Aylesbury man travels to Ukraine as volunteer in war against Russia

Charlie has taken the brave step of traveling to the war-torn country alone

By James Lowson
Friday, 4th March 2022, 3:17 pm
Updated Friday, 4th March 2022, 3:18 pm

An Aylesbury man is travelling to Ukraine today (4 March), as a volunteer to support citizens during the Russian invasion.

Charlie Banton from Aylesbury is boarding a flight, alone, from Stansted Airport to Krakow this afternoon.

From there Polish officials will assist him with getting on a coach heading to the war-torn country.

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Charlie with his mum

The 26-year-old who lives in supported accommodation in Aylesbury, has organised the trip with the Ukrainian embassy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has set up a foreign legion for international volunteers who want to support the resistance.

Reports suggest tens of thousands of volunteers have expressed an interest and started to travel towards the country including hundreds of people from the UK.

Charlie believes he may be the first to answer the call from Aylesbury.

Charlie with his dad

He was inspired to reach out to the embassy after hearing the encouragement of foreign secretary Liz Truss.

During an interview with Sophie Raworth on the BBC's Sunday Morning programme, Ms Truss said: “That is something people can make their own decisions about.

"The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe. Absolutely, if people want to support that struggle, I would support them in doing that.”

Since Truss' comments on Sunday the government has distanced itself from that idea.

Responding to a Ukrainian journalist on Wednesday prime minister Boris Johnson said: “I’m going to be very clear about this because you’re not quite right in what you say about supporting volunteers going to fight, the UK is not actively doing such a thing.

“But I understand of course the feelings of people who feel emotionally engaged in this conflict because I cannot think of a time in international affairs when the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil, has been so obvious."

Speaking to The Bucks Herald on the phone from Stansted Airport, Charlie said: "The Ukrainian embassy weren't like, 'great, we'll take you on'.

"After I emailed they were like, 'are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure? You've got to speak to your friends and family and if you're sure you want to do this we'll go ahead'.

"I'm looking forward to helping the Ukrainian people, that's what I'm going here to do.

"I understand it's really dangerous, I understand weapons may be used, but that's not my interest, my interest is to go there and support them.

"I'll do whatever they need me to do. Whether that's sending over supplies, getting people out into Poland.

"I'm quite nervous, I'm probably going to be even more nervous when I hit Poland, and then even more nervous when I hit Ukraine.

"But I'm 100% committed to do this, and I really hope I can make even the smallest, smallest bit of difference."

Charlie has been reassured with the support he's received from friends and family since revealing his plans to head towards a country in peril.

He added: "I've spoken to my mum and dad about it, they're both very, very proud of me for doing it.

"They're very worried, obviously. My mum is constantly, constantly texting me, same with my dad.

"They were both emotional, but they weren't saying, 'no, no, no, don't do it', they were saying, 'if that's what you want to do, you go and do it and we'll support you.

"My friends are exactly the same attitude, they're all for it. On Facebook I've been keeping people updated and I've gotten an amazing response."

As an unemployed 26-year-old, who by his own admission has had his issues in the past, Charlie sees this as an opportunity to do good in the world.

He has previously, has been convicted of assault twice in town, he links his own personal struggles to the death of his first-born son five years ago.

He said: "I've had my problems in life, I'm trying to get my life back on track, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to give something back."