Casus Pax is an organisation whose aim is to provide medical and humanitarian aid to those directly affected by the devastating conflict in Ukraine. Conceived by Holly Tann and Adam McQuire, their mission involves the organisation, collection and storage of medical aid, until they can personally transport and deliver that aid to those areas and people who need it most.
Having started operating in early 2022, just after the conflict had begun, Holly and Adam have made many, many, trips to Ukraine. To give a recent example, their medical aid included delivering to medics to the front line in Kherson, life-saving equipment, extrication kits, limb stabilisation, bandages, burns dressings, needles and emergency airways, are just a small example. To date the value of the aid supplied by Casus Pax totals well over £500,000.
Casus Pax works with regional bodies within Ukraine, prioritising the collection and subsequent delivery of that aid, so that each journey ensures that the recipients receive those medical items that they need and to those areas most in need. The need for aid is so pressing that this was the second trip taken in November, following an earlier trip to deliver two fully loaded ambulances with aid. For their latest journey, three volunteers were set to join them, Roy Williams of Harmonic Lodge No 216, Adam Lindop, WM of University Lodge of Liverpool, No 4274 and Mike Fox of Adelphi Lodge No 6819. Holly and Adam had already set off with their car and large converted cattle trailer fully loaded with aid, a couple of days before.
The night flight from Manchester was uneventful and arriving in Krakow to a chilly evening, having passed through customs and received the obligatory passport stamp, they were met by Holly and Adam. A short trip later and we were at a refugee hostel, the corridors lined with prams and the many small shoes outside each room in the corridor providing a stark reminder that the many refugees of the conflict in Ukraine are children. After a few hours’ sleep, everyone woke early in the morning ready for the trip to Lviv.
The road was lined with silver birch trees slowly losing their autumnal bronze leaves flanked by tall pines formed the backdrop of the journey to the border crossing. Climbing steadily the drop in temperature was noticeable and at a brief rest stop it was starting to snow, a reminder that winter is rapidly approaching eastern Europe, filling up with fuel the journey continued to the border.
On the way to the border crossing, they passed many lorries blockaded at the border by Polish lorry drivers who are in dispute. The border patrol appeared to be concerned about the classification of car and trailer, although this was well under the total allowable weight and all documentation in order, perhaps translation or solidarity with the blockade, the border patrol insisted on a new requirement of a polish customs declaration for humanitarian aid, which despite crossing the border many times before had never been required.
After judicious use of google translate and unable to convince the border official we were ordered to turn around, and so undaunted we once again passed the protesting lorry drivers and travelled to a different crossing point. At the second border crossing we entered the checkpoint and this time there were no issues with paperwork, and we were waived through quickly, no polish customs declaration required!
The journey to Lviv began to take shape as roads, small villages, and lots and lots of petrol stations were passed, the villages giving way to suburbs it was obvious we were approaching a major city, with Adam expertly navigating through the streets of Lviv. Parking up next to several large aid vehicles, which are part of the Ukraine Mission project we began the process of transferring the aid from the trailer into the big blue van for the next stage of journey.
By this time, it was early evening in Lviv, and despite the frenetic unloading and subsequent loading of the aid, we had unfortunately lost quite a bit of time at the border, the decision was made to continue on with the journey to Kyiv and drive through the night. This is no small journey being over 336 miles away, we were soon to become acquainted with the aptly named M-06 motorway.
For those wondering why the aid was transferred in this way, Adam later explained, when delivering aid to the front line areas, then the car and trailer are used, this is so that in the event of being targeted it is much easier to exit the danger area by abandoning the trailer than by attempting to do so in a much larger van, it also means that the aid can be sorted and then distributed to the areas that need it most without having to store it somewhere else as well.
The motorway network is a juxtaposition of brightly lit service areas and then complete darkness as we made our way steadily through the night, with frequent stops for coffee and black tea, swapping drivers and radio stations, Kyiv drew steadily nearer. One observation was the lack of motorway and directional signs which Adam explained had been purposefully taken down because of the conflict. We made sure that we never lost sight of the car and trailer after that piece of information!
The journey passed without incident and in the early hours of the morning the bright lights of Kyiv were recognisable on the horizon, the last part of the journey involved passing checkpoints, and switching from side to side of the road past roadblocks and other obstacles designed to make entry into the city a slow process and provide defensive positions, the presence of the conflict making itself known and despite the tiredness we all felt alert as we approached the city.
Our hotel had an amazing view of Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square and after a long journey we were able to snatch some much-needed hours of sleep. With alarms set for mid-morning, and all looking forward to keeping an appointment with ‘Immortality’ Lodge No 8 of the Orient of Kyiv at mid-day. Having found the hotel ironing room, shirts and suits were pressed and suitably dressed we made our way to the lodge.
Master Oleksii Kononets met us at a roadblock and having been directed to the lodge meeting place we were soon being welcomed by all members of the lodge. To our surprise, the lodge members were all wearing the same light blue aprons and collars that we would recognise at any lodge meeting. Oleksii explaining that this was an emulation lodge and a lodge member had been able to obtain aprons and collars from the UK.
Immortality Lodge No 8 is a very special lodge, in that not only does it follow the emulation ritual which we would all recognise, the entire ceremony and meeting is conducted in English. It is the only Ukrainian lodge to conduct its meetings in this way. The lodge members were perfect in their opening ceremony, and indeed throughout the entire meeting, we all felt very privileged to witness it. After the lodge was opened, WM Oleksii called all to order and salutations were given to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ukraine, Fatih Sahin. Adam McQuire of University Lodge of Liverpool, then gave greetings to the lodge followed by Roy, Adam Lindop and Mike.
Master Oleksii asked each of us to approach in turn and presented a wonderful Ukrainian pin badge of the lodge, a pure white perfect ashlar and a pair of white gloves embroidered with the logo of the lodge. We were all very humbled by the presentation of the gifts and saluted the WM in token of gratitude.
The conflict in Ukraine is never far away and was bought home to us, during the almoners’ report when the almoner mentioned that a member of the lodge had been wounded at the front and was recovering from his injuries, a sobering reminder of the challenges faced by our Ukrainian brethren. During any other business, the lodge discussed prospects for initiation and it is clear that Immortality Lodge has a healthy future.
After another impressive display of ritual, the lodge was closed in solemn form, and we were invited to the festive table. Gathered around the table were the lodge members and guests, Grand Secretary, Fatih Sahin, asked Adam McQuire to come forward and proposed that Adam should be made an honorary member of the lodge in recognition of his humanitarian work for the people of Ukraine. All the lodge members and guests applauded in recognition of Adam’s contribution to this work and the honour that had been bestowed upon him. Adam gave an emotional speech of thanks which was even more appreciated for its obvious sincerity.
At the festive table we were able to talk to the various lodge members, and compliment them all on their very impressive meeting, it was very humbling to hear their stories from the early days of the conflict and the continued challenges that they face in their daily lives, not least the ability to carry on their Freemasonry, that we all take for granted. We were also able to give gifts of aprons, collars, gloves, West Lancashire Provincial cuff-links, ties and even pens to the lodge which we had brought with us, they were very gratefully received. One of the comments that we repeatedly received was how grateful that the lodge members were for the support of Freemasons from the UK, and how brave we were to travel to them, we felt that they were the brave ones living their lives with the threat of constant danger.
With final farewells and to travel home before the nightly curfew, the lodge members bid us farewell and safe travels on our way home, with promises to visit our lodges in the UK when the conflict is over, a promise that we all hope that they will be able to keep.
The journey however doesn’t end there, Adam and Holly then continued the mission to deliver the aid which had been brought into Ukraine, travelling to Mykoliav to run the gauntlet into Kherson the next day. That night a large number of drones were intercepted and yet they still delivered the medical aid that is so desperately needed. It is not just the people of Ukraine, who are helped, our four-legged friends need help too, and Holly and Adam met with Vlada and her mother in Kherson, who have been taking in dogs and cats since the conflict began. Vlada was desperately searching for supplies of pet food and Holly and Adam were able to supply several large bags which not only were gratefully received by Vlada and her mother, but also the dogs and cats too.
The final words are best left to Casus Pax: “We can’t do what we do without your help. There are so many ways you can get involved, but the biggest thing we need help with is funding. Logistics is expensive and we need your help to fund the fuel to drive this aid from the UK, directly with where it is needed in Ukraine.”
To give help and support to this very worthy cause, click on the following link;- https://casuspax.org/