Steven Sommerfeld, Marshall’s Chauffeurs Manager, reflects upon his experiences in Ukraine
Steven has travelled to Ukraine six times, volunteering to help animals and people caught in the war zone.
In his five years working as a chauffeur at Marshall, Steven has driven and arranged the travel for a variety of people. When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Steven was to begin driving injured animals and Ukrainian citizens through the conflict to safety.
Steven comes from an ex-military family. When he discovered Breaking the Chains (BTC), a charity that provides rescue and protection for abandoned or injured animals in Ukraine, was founded by a former British Army officer, he knew he had to get involved. Steven flew to Romania at the start of the conflict where, for two weeks, he helped to build a shelter for dogs and cats found in Ukraine. He would later return a few weeks later to build a similar shelter in Ukraine.
“There’s volunteers coming from all over the UK and Europe risking everything to get people and families out,” says Steven. However, the Ukrainian government organised transport were refusing to help pets. “Some people were told they couldn’t take their dog with them. They stayed behind because of it,” Steven explains. “It was the volunteer services that stepped in to help the families with pets.” Steven, the owner of five rescue pets (three dogs and two cats), was determined to take away the decision of leaving a pet behind.
Steven is able to make contact with families with pets after putting his transport offers out on social media. After admin and research, Steven now carefully selects and agrees to meet families with pets to transport free of charge.
He drives a 20 year old Shogun Warrior 4x4, often along treacherous roads. “If you’re looking for an indestructible car, buy a Shogun!” Steven says. “I’ve put a hybrid Ukraine-UK flag on it, so Ukrainians can see that help is here.” The Shogun is loaded up with items to help animals and people with various injuries. “I take over dog food, veterinary treatments, pet bedding, trauma kits, first aid kits… Some animals are dehydrated, but others can be missing eyes and limbs,” Steven says.
Prior to his latest trip to Ukraine in January 2024, Steven had collected donations from his Marshall colleagues and neighbours on behalf of a humanitarian organisation. However, there were several large teddy bears that were too big to be transported to Ukraine. So, with a Shogun Warrior full of bears, and accompanied by Juliusz Wolk (Apprentice, Adult Trainee) who helped translate, Steven crossed the border to Ukraine for the sixth time. The bears were handed out to an orphanage which Steven describes as wonderful moment.
On this trip, Steven and Juliusz were based at the BTC centre where a newly built rehab centre for soldiers with injuries or PTSD had been built, combining it with the existing animal shelter. On a daily basis, a BTC ‘ambulance’ is driven to collect some soldiers from a local military hospital for that day to visit the rehab centre, and then returned to hospital. The BTC rescue dogs were introduced to the soldiers to help them decompress. Steven also contributed to the rehab centre. “We built a wheelchair ramp there. It felt like the cherry on the cake that was the veterans rehab centre,” he says.
Summarising his various trips, Steven says “I never feel ready to come home. I feel I have a sense of purpose out there. I thought one trip would be enough, but I felt I needed to do more out there… There is so much help and volunteers working in Ukraine that it feels positive being there… The Ukrainian people are resilient and upbeat. When I come home I feel recharged, not broken like people expect.”
Steven now operates under his own organisation, Paws for Peace. The not-for-profit welcomes donations to pay for fuel (each round trip is around 3,800 miles) and to be distributed to small shelters deep within Ukraine. For more information, please visit: https://paws-for-peace.com/