. Matthias Jöckel. Image courtesy of the DRG and Radiomed, Mainz, Germany.
"We didn't know what to expect at the border, but the suffering we found there was beyond our imagination," he said in the interview. "It completely blew us away and was almost unbearable."
Jöckel has so far made four trips to a large aid center in Przemyśl, Poland, near the Ukrainian border. From there, the team has brought Ukrainian refugees back to safety in Germany. He is being assisted by Dr. Georg Vancura, a nuclear medicine specialist in Mainz, who has driven buses and coaches for many years and who knows about driving large vehicles long distances.
"The aid center is a former supermarket that has been repurposed. There we distribute the relief supplies," Jöckel said. "It's 1,300 kilometers to Przemyśl, which you have to tackle twice in quick succession. That's why we have several bus drivers with us on our trips, plus people who help unload the bus at the center and interpreters. We keep the team lean so that we have space for the refugees on the bus."
Donations have included canned goods, shoes, cleaning products, and babywear and other goods. A pharmacy in Mainz was on board straight away and has ordered medicines for the aid trips at cost price.
Jöckel said that between 50 and 60 refugees are taken at a time, and they have mainly been women, children, and the elderly. To help more people, he plans to establish a shuttle service. "Of the thousands of people in need, you can only take a few with you and you have to leave the others behind in a completely desolate situation," he said.
The group has set a large private aid network in Mainz to help the refugees in their everyday life. According to Jöckel, "My wife and our neighbors look after a total of 14 people, but we realize that this can hardly be sustained in the long run. We have three small children. In the future, it will probably result in the refugees being brought to Mainz and accommodated in an initial reception facility."
Jöckel has also become involved in the refugees' healthcare. "In our practice we have an oncological focus, and my colleague does the mammography screening. Of course, the women from Ukraine who fall into the screening category are written to and they come to the practice for screening. We also look after breast cancer patients among the refugee women," he said.
The full interview with the DRG (in German) can be read on the society's website.
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