Kyiv, February 28 From sunny Maspalomas to cold kyiv. This is the route that the former rally driver and ultramarathon fan Paco Molina has already traveled three times in a van to deliver to the Ukrainian people the humanitarian aid that his association, Karuna, collects with funds from the Cabildo of Gran Canaria.
“This time I brought two thousand kilos of surgical and medical equipment that we delivered to the army,” Molina told EFE in the bar of his hotel in Kiev, hours before starting a return trip. between two of the most distant points in Europe. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the old driver.
“It takes me three or four days,” he says of the time it takes him to travel from the Ukrainian capital to Huelva, from where the Naviera Armas offers him a free ticket to return with his van on the island of Gran Canaria.
Asked about the arduousness of such a long journey, the former rally driver does not seem to see the distance as a problem, and highlights the pleasure he has in driving on the motorways – “when possible with tolls, because they are safer” – European, in particular those of Germany, “where there is no speed limit”.
ORIGINS IN THE PANDEMIC
Born in 1960 in the English town of Saint Albans, into a family of Spanish emigrants who returned to Algeciras shortly afterwards, Molina arrived on the islands at the age of 18, where he devoted himself to the hotel business and took part in competitions. such as the Gran Canaria Gravel Rally Championship.
Molina founded Karuna, a concept from Hinduism and Buddhism that can be translated as “compassion”, to help those who had lost their jobs in his adopted city, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, where he also been an adviser.
San Bartolomé is located on the island of Gran Canaria. The well-known tourist town of Maspalomas is located within its municipal area.
“There’s a lot of tourism and a lot of underground economy, and all the people who lost their jobs and didn’t have a contract ended up without income or help,” says Molina in Kiev’s Podil district.
Karuna started distributing food and basic necessities to these people and now has about 70 volunteers who, with the help of the city council and the van in which Molina has already made three trips to Ukraine, provide services to approximately two thousand people in a situation of vulnerability or social exclusion.
FROM THE PALM TO THE UKRAINE WAR
The Molina association has also participated in humanitarian actions to treat people affected by the eruption, in September 2021, of the volcano on the Canary island of La Palma. A few months later, on February 24, the Russian army began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
A few weeks later, Molina and one of his collaborators make their first trip by van to western Ukraine, where they deliver humanitarian aid to a local NGO.
On his second trip, in April 2022, things went awry when his Ukrainian partners ran out of gas money, forcing the Karuna founder to return to his life. Bypassing language difficulties, Molina managed to make himself understood and deliver the cargo to the army.
REFUGEE AND CO-PILOT
To avoid these problems, the former pilot established a direct connection with the Ukrainian armed forces and, in February, he completed his third mission, arriving in the same capital accompanied by Rebeka Parshutina, a Ukrainian refugee living in Tenerife who acted as co-pilot and translator.
One of the things that most impressed Molina during his last visit to Ukraine was meeting and sharing food rations with the men and women in uniform defending Ukraine in this war. The military environment reminds the founder of Karuna of his time in the army.
Seeing homeless people spend the cold Ukrainian winter on the streets and underpasses of Kiev also made him understand why Karuna has so much work in San Bartolomé de Tirajana, where many people from all over Spain settle without possibility. to rent or buy a house.
“There, we have a warm climate all year round,” says Molina.
“It allows them to sleep on the beach, and since there is so much tourism and so many restaurants that have a lot of food, they also have more access to food than elsewhere,” points out the former pilot about a reality on the island that has been understood by more than 5,000 kilometers. EFE