A MAN delivering hope and pizza to displaced Ukrainians said there is "no end in sight" to the "terrifying" Russian offensive.

Tom Hughes is head of fields operations for charity HopeFull and has seen the first-hand impact of Russia's invasion since he moved to Ukraine in March 2022.

The 43-year-old, from Hindon, was tasked with "restoring hope to people with little to smile about" by handing out wood-fired pizza and bringing communities together.

Two years on, Hopefull has delivered more than 1.5m pizzas and Mr Hughes now has seven trucks and two teams to manage.

Salisbury Journal: Tom Hughes has tiptoed the frontline in Ukraine.Tom Hughes has tiptoed the frontline in Ukraine. (Image: Hopefull)

One team is based in Lviv and visits internally displaced people shelters in Western Ukraine while the other visits eastern towns and villages that suffer the "horror of Russian bombardment daily".

"Unlike traditional aid outfits, we try to interact as much as possible - the team arrives, plays upbeat music through a big speaker, and fires up our 11 gas-fired ovens," said Mr Hughes, who wears a kilt in Ukrainian colours while working.

"We gather the whole community, and can produce about 3000 pizzas a day, along with drinks and face-painting."

Salisbury Journal: Communities gather to share pizza.Communities gather to share pizza. (Image: Hopefull)

By November 2022 Mr Hughes was following the Ukrainian Army as it advanced through the east to work in each town as it gained its freedom.

But it took one close call where Mr Hughes and his team were "lucky to survive" to realise he had taken the charity as far east as it could go.

He said: "As the Russians leave, they always destroy the water, gas, electric and food supplies, as well as scattering anti-personnel mines and boobytraps everywhere.

"Working in a newly liberated Kherson, we came under heavy artillery fire for five days, and were lucky to survive.

"That was the moment that I realised I had taken the charity as far east as I could - we now make sure that we stay back at least 25km from the Russian guns to avoid such risks, both to the volunteers and the community we are serving."

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Most of HopeFull's customers are the elderly, women and children as the men are at war.

Every day mothers tell Mr Hughes that their child had smiled for the first time since the war began when his team arrives.

"This to me is the biggest part of our work - combatting the deep trauma from the endless explosions and grief caused by Russian occupation/aggression," he explained.

Salisbury Journal: Hopefull is giving children something to smile about.Hopefull is giving children something to smile about. (Image: Hopefull)

With "no end in sight", Mr Hughes hears missiles every night and prays it isn't going to be his building that gets hit.

Mr Hughes added: "The Russian offensive is terrifying - looking into the eyes of parents and children who endured eight months of abuse under occupation and are now looking at the possible reality of being occupied again is unbearable.

"News cycles change but the reality here is the same. Every tiny village has a score of fresh graves, and every family is mourning a fallen hero.

"The very brave and resilient Ukrainian people need support more than ever in these dark times."

Formerly known as Siobhan's Trust, the overseas rapid reaction arm of the charity rebranded to Hopefull in March 2024. 

Siobhan's Trust has returned to its original purpose as a family trust supporting young people in Scotland.