Laura receives High Sheriff Award for services to Ukraine

Published: Wednesday February 22, 2023

For the past year, Laura Bullivant, who works in fleet management and has links with St James’ Church Quedgeley, has been spending most of her spare time helping the people of Ukraine. Earlier this month, Laura was presented with an award by the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire for services to the community.

When the war started in February 2022, Laura joined thousands of others who wanted to help support the people of Ukraine.

“It was around Easter last year that I volunteered to drive an armoured van from Preston to Gloucester to be filled with aid to go to Ukraine. At the same time a member of staff from the children’s home I grew up in passed away. When I was a child, she would always buy each of us a Creme Egg for Easter, so I bought a box of 40 Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and sent them in the van going to Ukraine. I thought it would be a nice way to remember her. When some of my friends found out, they clubbed together and we were able to buy over 500 Creme Eggs. I then took them over with other aid last May and it’s carried on from there.”

On Sunday 12 February, Laura was presented with an award ‘in recognition of great and valuable services to the community’ by the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, Air Marshal Sir Dusty Miller, in the church hall of The Ukrainian Church with members of the Ukrainian community, refugees and volunteers present.

“I was delighted to receive the award; however, when Dusty emailed me to arrange the presentation of the award I did ask if a second award could be given to the Community of The Ukrainian Church, as it is purely through working with them that I was even doing this. This is all far from just about me. There are so many people involved. It felt the right thing to do.”

Although the war is somewhat diminished in the public eye, Laura says it’s far from over.

“When I came back last May, some people were asking me why I had gone as they felt the war was pretty much over. It’s really not. There are people who I have got to know over there who have messaged me from bomb shelters while rockets fly overhead, or whose husbands are on the frontline fighting. I often wonder how I am even a part of it, it feels very surreal at times.

“I am amazed by the faith of the people there. They have had their lives and families literally torn apart, missiles fly over their heads almost every day, yet they will message me and say that they consider our help to be a gift from God. I struggle sometimes to see how they can see both sides to it. It’s so very humbling, they are the most incredibly resilient people.

“At the end of my last visit to the care centre, one of the staff stood up and, with a translator, explained to us all that the kindest, most incredible people in the world are often found in the most extraordinary places … but are very hard to find. However, they had searched really, really hard and they believed they had caught one. She then asked me to come up and open the box to see if I could find it. When I opened the box, there was a mirror inside. I’m not going to lie, my eyes leaked at that a little bit.”

Laura and four refugees from Gloucester have been invited to be part of the audience in a special anniversary episode of Newsnight, to be aired on Friday 24 February 2024, with a memorial service at a Ukrainian church in London before filming, to remember those lost and those still in Ukraine.

The whole experience has changed Laura’s perspective.

Laura returned from her last trip to Ukraine in January, delivering some of the 30 generators to rural orphanages, care homes and voluntary organisations which had been donated by a local Rotary Club with help from a local businessman who had also raised almost £20,000.

“January’s trip, to me, felt harder. When they have ‘power outages’ they have complete shutdown of everything, they are often not planned and there is no knowing when it will come back on. It’s the darkest dark I’ve ever known. Last May I was in areas that had recently been occupied by the Russians and some of the things I saw will stay with me for life, we also had a few near misses with missiles with one hitting just 800 metres away, but I still found this last visit harder because so much of the infrastructure has been affected. Just being there for almost a week, not knowing if I would be able to call my family, have a hot meal or a hot shower really brought it home.

“I used to be a worrier and quite anxious, but now I don’t worry about things I can’t control anymore, little things that would usually bug me, or make me lose sleep, it all feels trivial in comparison. To say it’s been a life-changing experience is an understatement. I have met some of the most incredible people, both here and in Ukraine, that in everyday life I would never in a million years have crossed paths with but now class as close friends. It’s funny how things work out and proof that some good can come out of really awful situations.”

The Ukraine Special edition of Newsnight is at 10.30pm on Friday 24 February 2023.

Gloucester Ukraine Collection Team has a local collection point for Gloucester, Quedgeley, Kingsway and surrounding areas for items to go to help Ukraine. Find out more here: Gloucestershire Ukraine Collection


Some images from Laura’s photo album taken during her visits to Ukraine



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