АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Mariia Orletska
5 July 2022
Serhii, who lives in Byshiv, the Kyiv region, started volunteering on the second or third day of the full-scale invasion. Just when fierce battles were taking place. His attention was attracted by a post on social media in which people were asking for help. They needed food and medicine. Serhii decided to respond to the call for help.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve got ants in my pants. I’ve always been an active boy who often took part in performances and competitions. Before the war, I used to be an ultra-runner and cyclist. I’d worked in the field of IT and dreamed of having my own home. Besides, I was planning to buy it this year. Sorting through the options, I was inclined to choose a place in Bucha.
Most of my time I spent with my family, friends, working and training. Let’s say, they were the main aspects of my life. I was also fond of traveling as it gave me a chance to study differences of nationalities and their cultures, etc.
That day I intended to sleep in and recharge as I was exhausted. On February 23rd I had a severe nervous breakdown because my two dogs were sterilized. I was worried and spent the day with them. The following morning, my plan to regain strength and a long sleep turned out to be a complete failure. I was woken up by my wife pulling my hand nervously. She said that my mother had already called about two dozen times. 20 missed calls from parents at any age is a bad sign.
I called my mother back and heard her crying. She only said that the war had begun and asked us to leave the city. That’s it. It took me around an hour to pull myself together. Then – the sound of explosions, crowded streets, shouts and traffic jams.
The first thing I did was to exchange currency for hryvnia. Luckily, there was no queue. There was no point in getting groceries as the supermarkets, shops were extremely overcrowded. Queues started as far as a block away. It was also useless to go somewhere by taxi, because traffic jams were all over the city. Moreover, I didn’t want to leave with two dogs that just underwent surgery. We saw that they were still in pain. We wouldn’t abandon them and save only ourselves, it is not about us.
When the emotions subsided a little, we cooled down and made the decision to stay in the capital. Although I was still nervous myself, I called my parents to calm them down as well as my wife. I was not worried about myself, but my relatives as I have extended family.
Frankly speaking, I hardly remember my first volunteer contribution in the history of this war. This must have been on the second or third day after the start of the full-scale invasion. Just when fierce battles were taking place. My attention was attracted by a post on social media in which people were asking for help. They needed food and medicine.
I decided to respond to the call for help. I found a car, bought some food and necessary medicine. That was a real challenge because I had to wait in a queue for about an hour to buy everything. I again and again waited, bought and delivered. After that a thought came to my mind that people were in dire need of help. Being a bystander is not about me.
At first, I paid for all purchases out of my own pocket. I also asked my friends to join in and give me a hand. However, I gradually ran out of resources and started collecting donations. Later, my friend Maxim borrowed a car from his friend and we started volunteering together. Every day we drove around Kyiv from 50 to 400 kilometers delivering food, medicine and pet food.
Initially, the vector of our aid was focused on the humanitarian direction. But suddenly we had a request from the Armed Forces of Ukraine and, of course, we responded to it. Then, there was another request from the Territorial Defence Force. So, that’s how it is going.
Currently, the main part of our activity is equipping the Armed Forces. This is extremely important for obvious reasons. We want our soldiers to be provided with everything they need. We continue to buy things partly with our salaries, donations and with the help of some funds.
Together with a friend, we drove through the liberated territories, bringing food, clothes, hygiene products for the civilian population. Once we even managed to get a refrigerator to school.
As for numbers, during all this time we have already spent almost one and a half million hryvnia on general needs. This is not counting cash. When you use your credit card you can see your expenses, but you don’t always pay attention to them while spending cash.
We do not seek requests for help, “they find us themselves”. To be honest, sometimes there are far more of them than we can deal with. We try to help everyone, but due to some reasons we have started to filter those requests more thoroughly.
The fact is that there were various cases, including unpleasant ones. We encountered thefts and different methods of deception from sellers. It’s unfortunate that some people are trying to make money during such times. In most cases, we now transfer things in person or send them by Nova Poshta. After all, our volunteers travel for provisions, they can bring what is necessary along the way, even in hot spots.
In a nutshell, it is easy to find those who need any kind of help. It is more complicated to provide that help or solve their problems. The most difficult thing, apart from collecting donations and all the negativity from the war, is to refuse people. We want to help everybody, but due to limited resources, it is necessary to sort out priorities and to filter applications.
You remember everything that happens to you, especially the reaction of people who have been given help. However, some memories can also be negative. Sometimes there are those who show their dissatisfaction when you’ve bought wrong water or meat.
But I get goosebumps when I see how happy people are . I remember how once we were helping civilians, a grandmother burst into tears. She cried because she found cookies and chocolate in the food basket. Can you imagine? Usual sweets can move you to tears.
And I also remember how the children who lived in the occupation were happy to see apples and bananas. They looked at food as if for the first time. I will never forget such a reaction to fruit, juice and sweets.
The trembling hands of the guys in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who hug and thank you in a brotherly way will be forever in my mind. They said that we are doing a great job. It cannot but inspire. Each and every one of them is incredible. It is for the sake of our people that we want to volunteer.
My mother’s call will remain the most terrifying memory of this war, not the first one on February 24th, but one when the Kadyrovites entered Makariv. My parents and brother lived very close to that village. I will not go into details, for safety reasons, but I can only say that it was extremely scary. I was afraid for my parents and relatives. That was the moment when the hatred for the occupiers only grew. It seemed as if the worst had already happened as it turned out there was more.
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: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: Mariia Orletska