A LOCAL businessman who is using his own resources to transport aid to the victims of war in Ukraine was “disgusted” to find his van had been defaced with a giant ‘Z’ this week - a Russian symbol for the war.
Bob Morgan, owner of Winner Garage in Cinderford, learned the van he is using for his runs to Ukraine had been graffitied when staff arrived for work at the garage on Cinderford Industrial Estate on Monday morning (March 13).
Bob and his son Jason appealed to the public back in November to donate funds for essential supplies which they transported to people in need in Ukraine before Christmas.
They set up a JustGiving page for the campaign which they called ‘Forest Run to Ukraine’ and were overwhelmed by the support they received from local people.
Having set an initial target amount of £5,000, they’ve raised around £20,000, and are continuing to deliver supplies to where they’re needed following the initial run in December.
Bob says the spray-painted ‘Z’ on the side of the van is “a big slap in the face” to all the local businesses and residents who have supported their campaign.
“I’m very upset about it”, he said. “At best it’s an absolute insult to the people who have supported our efforts, and at worst it’s downright sinister that there are people who are against what we’re doing within our community”.
The ‘Z’ symbol was first used on Russian military vehicles during the invasion of Ukraine last year.
It is also used by Russian civilians showing support for the invasion and pro-Putin politics, and in Russian propaganda.
Bob says he “wouldn’t like to guess” at the motive of vandals in spraying the ‘Z’ on the side of the van, but that it is “very symbollic of Russian support”.
The team at Winner checked their CCTV in an attempt to identify the perpetrators, but the van was parked too far away from the building to get a clear view.
Now, Bob is offering to donate a further £500 to the supply fund if anyone can help identify the person who vandalised the van, before taking the matter to the police.
The father and son’s first run to Ukraine before Christmas saw them embark on a 2,400 mile round trip to the Ukrainian-Polish border.
As well as transporting the aid, Bob has also donated thousands of pounds of his own money into the fund.
So far, the pair have delivered more than 30 generators, around 700 torches, sleeping bags, hygiene products such as soap and shower gel, mother and baby items, sanitary products, first aid kits and bandages.
The aid is being transported to various transit centres on the Ukrainian border to be distributed to frontline soldiers, communities effected by the conflict and an orphanage for disabled children.
Currently, they’re sending out 4x4 vehicles, which are also packed with supplies, for bringing injured service personnel back from the frontline.
Having sent one 4x4 out this week, Bob is taking two more out to Ukraine himself next month.