Paul Liczbinski

delivering aid to ukraine 

There’s a certain set of skills required to work in the events industry.

One has to be organised, creative, resourceful, dynamic, a good negotiator and a details person.

Flexible, dependable, reliable in a crisis, and, if the moment calls, you also have to prove that you’re someone who can travel across continents, driving jeep-loads of medical equipment to war-torn Ukraine.

Well, alright, that last one takes a special kind of someone and that person happens to be voco Reading’s Paul Liczbinski.

Using a combination of skills acquired over three decades as a serving British Army officer and impeccable event management abilities, Paul has made four trips to Ukraine since the war began - and he will continue to deliver aid to the frontline until the unjust invasion ends.

Wearing combats, and flying a ‘UK Supports Ukraine’ custom-made flag, Paul and a cohort of ex-military colleagues are making a huge difference to the survival rate of soldiers by taking tourniquets, bandages, stretchers, insulin pens, painkillers and more.

What began as an idea amongst a small group of people including a town councillor, a businesswoman, a retired doctor and a logistics mastermind (Paul) has transformed into a major international relief effort with more people getting involved and each project growing in size and purpose.

"We had to do something to help"

“From the start we formed this little club. We bought our first 4x4 and took it to Henley market and put flags on it and started getting attention.

“Two doctors approached us, one had just sold his business. I mentioned that we needed several thousands of pounds to buy and load another jeep and the doctor took it upon himself to send me double that and we had enough to buy three more vehicles.”

Local ground knowledge in Ukraine came from lawyer-turned-soldier who said the moment the bombs struck he ‘swapped his briefcase for an ak47’.

Connecting through LinkedIn, this contact sent Paul a long list of essential items desperately needed to equip ordinary men with professional survival kits to treat wounds and injuries and even sickness.

“All they had was plasters. Plasters! Patching up war wounds with plasters. I just couldn’t believe it,” said Paul.

The men didn’t have ambulances, either. Volunteers were carrying injured soldiers on bicycles to nearby hospitals, if there was a hospital nearby. 

“People were dying unnecessarily because they needed vehicles and supplies. We had to do something to help,” said Paul.

"Each trip is expertly planned"

With four army tours under his belt Paul understood the horrors of war and that was with the right support and training behind him. Realising that the ‘soldiers’ in Ukraine had very little to help with even basic survival drove the urgency of his mission.

“Within four days we had 28 volunteers, many of whom were army personnel who have such a ‘can do’ attitude.

“We then started to map-up our efforts, contact hospitals and pharmacies, each taking an area or a county and between us we collected enough for our first trip.”

That first trip, completed in the group’s own cars, was in March 2022. “It nearly killed us,” added Paul. “It was 2886 miles from our depot in London to as near to the frontline as we could make it.

“That first trip was hairy because we were going into right into Ukraine where quite a few British soldiers had been killed previously because they were using WhatsApp which the Russians could hack. We had to use a signal which they couldn’t track,” mentioned Paul.

“But we weren’t thinking about our safety. We were just thinking about getting the stuff there.”

By the time the second trip came around just a month later, enough money had been raised to equip up to 200 soldiers with essential medical kit.

“We took over five fully equipped Land Rovers, rammed floor to ceiling with folding stretchers, binoculars, range finders, morphine, painkillers, jet pens for diabetics (because a lot of soldiers were eating so poorly they were getting diabetes).”

The third trip, in June, comprised eight land rovers, but the fourth in October saw the most supplies being taken over.

Using contacts on the ground and in the UK, Paul had heard how the conditions the soldiers were living in were similar to those that men had faced in WWI.

“We were coming into winter and we’d heard that the guys were sleeping deep in the trenches, wet, muddy, standing up, weapons at the ready. So we went about getting loads of sleeping bags together for them.”

Using local resources, Paul also sourced over 300 tents and a further 200 sleeping bags.

“We collected all that was left in the fields from Reading Festival which included not only tents and sleeping bags but useful camping equipment as well.”

Each trip is expertly planned, and with military precision so that countries can be crossed safely and checkpoints reached on time. 

Along the way there has been a vehicle fire, border control issues and days when they ‘risked life and limb’ to pull off the missions. 

"Building a field hospital is next" 

They drove, often without breaks, for 11-12 hours a day, surviving on little rest and sustenance but nothing stopped Paul and his team from their mission. Even when they were told that they too could be targets, especially if the Russians knew they were a convoy carrying aid.

“That’s why we never painted a red cross on the vehicles, because we were told that the Russians would even bomb ambulances,” Paul told us.

With each trip the kit list grows. After the third trip they realised that they could take diesel generators over to power up to 50 homes. And there was a need for medical vehicles so now they drive and leave their jeeps there for Ukraine soldiers to use as ambulances.

“On one of the trips we saw that the soldiers had no radios to communicate so I managed to get hold of 22 police radios.

“We’ve helped them with comms, medical suppliers, vehicles. The plan now is to build tented hospitals.”

Paul is trying to get enough gear together to provide doctors with on-site surgery units and two, army tents to build a field hospital.

Working as voco Reading’s Director of Sales and Marketing during the week, Paul’s weekends are dedicated to ringing round hospitals and looking for donations. “It’s become quite personal now,” he admitted.

Paul has held senior positions within special branches of the British Army and later organised events for royal family but every situation, every war or disaster zone or highly pressurised situation brings the unknown. “I couldn’t have done it without my colleagues, I’ve served with two of guys in Iraq and one guy in Bosnia, one from decompression camp in Afghanistan.

“The first trip was totally by the fly of the seat of our pants. The only thing we managed to do was insure vehicles for international travel it was spontaneous but we all had a quest. We all wanted to help.”

So what can the events industry do?

“The hospitality industry needs to know – so that they can help,” said Paul.

“So far, the Gresham Club in London have helped me tremendously.  (You get quite emotional about people helping),” he admitted.

Sponsorship would give the mission a huge boost. Not even Land Rover, who must be fully aware of their brand’s part in the peace mission by now, haven't jumped at the chance formally have its name associated with the endeavour.

Luckily, members of the public have shown tremendous amounts of kindness to boose the team as they travel.

“Wherever we go people we’ve met in hotels, garages, on the ferry, have said ‘no payment’ for petrol things like breakfast. I could not believe how generous people have been when travelling, especially in Germany.

“People think that what we’re doing is arduous and a really tough mission but it’s nothing compared to what they’re going through on the frontline. Ok, it’s not a little jaunt across Europe, there have been some sticky moments, but during those moments the training we’ve had for any eventuality kicks in and off you go.

“We’re using skill sets and not thinking about it. The fear factor gets put on the back burner it’s automatic.”

Come and See UK Supports Ukraine at The BNC Show 

Paul will be ‘flying the flag’ for his mission at The BNC Show on 19th April, and asking industry colleagues to donate what they can.

“Soldiers are dying, they need our help. What we are doing is hopefully giving them a chance to survive.”


The BNC’s MD was overwhelmed by the story when Paul first told it to him. He said:

“There are some really extraordinary people within this industry and some extra – extraordinary people like Paul. He took the’ bull by the horns’ and made it happen.

“And in this industry there are lots of people and companies who can make stuff happen so let’s get behind Paul and do what we can.

“But first, make sure you stop by his stand at our show and shake his hand.”