From Ukraine with love: How women at factory outside Kiev risk their lives to bring smiles to children in Lincolnshire

A toddler smiles mischievously as she takes a lick of a dinosaur lollipop.

It’s a treat thousands of children in Lincolnshire enjoy – but few could imagine the dangerous journey taken through war-torn Ukraine to get them to the UK for distribution to our sweet shops.

Every day at a factory operating under a camouflage cover on the outskirts of Kyiv, women risk their lives to turn up for work and make lollipops.

"They are working because their husbands are in the army and fighting for Ukraine,” said Vic Fox of Factory Rock Shop in Skegness, the UK distributor for the factory’s products.

"There are around 300 women at the factory and if it got hit it would affect hundreds of lives. But they risk their own lives and work a 45-hour week to earn £100 a week to support their families.

"They are so dedicated, if the sirens go off and there is a power cut they light fires so they can carry on cooking.

"They are an unbelievable people.”

Before the war, 80% of the lollipops the factory make went to Russia.

"The factory relies on my continued business but I also take a great risk doing this,” said Mr Fox. “I can’t get insurance for the lorries to bring the lollies from the Ukraine, so if any get hit I would lose thousands of pounds.

"The cost of a the journey has risen too. It used to be $2.500 US for shipping – it’s now €8.000 for road transport alone.”

However, while Mr Fox is prepared to take that risk, the factory and the drivers welcome the work.

Last week he took delivery of 3,500 cartons of candy lollipops from the factory in Ukraine. .The driver faced an arduous seven-day, 400-mile journey to Skegness, beginning in war-torn areas of Ukraine before reaching the Polish border.

“The driver told me the first 250 miles were particularly scary,” said Mr Fox.

"He told me he could have been hit at any time. He drove through bombed towns and passed burned out houses and cars on the side of the roads – and at one point he was stopped by the army as a tank emerged from the other side of the road and turned to head towards him.

"Once he reached the Polish border, he queued for two days .along with over 160 other trucks. They were sitting ducks if the Russians saw them.”

The truck finally arrived in Skegness at 9pm on a Friday night and was unloaded at 5am the following morning, before starting the return journey.

This was the second truck load Mr Fox has received since the beginning of the war.

"I am doing this to help the Ukraine people who are living a nightmare every day of their lives, “ said Mr Fox.

“I have been to this area many times and it makes you think I can tell you. There are old ladies outside supermarkets to sell a cabbage or eggs to scrape a living.

"Now this crazy war is destroying what little they had in the first place.

A Freemason, Mr Fox added UK.Freemasons have sent £60.000 recently. He added: “We try and support Ukraine as much as possible.”