АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Nataliia Zadorozhna
18 July 2022
Ihor Repiashenko knew all about cars from a young age. He worked as a driver and repaired vehicles of various brands. When the war broke out, Ihor didn’t leave his favourite work behind but found a way how he can help the defenders on the front lines. He brings humanitarian aid to the hottest spots almost every week. The man told “War Monologues” how he breaks through under shelling, bypasses blown bridges, mined roads and about his unique invention of camouflaging front-line vehicles.
By occupation I’m a tractor driver and locksmith. I graduated from the Korsun-Shevchenko Vocational School. I have been living in Cherkasy for about 30 years. Although during this period I managed to work at different service stations and repaired various brands of cars, I never painted them. At that time, I didn’t even think of developing in this direction because I understood that car painting wasn’t my thing. I worked in Finland for over ten years. There I repaired cars, tractors, motor boats, and everything that drove and had an engine and worked as a driver.
When I was young, I engaged in karting for eight years at the station of young technicians in Cherkasy. This experience came in handy when I participated in a car slalom and rally organized by the Automobile Club “Cherkasy”. I built two cars for myself in order to participate in the race.
The champions of Ukraine and Italy were fascinated with the car design I developed. Later, I became a member of this fantastic team, with the help of which I now go to the front. “Cherkasy” Automobile Club became a family for me.
With the beginning of a full-scale war, I began to carry humanitarian aid for refugees from Lviv to Cherkasy. For my first trip, I rented two trucks, and a month later, I started driving to defenders in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv regions. They struggled more than refugees.
I usually don’t take anyone with me on the road, although they offer to go with a second driver. But I don’t want anyone else to risk their lives, because when I choose a route, it’s only my decision. However, I have taken a risk recently, because a friend from Lviv came to visit, so it was the first drive with someone.
«Often, in order to get to the destination on the map, you have to drive 60 kilometers, but in real practice it can be up to 300 kilometers, taking into consideration that you have to go around the fields, as the bridges are blown up or the road is mined».
And this happens almost every ride to the front lines. They are always full of challenges.
I heard gunshots every ride to the front lines, but they were far away. About two months ago, someone called me at my entrance to Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region. The ringtone of the phone distracted me, it seemed that I drove over potholes. I had a strange feeling, I heard some unusual sound that definitely didn’t come from the car. Besides, I was really exhausted as I had already been on the road for 12 hours. A minute later, I saw that the wreckage of the building was scattered on the road caused by a missile attack. The soldiers I visited told me that at this time two missiles struck in Bakhmut.
Another case happened during the first bus ride, when I was on the road for the third day. I had to deliver six packages for the guys who are now in the East of Ukraine, and was just delivering the last one.
I left forty kilometers from the last settlement. There were many explosion craters ahead, so I had to put a lot of effort in order to avoid them. Then I saw that the road was blocked by burnt cars and there was no way through. So, I began to turn back to find the needed path. When I had already switched on the first gear, I heard the sound of a shell.
I should have run out of the car and lay down in the shelter, but there were no craters nearby. So, I immediately made the decision to hurry up and leave this area. A thought flashed through my head: if I don’t leave now, I will definitely not get out on foot.
And at the same moment there was an explosion, from which the bus began to swing in different directions. I saw a lot of dust in the right rear view mirror. I could take a look at the car when I reached the nearest checkpoint. Three fragments of a missile struck into the rear right part of the car, and the lamp was broken. I thanked God that everything went well and went on to deliver the package.
Nowadays, I try to make at least one ride a week. But, unfortunately, every time it is more and more difficult to organize a ride, because there is a constant lack of funds for fuel. I spend approximately eight thousand hryvnias on one ride. In terms of time, it takes from one and a half to four days, and the distance of rides is approximately 1200-1800 kilometers.
To somehow deal with the shortage of funds and get money for fuel, I periodically share posts asking for help on social media. I am also asking for support from my friends from Finland. There are times when I drive back home and have no money to refuel the car for the next ride. Just then, a friend, the owner of the company “Alex Lux Market” calls and asks me to bring a parcel with ammunition to his acquaintance and fill the car with fuel in both directions. On the way home, I posted an announcement on social media that I am driving to the front and can take everything necessary to the defenders. This is how I gather everyone who needs my help.
I mainly deliver humanitarian aid, which is prepared at Cherkasy School №17. When the war broke out, Daria Buniakina together with the teachers launched a production of stew, homemade sausages, side dishes with meat, pastries and homemade bread. The production range is constantly updated. So I personally deliver to the defenders to make sure they get everything they need. People from the city of Smila helped twice with food and camouflage nets. Sometimes businessmen from Cherkasy refuel cars and provide food.
At first, I drove to the east of Ukraine in my own Volkswagen Passat car. This car is designed for travelling on asphalt with a small volume of the load. I had to remove the rear seats, insert airbags into the undercarriage, but it still wasn’t enough.
For a long time I planned to buy a bus, or exchange it for my Volkswagen Passat. The option to sell my car and buy a new bus instead didn’t suit me because it would take a lot of time. A full-scale war just broke out, many people were shocked and stressed, and here I thought of buying a bus. Everything was settled immediately, as soon as I told my friends from the Automobile Club “Cherkasy” about his idea. I received a huge support from them. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that my friends raised funds on social media to buy me the bus. What’s more, I didn’t even know about it. This campaign was initiated by the head of the club Andrii Yaromenko, who also contributed part of his own funds. This is how we managed to buy an Opel Vivaro. Actually, I was quite impressed when people started sending funds for. These were different sums: from 20 hryvnias to 50 thousand. They were sent by both acquaintances and people whom I did not know personally. I want to tell everyone who helped with the raising of the funds: for me, this bus became special. Thanks to your support, now I can deliver larger volume of the load to the front lines.
I gradually started painting cars, but only for the military. I do not charge for my work, sometimes just for paint. The approach to painting is a military one: the simpler, cheaper, the more effective. There should also be an opportunity to do this in the field. In other words, anyone can do it.
At first I painted only in green, but it always mattered. Everything that sparkles in the sun, especially chrome, must be removed or broken off. Because even a small gap can ruin a perfect car camouflage. If both options do not fit, then the process is delayed. I take the sandpaper in my hands and matt it, make peculiar strips on the metal, in this way the paint adheres better to the surface and does not fall off. If this is not done, then a branch from a tree can remove the paint from chrome parts.
How did I start painting with a branch? At first, I painted it in the ordinary green color, and tried to make it look natural and similar to tree leaves.
Then the manufacturer of the paint slightly changed the shade for some reason. After that, the effect that was supposed to be from this paint disappeared. And then I changed the approach: the paint had to be applied in two different colors, like a pixel. It takes a long time to cut a stencil out of cardboard, it is not reliable, and painting will take a long time, and above all, it all has to be done in the field conditions. Then I decided to take dark green paint as the background, the light green paint as the young leaves of a tree, and the sand color as yellow leaves. If the camouflage is in the forest, then the stencil is the leaves. I plucked any branch of a tree, preferably with small leaves, and made the stencil out of it. In this way, I even paint car windows, and the driver hardly gets distracted by it.
I didn’t paint windows before, however, when I was in the east of Ukraine and talked with the soldiers, I saw that they smeared the glass with dirt so that there was no reflection. After that, I started to paint the glass as well.
The painting process takes place on the territory of the service station, I paint, and locksmiths help with car repairs. All this is also free, on a volunteer basis. In terms of time, painting takes from four to six hours, depending on the car. After that, the car is used by the defenders.
Only a small percentage of cars need to be without camouflage, because there are groups of soldiers who drive only such cars: they disguise themselves as locals and do their job. But the main part is fighting from the forest, so camouflage helps to hide from the drone.
When I painted cars just in green colour, they said: “Oh, that’s great.” And when I started using a poplar branch as a brush, there was a pause for the first few seconds, and then words of admiration that I cannot even express.
I am always experimenting in my life, I like to do something new. If it doesn’t work right away, then it’s even more interesting, because you have to think, try different methods. The same applies to car repair and load transportation to the east of Ukraine. I feel really happy when I manage to deliver humanitarian aid to our defenders, and want to help them again, until our victory
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Nataliia Zadorozhna