Market community helps Ukrainian pigeon-keeper go home to fight Russian army
- Credit: Swaffham Town Council
A "quiet and unassuming" Ukrainian pigeon-keeper will return to his homeland to fight the Russian army - after leaving his flock in the care of Norfolk's poultry community.
The man, aged in his 50s and living in Lincolnshire, is a regular visitor to the poultry markets at Swaffham Racetrack and Holywell Row, near Mildenhall.
He contacted auctioneer Fabian Eagle to say he needed to sell his birds because he felt compelled to help defend Ukraine from a Russian invasion which has already claimed the lives of relatives and friends.
Mr Eagle said he has found temporary homes for the flock of around 200 exhibition pigeons - including looking after some himself - so they will still be here for his client when the war is over.
"This is not a phone call I should be receiving in the 21st century," said Mr Eagle, who is also a Norfolk County Council member for the Brecks.
"He told me: 'I have got to go. It is my country. I have already lost friends and family'.
"It just brought all of this home to me.
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"He has been coming to the markets here for about 10 years, but I don't know him well. He would be in his mid-50s, and he is a quiet, unassuming guy, and very modest.
"It is unbelievable to think there are people in our community like this, and this is what they are prepared to do. It has knocked me for six. It is incredibly selfless."
Mr Eagle said he didn't want to sell the pigeons, but has offered to re-home them instead, with the help of the region's pigeon-fancying community.
"This would have been his hobby, his passion," he said. "It has probably helped get him through Covid and given him friendships that have helped him get established in Britain.
"To think he is giving all those comforts up to go and defend his homeland - it is difficult to comprehend.
"He has got British citizenship, but in case anything happens he has sent me proof of his ID and a copy of his passport. Hopefully I will see him at the auction this week before he goes."
Meanwhile, other members of the market community have donated money totalling almost £300, including Euros in cash, so he can help Ukraine's civilian army to buy supplies.
"They need medical supplies and apparently they are all trying to buy walkie talkies, because if you are in a block of flats you need to communicate with the other civilian volunteer soldiers," said Mr Eagle.
While pigeons can still be sold at auctions, poultry cannot due to restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of bird flu, said Mr Eagle.