MAN ON A MISSION Westport doctor Conor Farrell is helping bring two vans of badly-needed medical supplies from the Candle of Grace warehouse in Castlebar all the way to Ukraine. Pic: Karen Cox
Dr Conor Farrell is delivering supplies to Ukraine and helping out in any way he can
It’s raining in Medyka, in the south-east corner of Poland, as the vans from Mayo approach the border post. They’ve been in transit for more than three days and everyone is tired. Conor Farrell peers through the windscreen at the installations, the barbed wire, the lights and Ukraine awaiting in the distance. The Westport man hasn’t experienced anything like this before.
Conor is a father, husband, son, brother and medical doctor. Conor is a thinker. Conor wants to help people. Conor is helping bring two vans of badly-needed medical supplies from the Candle of Grace warehouse in Castlebar and place them in the hands of those who need them most.
Four days earlier, the sun is shining in Castlebar and Farrell is telling stories as only he can. Two brave and brilliant sons of Ukraine hover in the background. They haven’t time to talk. Every second is precious. They’re loading the vans. They’re using every inch of available space because they know the contents of every single box have the potential to ease pain, dress wounds, save lives and treat infections.
Nearby, Lily Luzan is doing countless things at once. The driving force behind the Candle of Grace charity looks utterly shattered, but she keeps going; there’s no other choice.
“I heard about Lily and looked at the work she was doing. I saw that she was able to get humanitarian aid and supplies directly to the people in most need. They weren’t stopping at the border. They were going all the way, and I wanted to help,” Conor tells The Mayo News.
The GP has never been afraid to alter his perceived path in life and follow his heart. He studied in Dublin, was within heartbeats of exam completion and a return west when he met a Tyrone woman and set off on a journey of adventure and romance.
“Westport and Mayo are beautiful, but they don’t compare with a Tyrone woman,” he says through a smile and two dancing, sparkling eyes.
Is the Tyrone woman fearful of what might happen her husband on his journey to the heart of war?
“She asked me to explain why I wanted to go, what benefit I might be, and of course she’s scared … there are lots of things to be taken into consideration,” Conor adds.
The vans are heavy with medical supplies when they leave Castlebar. They take the ferry, travel across the continent and on Friday evening as this journalist and photographer Karen Cox wait in the rain, the vehicles approach the crossing.
Behind the barbed wire the Mayo duo peer into the night to try and get a glimpse of Conor and his companions. The Westport man phones. “We can’t stop. We’re behind schedule and they need the stuff badly.” The duo waiting in the rain send virtual hugs, oodles of luck and a warnings to be safe.
Soon, the only thing visible of the Candle of Grace vans are the taillights. The Westport man has stepped from his comfortable, safe life into a land being torn asunder and pillaged of its people.
Strong and welcoming
A day later, doctor and journalist talk again. “We dropped off our first delivery of aid and it was very much appreciated. There was a picture on the wall, drawn by a kid saying, ‘Thanks for help to our friends from Ireland, Mayo, Candle of Grace’. That brought a lump to the throat surely. I knew the supplies were badly needed but I never, ever imagined how bad the need for medication, medical products and basic foodstuffs really is.
“Yet, I’ve been invited for a traditional breakfast tomorrow by one of the extremely busy volunteers. I honestly don’t think they sleep at all here, but even at such a terrible time they remain strong and welcoming.
“The mad thing about it, is that despite what’s happening all around them there’s plenty of slagging and laughter too. They’ve already copped on that I’m a bit mad and they like that, so I’m sound.”
The laughter-laced voice at the other end of the phone comes from a man following his convictions. Conor Farrell was born and raised to help others. He badly wants to hug the Tyrone woman and their amazing children again very soon, but right now he has people to help.