Man travels 7,000 kilometres to Ukraine to bring five refugee women back to Spain

6,000 Ukrainian refugees due to arrive in Spain, Alicante, Madrid, Barcelona, Escrivá

Pakkin Leung@Rice Post, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

A man from Aragon drove 7,000 kilometres to the Ukraine border to bring five refugee women back to Spain.

Juan Manuel Fernández, known to everyone as Mané drove to the Polish-Ukrainian border and picked up five refugee women fleeing the war: his niece and her friend, as well as a pregnant woman with her mother and daughter.

This 56-year-old retired miner from Utrillas, Aragon, told La opinión de Málaga: “It was a whirlwind trip. In three days, I drove 7,000 kilometres there and back.” Mané is already making plans to return to the Polish border “to look for more refugees”.

Next time, however, he will return with a nine-seater vehicle provided by the Utrillas Town Council. The journey he has just completed was made in a seven-seater car, provided by the association of Ukrainians in Zaragoza.

Mané is married to a Ukrainian woman. He took the opportunity to load the vehicle to the brim with food and bottles of water.

The former miner went on the journey alone and only stopped for an hour to sleep. His initial intention was to pick up his niece and her friend, but once at the Polish-Ukrainian border, he offered to bring more people. However, “refugees are distrustful. They are afraid to leave because there are mafias who will take them to a country in the European Community for a thousand euros, and there have already been some scams,” he said.

So, when his efforts were unsuccessful, he turned back with the two young women. But when he was near Krakow, he received a call from his wife, Vitalina, who asked him to return to the border to pick up a pregnant woman, her daughter and her mother.

Mané is still shocked by what he saw at the Ukrainian border. “There were very frightened people and also NGOs and people from all over who went out of their way to help,” he said.

He had to spend 1,700 euros out of his own pocket on the trip. “The women I brought were very scared and didn’t want to eat, maybe because they didn’t have any money with them, so I paid for the expenses, but I don’t care,” he said.

Back home, Mané is already making plans to return in search of more refugees. “At first, many people were reluctant to get into the car, but as my wife has been saying that I went to look for refugees there, she has started to receive lots of calls from people who want to come to Spain,” he said.


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Written by

Tamsin Brown

Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at