АвторAuthor: Inna Molchanova | Translation: Mariia Orletska
10 August 2022
From the very first day of anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine in 2014, Viacheslav Skichko clearly understood that the war wouldn’t stop soon. He gave up on his business and engrossed himself in volunteering that has been going on for 8 years. Viacheslav is a founder of a Cherkasy NGO “Our Battalion”. His daughter Mariia was sleeping on camouflage nets while the father was tackling some war issues. How much money the war costs, clear steps and skills needed to see how much effort you should take not to burn out, all about these you can read in “Monologues of the War”.
From the very first day of anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine in 2014, I had a furnishing business. My friend with whom I worked together enlisted in 14th Separate Motorized Infantry Battalion “Cherkasy” in Territorial Defence Forces Of Ukraine. He asked me to find necessary things for him. That is how it started. It all turned into a process of collecting necessary stuff for my friends and acquaintances in my garage. Then it became real active volunteering. NGO “Our Battalion” was founded in 2015.
Unfortunately, I always wanted to be a part of social activity. Why is it bad? That’s because I didn’t have time for my family. In 2014 my wife and I decided that first of all we couldn’t let the Russians bring their “peace” here and only then take care of our business.
I gave up business and fully devoted myself to volunteering as what we were doing was greater and more important than anything. 300 hundred volunteers were engaged in the process in 2014. Managing all of them was like being the director of a large enterprise.
So I started developing volunteer activities. Somehow fate brought us together with girls who were then starting to make camouflage nets. We were looking for an office and met them on the same premises. Then we decided to work together. From the very beginning, we were located on Bohdan Khmelnytskyi Street, 52, in the basement. That is why “Our Battalion” originates from there.
In the first days of ATO, many people rushed to help. They believed that by winter, by the new year, everything would be over. But this was impossible. I have been telling everyone about this since 2014.
The girls who made nets said: “We will be doing it till the beginning of winter and then we will win.” I objected, and warned them to start collecting white cloth for nets in winter.
Sometime in 2016, volunteer support began to decline little by little. When the front stabilized, it became permanent, without movement. Well, there was shelling, some kind of fighting somewhere far away. Many people thought so. But it was clear that Russia was gathering strength and would go on the offensive.
Unfortunately, our enemy is very powerful. Its resources are many times greater than ours: both financial and human. Even the experienced soldiers who fought at that time did not believe that the full-scale war would come. Only a few understood. This is a war of attrition, which is why we have not stopped volunteering for eight years.
I am encouraged to carry on what I do by the fact that my generation won’t be able to stop this invasion so our children will have to fight too. But, I didn’t want my daughter to take a gun and go fighting.
My daughter grew up with us. In 2014, Mariia was only two years old, and now she is ten. In fact, from the age of two, when I started volunteering, she was always with us in our offices, sometimes even sleeping in the office on camouflage nets.
In fact, many times I wanted to just quit it all. There were times when I said every evening: “Why do I need it?”. And in the morning I woke up again and realized that I was alive. And the guys there are risking their lives so that we can live peacefully here and see a peaceful sky. Then I got up again and went to volunteer. The biggest demotivation was the lack of help from people. In the last years, before the full-scale invasion, it took a long time to gather money for some needs, and often we couldn’t raise it at all.
That’s when everyone rushed to save the country, when it all started to crumble. As soon as nothing hits you, everyone calms down. It is clearly visible even by the help from people: it used to decrease several times.
Of course, psychologically, this is a normal situation. A person cannot live in stress for a long time, one wants to distance himself from it, live an ordinary life. But the war cannot be forgotten.
It was three months after the start of the full-scale invasion and only then did we begin to give people rest. First one day, then two days a week, because people burn out both psychologically and physically.
Now we have two ways: either you go to fight, or you help. It will not work if you do nothing. Even if it has somehow stabilized now, that the Russians have left the north, they may actually return.
It is not a problem for russia, which has a population of 140 million, to gather another 100,000 troops and throw them back at Kyiv. I am sorry for my language, but they will make some kind of weapon out of shit and sticks and will shoot. And this will bring again suffering, destruction and death. It can all come back in a moment. Therefore, you need to try to predict your steps and understand that you have to work for victory every day.
The NGO “Our Battalion” has a lot of areas of work: weaving camouflage nets, making kikimora – camouflage costumes, importing cars and converting them, cars for medics, ammunition, which we sew and provide as much as possible. We bring drones and optics. Currently, we are planning to manufacture buggies – these are all-terrain vehicles for the special needs of guys on the front line. They have this need as a usual jeep or pickup truck can’t go everywhere.
We also deal with humanitarian aid. There is a separate direction for the help with medicine and drugs. We create first aid kits and special medical backpacks ourselves. Tactical medicine is also expensive. One first-aid kit costs 3,500 hryvnias. And we have already handed over about a thousand of them. And one doctor’s backpack costs approximately 50 thousand hryvnias, dozens of them have already been handed over. And all this requires money.
Businesses, ordinary people, people from abroad, and various funds help us. Everyone who sees our posts and information on the internet. Sometimes it happens that you no longer hope to solve this issue, but somehow people do it.
We transfer in different ways, the main thing is that there is something to drive and someone to go to.
2014 and the current full-scale invasion cannot be compared. In 2014, our army had 200 thousand people, and now it is almost a million. What is the problem now to provide everything necessary?
Many say that the state should provide, but there are two things that should be mentioned. First, who are we? We are the state. If we are talking about the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, then in peacetime the budget of the army, in order for it to be provided with everything, should have reached approximately 550 billion hryvnias. Despite the fact that 100-120 billion hryvnias were allocated for the army. In wartime, it is even impossible to calculate. War is such an expensive thing.
When our air defense has shot down a missile or drone there, it means that one launched missile from the Buk costs 150,000 dollars. A shot from a tank costs five thousand dollars.
That is, relatively speaking, one tank shot is one inexpensive foreign car that you drive every day.
Second, note that when the West gives us weapons, they don’t have the resources to give us that. And this is what Western countries say, which are wealthier than us. Therefore, only with all the world we can defeat the enemy and support the army.
Our army now accounts for 800,000 to a million people. This is with volunteers, national border guards, and various parts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
I was asked: “How much does it cost to equip a fighter with personal belongings?”. And this is not taking into account everything else that should be in the unit: weapons, supplies, food, medicine, etc. We roughly estimated that it is at least 20 thousand dollars. Multiply by a million (because the army is up to a million people). These are funds that are even scary to operate.
First of all, war is a blow to the country’s economy. If the economy holds up, then we have an opportunity not to lose.
We have to understand very well that at a certain moment russia will start swinging the nuclear mace. Considering that there are people “without brains” who are ready to do anything, then you can expect everything from them and you have to be ready for that too.
Unfortunately, my partner, with whom we did business, recently died in Popasna. Before that, he served in our local Territorial Defence Forces. The hardest part is when you have to wait a few days to see the plus in messages, which means a lot to us. It means that a person is alive. Those guys whom we supported for many years and who fought, they took the first blow, many of them are no longer alive.
Losses are not only for the Russians, they are also for us. I tell many people that war will come to every home, to a greater or lesser extent. Many consider me a pessimist, but I consider myself an informed realist.
Зараз потрібний і людський ресурс і фінансовий. При тих обстрілах і ракетних ударах, які маємо нині, доводиться багато речей оновлювати. Це добре, якщо річ чи автомобіль послужив місяць-два. Це довгий забіг, тому ми повинні бути до нього готові.
This war has a very long way to go. And in order for us to pass it, it is necessary to very clearly think through the steps and efforts, and competently allocate resources. And for this we must face up the facts, no matter how bitter it may be. This is what drives us forward. Not motivation, but understanding: what should be the next steps in order not to burn out but to hold up.
Now we need both human and financial resources. With the shelling and missile strikes that we have now, many things have to be updated. It is good if the thing or car could be used for a month or two. It’s a long race, so we have to be ready for it.
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: Mariia Orletska