A plumber is dodging bullets to drive Ukrainian refugees across the border to safety into Poland – funding his rescue mission from his own pocket.
Tom Holt, from Kidbrooke, dropped everything to drive to Eastern Europe after seeing the plight of families fleeing Russian tanks and bombs from the start of the invasion a month ago.
Tom and two friends, including a military veteran, are currently out in Poland going back and forth to pick refugees up in Ukraine and bring them safety.
In less than two weeks they have so far saved 43 people from death or devastation wrought by Vladimir Putin and his invading army.
Tom said: “Hopefully we can help a few more. We decided to come out here after seeing the huge humanitarian crisis unfolding, due to the escalating violence towards the Ukrainian people.
“The logistics has been the main difficulty – it’s such a large country and there are only a certain amount of hours in a given day.
“It is the human suffering and the vast amounts of people being displaced and losing their homes.
“We experienced gunfire and air raid sirens went on most of Sunday night. It was a sobering experience.”
The 24-year-old is following the advice of his grandparents in risking his life to help others.
Most of the refugees are from Kyiv and surrounding areas. They have now done 11 supplies drops and taken 19 groups to the border.
Tom added: “We are also going to head down to Moldova as there isn’t much of a humanitarian effort down there. We will go to help people fleeing Kherson, Mariupol and Odessa.
“Currently we have funded everything out of our own pockets – including buying the car to transport people and supplies. Realistically, long-term we would need help from other people to help keep us going.
“I have never been involved in anything like this before. I am just a normal working class lad from South-east london. Before I came I was working as a plumbing and heating engineer – I put down the tools to come.
“Myself and the other lads found each other on a volunteer group and together we decided to help.”
Born at Guy’s Hospital, Tom was raised in Bermondsey then Kidbrooke with two brothers and one sister – his dad is from Sidcup and late mother was from Bethnal Green.
He said: “Growing up we were a close family but we had some family tragedies – we lost my maternal nan, great grandad, great grandmother and mom within a space of three years, while I was between the ages of 8-11.
“I think these events helped shape who I am today.
“The biggest influence on my values was my nan and grandad on my dad’s side, who I lived with throughout my teens to adult life.
“Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. They just always made sure that I was honest, hard working and respectful and willing to help other people – and to always do what you thought was right.”
Tom has been in the news before – in October 2020 he saved more than a dozen neighbours, evacuating them from a burning block of flats in Azenby Road, Peckham, where he was working for Pimlico Plumbers.
He closed all the doors as thick black smoke spread through it, and led some to safety through the fumes.
“I didn’t really think about it – I just wanted to make sure everyone was safe,” said Tom.
To donate, go to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tom-holt