October 2, 2022


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The best car for a war zone, it drove me to safety from Ukraine


It’s the issue on everyone’s lips. What is the finest motor vehicle to have if you obtain you in the center of a war zone? Several would conclude nearly immediately that it’s a reliable Land Rover Defender or some other sort of rugged 4×4, if possible with bulletproof glass and bodywork.

They would be incorrect. What you want is a handbook 2015 silver Skoda Fabia estate with a minor 1.2-litre petrol engine and all over 80,000 miles on the clock. Sure, this is the ideal car for any war zone – and it is my new ideal good friend.

It will set you again all around £4,500 and will see you safely out of a metropolis focused by bombs, by means of gunfights and overwhelming armed forces checkpoints. It will skip in excess of the worst potholes any street could toss at you, and in no way, ever give up on you.

What is far more Lesya, as I named her, will generate for 26 hours with no a split. She will get on mountain ranges like Sherpa Tenzing, climbing a lot more than 6,000ft, never ever puffing or breaking sweat. She will not rest till she has obtained you to basic safety. Of training course, I did not pick Ukraine as a excellent place for a bit of street screening. I was there on war reporting duty. It just so transpires the little Fabia was some thing of a star for the duration of my time in the country.

I hired Lesya – a identify of Greek origin that implies protector of humanity – on arrival in the funds, Kyiv, on 23 February. I tucked her away in the underground car or truck park of the InterContinental resort wondering she would only be utilised for the occasional minor travel about this beautiful and cultured metropolis. 

Certain, Vladimir Putin had just recognised the separatist promises of the Donbas region in the south-east of this large region, but he was in no way going to storm the money, we all thought.

I thought the most action Lesya would see was the men and women of Kyiv schooling to fire semi-computerized device guns, in the event that a few Russian insurgents experimented with to lead to havoc about the governing administration buildings overlooking the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, if not recognised as Independence Sq.. 

Or it’s possible she would pootle alongside to a local neighborhood centre to look at the brave and fiercely unbiased citizens of Kyiv make thousands of Molotov cocktails or some camouflage netting. You know, your normal Sunday generate.

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Nicely, Lesya and I have been in for a impolite awakening, virtually. A little a lot more than 12 several hours after I arrived in Kyiv, Putin’s war equipment went to function in the early several hours, bombing metropolitan areas throughout Ukraine, including the capital.

Although we mere individuals in the InterContinental may perhaps have been a little bit rattled as the 1st missiles struck a handful of miles from our home windows, Lesya just sat calmly in her parking area, planning for her inescapable mission.

Following a next evening of bombing, the expectation was that Putin’s tanks would be rolling into Kyiv in just hrs. The aggressors would lower communications and block escape routes, we have been informed. Very little did any person know at the time that the Ukrainians would fight with these skill and courage to stall the progress of Russian hardware and troops into the money.

Because of to Russia’s tendency to shoot journalists, the choice was taken by a variety of reporting teams from the British isles and US to seek safer territory. The west of Ukraine beckoned. This was to be Lesya’s time. She might have been the smallest auto in our five-motor vehicle convoy, but the tiny Skoda’s boot extra than coped with the substantial baggage of three reporters and furnished a comfort stage past her value tag. Lesya was in her factor.

We joined the logjam out of Kyiv but even though the initial 8 miles took more than eight hours, Lesya did not complain. Her clutch was powerful even with the constant switching from 1st to second equipment and she refused to overheat or complain. While a major bomb strike to the north of the town, just a mile or so absent, shook the floor beneath her, she remained planted, her coolness engendering quiet in both equally her driver and passengers.

We achieved the city limits and the traffic eased as refugees embarked on their differing paths to the west. We lastly bought some speed up and the minor Fabia had no difficulties trying to keep up with her “superior” comrades. Lesya did not flinch as she passed nine great floor-to-surface area missiles parked up on three trucks by the side of the highway. The tanks, armoured personnel carriers and rocket launchers did not stage her. 

She cocked a snook at the strains of crippled luxury 4x4s at the aspect of the road. The roads had not been bombed at this position but you could have been forgiven for wondering they had. It was additional apparent than at any time that the Fabia’s nimbleness, trustworthiness and gentle fat designed her the great auto for a war zone when one of her larger, and considerably much more expensive, VW brothers blew two tyres immediately after suffering a devastating hit from potholes. 

Among us, our group did not have two appropriate spare wheels to patch up the six-moments extra high-priced Tiguan, so  its load was shared among the surviving four automobiles in the convoy. Lesya did not moan. She took on yet another few of big suitcases and was prepared to go on via the night. She was not fading, even if her driver was.

The manual 2015 silver Skoda Fabia estate experienced about 80,000 miles on the clock

As we break up the load and ready to proceed, we could hear loud and quick gunfire. It was coming from a checkpoint just a couple hundred yards ahead. As we approached the taking pictures ceased, but the atmosphere was tense.  Ukrainian troop carriers had directed their headlamps into the woods, presumably hunting for Russian bandits. People today dressed in black had been lined up from a fence.

We do not know who  they were as we ended up rushed by way of the barriers after exhibiting our papers, but it very a lot appeared as if they have been the people today currently being shot at. We were being close to 20 several hours into the journey at this position, with six several hours to go until we attained the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Lesya just kept heading.

As dawn broke, she desired her a person and only leading-up. At this issue in the war, martial regulation experienced currently been declared and gasoline stations were only delivering 20 litres per auto. That was great for Lesya, it stuffed her up regardless of the 300 or so miles she’d now covered.

A facet note is required right here. We were being driving in a country upon which the 2nd biggest military drive in the world had declared war. Its citizens have been staying, and carry on to be, brutally specific by Putin’s missiles. Its infrastructure was becoming wrecked and food stuff and gas ended up previously commencing to operate very low.

In these types of situations, prices at the pump are likely to be topic to important inflation. Yet, we compensated 90p a litre for petrol, practically half the price tag now experienced at British isles pumps. What the hell is that about?

In any case, again to Lesya. As we arrived at the Carpathian hideout 26 hrs just after our departure from Kyiv, we mortals were being ready for a crack. While the small Fabia would have gone on and on, her driver was broken and needed to sleep with no remaining woken by bombing in the middle of the night time. 

Soon after my very first first rate night’s kip in Ukraine, at initially light Lesya and I embarked on a amazing six-hour drive in excess of the Carpathians to the Slovakian border town of Uzhhorod – a mere dash for both of those of us just after the former marathon. Then, regrettably, we have been forced to aspect, due to retain the services of vehicles not getting permitted to go away Ukraine.

As we mentioned goodbye, I gave her a pat on the bonnet. “Well completed, Lesya,” I said. “Thank you.” As I turned again for a last glance, I recognized the Skoda appeared to be as gleaming as when she’d arrived at the InterContinental in Kyiv. Not a speck of dirt could I see, nor a one mark on her alloys from the 4×4-killer potholes.

My minor Fabia had a magic about her. A guardian angel with a silver complete metal jacket. She is my heroine.

The specs: Skoda Fabia Estate (2015)

Motor: 1.2 petrol
Transmission: Handbook
-60mph: 9.3 seconds
Top rated speed: 124mph
Gas financial state: 58mpg
Star ranking: ★★★★★


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