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Chris Tarrant and Countess Alexandra Tolstoy present at Englefield House Ukraine fundraiser



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A Ukraine fundraising event at Englefield House raised more than £30,000 last week and featured a raffle drawn by Bucklebury resident and local celebrity Chris Tarrant.

The formal evening featured a host of guest speakers, including a local businessman who will be driving to the Polish/Ukraine border with a van full of supplies, the British Army’s senior representative in Ukraine in 2016, and the adventurer, broadcaster and author, Countess Alexandra Tolstoy.

The event, held at the country house last Thursday (March 24), was the brainchild of Beenham resident Melissa Jones, owner of the catering and events company The Pop-up Kitchen, with all of the money raised being donated to the British Red Cross Ukraine emergency appeal and Unicef Ukraine.

Melissa Jones (centre) the organiser of the event, along with celebrity Chris Tarrant (right) and his partner Jane Bird (left)
Melissa Jones (centre) the organiser of the event, along with celebrity Chris Tarrant (right) and his partner Jane Bird (left)

In an Instagram post, Ms Jones said: “It was an emotional evening but so worth the tears. Truly the biggest thank you to everyone who threw themselves into a wonderful collaborative effort.”

One of the evening’s speakers, Alex Bingley, who lives in Midgham, spoke of the van he had filled with military and medical equipment procured with the help of donations from his friends.

Mr Bingley told the audience of how his Ukrainian colleague Igor became emotional when he realised that the essential life-saving equipment, such as a water purifier which he would be driving to the border along with Mr Bingley, would help his friends and fellow countrymen.

Melissa Jones and Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, the evening's special guest speaker
Melissa Jones and Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, the evening's special guest speaker

Their van loaded with supplies was on display at the entrance to the Long Gallery where the event took place at Englefield House.

Ms Jones and Countess Tolstoy along with some of the event organisers
Ms Jones and Countess Tolstoy along with some of the event organisers

Katie Greatrix, a member of The Shire Collective who helped organise the evening, said: “His sadness at the destruction of a country he loves and people he admires was palpable.”

The fundraiser’s special guest speaker was Countess Tolstoy who gave a fascinating talk about her own family’s experience when fleeing Russia at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The Anglo-Russian adventurer also told the audience of the terrifying culture she experienced while living in Moscow as the partner of the oligarch Sergei Pugachev, whom she was involved with for eight years.

The Countess spoke of how the "lack of morals and ruthless behaviour of Putin’s circle was enough to make The Godfather look like Disney’s Frozen".

Mrs Greatrix also said: “She spoke with such eloquence about the loss of the Russia she loves under the current regime and how deeply horrified and saddened she is by the current situation. She is a passionate supporter of peace in Ukraine.”

The evening closed with the former Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? host Mr Tarrant drawing the raffle prizes that were all donated by local businesses.

You can still donate to the fundraiser at https://bit.ly/3iLl7oC

Ms Jones and The Shire Collective thanked all the other local businesses who helped with the event organisation and Lord and Lady Benyon who generously donated the venue for the event.



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