• Call for Applications for Transitions’ Summer Journalism Course

    Foreign Correspondent Training Course – free tuition for one Solutions Journalism practitioner available now!

    The foreign correspondent training course will be held from 8-23 July, 2023 in Prague. Applicants interested in Solutions Journalism and Foreign Reporting are encouraged to apply by May 16th, 2023.

    Transitions will cover:

    • Tuition for the course
    • Tuition for the pre-course, online learning component
    • Accommodation in twin rooms on sharing basis (including breakfast, wifi) at **** Marriott Courtyard Prague Flora hotel near the centre of Prague – Lucemburska 46, Prague 3, 13000 – (check in July 8th and check out July 23th)
    • City transportation pass for Prague
    • Select group social events such as Welcome lunch, Prague sightseeing and Farewell boat cruise with lunch

    The candidate will be responsible for the following expenses:

    • Transportation to Prague and back home
    • Meals in Prague (other than those indicated in curriculum)
    • Travel and health insurance, or personal expenses.

    How to apply: 

    If are passionate about this line of work and want to acquire some practical skills, apply for the foreign reporting course by 16th May and join us in Prague in July!

  • Solutions journalism workshop

    Are you tired of the negative, problem-focused news that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and helpless? Do you want to learn how to report on solutions to social issues and inspire your audience with stories of positive change? Are you a student, youth activist, media professional between 18-30 years and interested in solutions-oriented storytelling? Then this workshop is for you! Our expert trainers and guest speakers from Transitions will guide you through the principles and practices of solutions journalism, a new approach to reporting that emphasizes effective responses to social issues, rather than just the problems.

    Over the course of two days, you’ll learn:

    ✓ How to apply the four pillars of solutions journalism to your reporting

    ✓ Discover how climate-focused solutions reporting can pave the way for climate action

    ✓ Explore how to re-engage audiences through solutions journalism, and 

    ✓ Learn about innovative multimedia formats to publish your solutions journalism stories. 

    Through interactive exercises, group discussions, and inspiring case studies, you’ll gain new skills, connect with fellow journalists and media professionals, and leave with practical tools and insights to bring solutions journalism to your work. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of a new movement in journalism that empowers and inspires change!


    Tuesday, May 16 14:00–17:00 CET

    Wednesday, May 1714:00–17:00 CET

    You can find the detailed event schedule here.


    Meenal Thakur, Solutions Journalism Trainer and Programme Manager, Transitions

    Jeremy Druker, Executive Director and Editor in Chief, Transitions

    Guest speakers:

    Jocelyn Timperley, Freelance Climate Journalist

    Jakub Górnicki, Co-founder and Reporter, Outriders

    The workshop is being organised within the JUST EU and ME project, funded by the European Union’s Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) Programme (2021-2027).

    #JUSTEUandME #europeanpillarofsocialrights #solutionsjournalism

  • Radiodays Europe Conference

    The last week of March saw hundreds of radio industry professionals and enthusiasts – from senior editors and producers to independent podcasters and young audio content creators – gather in Prague to discuss the future of radio, audio, and podcasting at the 13th annual Radiodays Europe conference. Over three days from 26-28 March, the event featured panel discussions and sessions on topics ranging from inclusion and diversity, advertising and new business models for radio, to the power of AI in broadcasting. 

    Adding to the conversation, Transitions’ Jeremy Druker and Meenal Thakur argued for the adoption of solutions journalism in the audio world to rebuild trust and re-engage audiences. In their session, “Increase news engagement (and revenue!): The case for solutions journalism,” they spoke about how solutions journalism aims to inspire audiences and create real-world impact by reporting on responses to social problems. Using research-based evidence and examples of solutions-oriented reporting, their presentation showcased how this approach to reporting leads to increased audience engagement, a more positive attitude toward  the news, and greater potential for revenue generation. 

    You can find more on Radiodays Europe from this article written by a journalist who covered the conference, which also served to mark the 100th anniversary of Czech Radio, the host partner. 

  • Rubryka Panel Event

    It’s not often in Central and Eastern Europe that a news outlet takes the concept of solutions journalism and adopts it as thoroughly as Rubryka, Ukraine’s leading SoJo practitioner and one of the region’s brightest SoJo stars. These days that has meant, unfortunately, showing how solutions journalism can be effective even in times of war. 

    To coincide with the news outlet’s fifth anniversary, Rubryka hosted a panel discussion in March that included Tina Rosenberg, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, and Meenal Thakur, solutions journalism project coordinator at Transitions, along with other journalists from Rubryka. The panelists spoke about how a solutions-oriented approach can serve to show the power of the community by sharing stories of resilient Ukrainians who are finding successful responses to the many problems in a war-torn country. This approach has led to increased readership of Rubryka as people feel more hopeful and engaged with the news after reading solutions stories. 

    We are also proud to say that Rubryka is one of the five newsrooms to be a part of Transitions’ first solutions journalism cohort.

  • Solutions Panel in Sarajevo

    Solutions journalism is fast gaining practitioners as news organizations in Europe embrace its constructive approach to journalism. Transitions, as a hub of solutions-oriented reporting in CEE, is making many efforts to spread its adoption in the region, including in post-conflict societies like that of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Continuing to support local media and journalists, our partner, Mediacentar Sarajevo, organized a panel discussion on 15 February about the benefits of solutions journalism in Bosnia. This event was funded by Transitions’ solutions journalism program, and moderated by the editor-in-chief of, Marija Arnautovic. The panel was composed of Vanja Stokic, editor-in-chief of Banja Luka-based online media outlet eTrafika; Vladimira Dorcova Valtner, editor-in-chief of Storyteller from Serbia; and Anida Sokol, a researcher and solution journalism trainer from Mediacentar Sarajevo. eTrafika is a member of the first solutions journalism cohort in CEE, which Transitions launched at the end of 2022.

    A total of 30 participants attended the panel, mostly journalists from various media, including the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network, UNA TV, Start magazine, Al Jazeera Balkans, RTRS, FTV, and BN TV, as well as journalism students and representatives of some civil rights organizations, such as Civil Rights Defenders.

    The panel discussed what constitutes constructive and solution-oriented journalism, how to produce short TV news reports following SoJo principles, and how to compete with low-quality, sensationalist, and “copy-pasted” online articles. The all-women panel also discussed the experiences of female journalists who engaged in solution journalism and how one can apply solutions journalism to reporting on social problems, marginalized social groups, and environmental topics. A workshop followed the talk where participants – journalists and journalism students – learned more about the principles of solution-oriented journalism and the craft of writing such stories.

    Photos – A panel discussion on advantages of solutions journalism organized by our local partner Mediacentar at Holiday Hotel in Sarajevo (Photos credits: Mediacentar Sarajevo). More photos here.

  • “Moscow Patriarchate is a terrorist organization that must be banned immediately.”

    In March this year, the 33-year-old rector of the Holy Resurrection New Athos Monastery in Lviv, Father Job (Olshansky) and his parish transferred from the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) to the Lviv Eparchy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

    By Tetyana Metyk

    Job Olshansky

    Fr. Job is a native Kyivite. He is quite an educated person. He graduated from the Poltava Missionary Seminary in Horishni Plavni, studied for three years at the Master program in Rome at the Institute of Eastern Canon Law at the Eastern Pontifical Institute, lived for four years and took vows in a Greek monastery on Mount Athos. He also studied International Relations at the University of Economics and Law “KROK” and Theatre at the Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Karyi Theatre, Cinema and Television University. He talked about being “in the bosom” of the Moscow Patriarchate and why, in his opinion, it is necessary to ban the Moscow Patriarchate at the state level in an exclusive interview for the “Vysokyi Zamok”.

    – What prompted you to leave the Moscow Patriarchate?

    – The first and fundamental turning point for me was the military actions in Ukraine, Russian aggression and its support by the Moscow Patriarchate. No logically thinking person can question whether it is a church if it supports the mass murder of people and violation of God’s commandments. Previously, I tried to avoid the issue of politics. I believe that people come to church not to hear about the state or social events but to meet with Christ.

    – How did you get to Mount Athos? And what sentiments about Ukraine, particularly about the Tomos (the document granting the Ukrainian Church the autocephalous status), prevailed there?

    – In Greece, I intended to participate in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s doctoral program and defend a scientific work on “Autocephaly in the Orthodox Churches”. In Rome, I defended my Master’s thesis on the same topic. I needed permission from the Moscow Patriarchate to continue my studies, and it was 2014. And I did not receive it.

    While I lived there, in the Greek monastery of Vatopedi, there was no mention of the “Russian world”. Instead, there was an absolute vacuum of Greek Orthodoxy until 2018, when the Ukrainian Church was granted autocephalous status. My monastery supported the Tomos, and representatives of the OCU even served in it. It was a bit strange for me then because we were talking about people whom the Russian Church called schismatics. A small number of monasteries on Mount Athos supported the Ukrainian Church, and not openly. There were different opinions there, including that the initiators of the Tomos were schismatics and ungodly.

    – But why, since Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew supported the recognition of the one local autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine?

    – Do not forget about sponsors from Moscow who support Athos monasteries. Our monastery was also sponsored mainly by Russians. But the abbot was free to express his views. He did not openly support the Tomos but said that it was not a matter of faith and dogma but a matter of administrative subordination. He said grace does not depend on whether the church is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarch or the Metropolitan of Kyiv. He is a wise man. He is Greek and Cypriot by nationality. I had to return to Ukraine for health reasons and stayed here. I moved to Lviv and the church on Korolenko Street. (on September 29, at the session of the Lviv City Council, it was decided to rename Korolenko Street to Taras Bobanych “Hammer” Street – ed.) I was ordained a deacon there, then a priest. Later I was appointed here as the abbot of the monastery.

    – What influence did the Moscow Patriarchate have on you?

    – I was in the Russian church for two and a half years. But I always held free views. I never preached that the OCU are schismatics or ungodly. I said that they were our brothers who had different opinions. I said that we could not condemn people because they love their country and want to pray in a language they understand. The Moscow Patriarchate traditionally preserves the Church Slavonic language, and I had to work hard to explain the liturgical texts. It is absurd when a priest reads the Gospel text during the service, which no one understands, and then explains what it was about. I was a stranger among my own because I was always treated with distrust.

    One priest said about me: “This is the Trojan horse of Patriarch Bartholomew. He wants to convert everyone to the union!” It was challenging. And yet there was a circle of pro-Ukrainian priests with whom we communicated closely. Almost all of them have moved to the OCU or the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The circle of our communication has remained the same.

    – Can we say that all the clergy members who have a pro-Ukrainian position have left the Moscow Patriarchate? And those who have not transferred, respectively, have different views. Are there no obstacles to changing your affiliation?

    – The obstacles are their own bias or dependence on the Russian church. Some of them are also dependent on Russian special services.

    – How do you view the “separation” council of the UOC-MP, which adopted amendments to the statute (the principal regulations of the church institution), which allegedly levelled the dependence on Russia?

    – This is a deception to calm society and relieve tensions. I am surprised by our state, which succumbed to this deception—the neutral position of our president and civil servants in general. The basis of their statute is the charter of Patriarch Alexy I, “On independence and autonomy within the Russian Orthodox Church”. Are people so stupid that they cannot understand: the first paragraph of the new charter says that this structure belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate. I am tired of explaining it. And they say: “This does not mean anything.” If it did not mean anything, half of the Kyivan churches of the Moscow Patriarchate would not commemorate Patriarch Kirill during the service.

    – But now they seem to have decided not to commemorate him.

    – They still commemorate him! On the second day after the council in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, they continued to commemorate Kirill. You see, this is absurd! No, it’s just that our people are considered subpar, second-class, and stupid.

    – And what about the submitted draft laws to ban the Moscow Patriarchate?

    – These draft laws are excellent. They contradict our Constitution, but we live in other realities in the conditions of war. Firstly, they need to be finalized regarding the proclamation of the Moscow Patriarchate as a terrorist organization and the fifth column because that’s the truth. I know this structure from the inside. Secondly, on these grounds, to ban the Patriarchate as one that harms state sovereignty.

    – Do you have something to say to support your statement as someone who knows the Moscow Patriarchate from the inside…

    – In the first days of the full-scale invasion of Russia, we gathered together with the clergy of the Lviv diocese under the leadership of the Metropolitan for a “beautiful” prayer service “for peace”. What kind of peace could there be? I was black with anger because my parents and grandparents were in a bomb shelter in Kyiv at that time. And my father joined the Armed Forces.

    I heard with my ears the sermons of priests that we are a triune people, that we are “inseparable” from the Russians, and so on.

    – Even in Lviv?

    – Of course. You do not have to look long, go to the catacomb church of the Trinity on Antonovycha Street, and you will hear there the Russian language and about Banderites, Zhidobanderites, etc. They have among their saints: Nicholas II, Ivan the Terrible, Grigory Rasputin… People came to me bewildered and told me that the church’s rector claimed that Stalin was a blessing of God. And he said this during the war! They get so carried away. They cannot pray in Ukrainian because “God does not hear prayers said not in a holy language”.

    – But who goes there?

    – There is a lot of Russian-speaking population, and they are active. People from all over the Lviv region come to the Trinity Church. All the centres where there were churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, but the priests were patriotic and left the Patriarchy, for example, Mostyska and Truskavets.

    They believe that they stand for the truth, for Christ, and that they are martyrs for the truth. And their truth is that the church cannot be divided and that the Moscow Patriarchate is the only thing that holds them together. The true canonical Orthodox, all others have lost their away…

    – Do they curse you?

    – Yes, of course. All unwanted ones are. As am I. I’m a dissident, a Uniate, a Banderite, a fascist.

    – Did the position of your relatives also influence your decision?

    – My family, though Russian-speaking, is patriotic. My relatives were at the Revolution of Dignity, and my father participated in the ATO. They did not share my admiration for the Moscow church. My father cried with joy when I left it. Recently I buried my grandmother in the Cherkasy region. I grew up there, and everyone knows me. But the local priest did not want to let me into the church, which belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate, as an apostate. He did not want to allow me to perform the funeral service for my grandmother. Local people do not know how to react to this. They are lied to that it is a Ukrainian church. The problem is that many people fall for these lies. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine does little explanatory work. We need to be more active. Bishops and leaders on the ground should be more active. I know great examples of the excellent work of Metropolitan Mykhailo. In Volyn, 60 parishes have transferred, and this is a lot.

    – How many more parishes of the Moscow Patriarchy are left in the Lviv region?

    – There are twenty parishes in the Lviv region. In Lviv, there are three. Until now, the church in Sykhiv, which burns from time to time, will not burn out. On Antonovycha and Korolenko streets. They even had an increase in parishioners during the war because of displaced persons. In the Ivano-Frankivsk region, according to official data, there are none left. In one church, they officially registered the parish of the OCU, but the Moscow Patriarchate still serves there. They did it so that they would not be harassed.

    – Did you have any troubles or conflicts because of the decision to leave the Moscow Patriarchate?

    – I was intimidated, blackmailed…

    – By whom?

    – Representatives of the metropolis. I will not disclose the details, but it was very unsavoury. Metropolitan Filaret and representatives of the diocese spread slander about me among other priests and parishioners, saying that I am mentally ill, a psychopath and that they should avoid me. The rector of the church on Antonovycha Street, Father Volodymyr, when the Russian consulate was still here, spent a lot of his time there. What was he doing there? Metropolitan Filaret, in my particular situation, used secret police methods. They interfered with my personal affairs and my private life.

    – But you didn’t give in.

    – There had nothing on me.

    – So, there may be others who didn’t transfer because of this situation.

    – Yes, obviously, if they have something on them. They used other methods against me because they couldn’t influence my decision otherwise. They said I illegally stayed in the monastery, called me a church raider, and said I seized property. The Moscow Patriarchate still owns the buildings of the monastery.

    – And what can be done about it?

    – We need the help of the authorities. This building is on the balance sheet of the regional council. The city promised us, and I hope it will help – to take the land back. The large building of the monastery (dated XVIII century), which is now being repaired, used to be a military hospital, so it was on the balance sheet of the Ministry of Defense. They transferred it to the state’s balance sheet, which gave it to the private property of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is necessary to appeal the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to transfer a military facility to the state. This has been a project for several years. I hope that someday Ukraine will have a law on the property of the Moscow Patriarchate, which will be transferred to the ownership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. I would not like to lose these buildings because I am looking for funds and invest in repairs. We need to develop to live. New people come to me, novices. The monastery is evolving.

    Unfortunately, such unique monuments as the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra or Pochayiv Monastery are occupied. And it’s occupied by the fifth column, which now only pretends that it is not so.

    – Why are these processes slowed down?

    – There is ignorance of people and bias of the authorities. Metropolitan Filaret (Kucherov) complains that he is oppressed and that his freedom is contested. He plays to be poor and unhappy and knocks on all doors. He has a lot of connections in Kyiv. He may one day come here to kick me out.

    You see, they show a picture that the churches of the OCU are empty, but did you see the Cross Procession to the Pochayiv Lavra? And how many people there were!

    – And with Russian tricolours! And no one prosecutes them…

    – Sometimes, the authorities are indifferent to church issues. I cannot imagine that Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia if Russia went to war there, would tolerate the Russian Moscow Patriarchate on their territory.

    Only “adepts of the Russian world” are “the waiting ones” in the occupied territories because of their church and religious beliefs. I am serious right now. Those old ladies in scarves, coming out of the temple in Severodonetsk, who were handed these Ribbons of Saint George… “We have been waiting for you. We love you so much,” they told the occupiers. These are parishioners of a particular religious structure…

    When I was at the front as a volunteer chaplain, I was asked what church I belonged to. Because after the priests from the Moscow Patriarchate came to visit our guys, their positions were shelled. And our military died. Here we need the cooperation of both the state and the church. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has many internal problems. There must be unity, cohesion, and mutual support. And a lot of explanatory work in cooperation with the state authorities. If the state wants to win this war, it must fight on all fronts, including the religious one. The spiritual front is one of the highest priorities at this time.

  • “My sister from Moscow region did not believe me when I told her we were shelled “: how life is in the villages of Sumy and Chernihiv regions and what has changed with the onset of war.

    By Olga Chytaylo

    The military asks us to drive the last few kilometres to Senkivka in the Chernihiv region as quickly as possible. The road is dangerous. Russians see who is coming. “There is a hazardous area; they have already shot many times at it and will easily hit a target,” says our escort, a soldier from OK Pivnich, who advises us to put on our helmets.

    When the film crew gets to the centre of the village, an enemy drone drops explosives next to our car. As a result, a window and a door are broken.

    We wanted to believe that there were friends on the other side of the border.

    Senkivka is a unique village located on the border of three countries. Both Russia and Belarus are very close by. There is even a sign depicting three sisters at the checkpoint. A café, “Three Sisters”, decorated with three flags, used to welcome visitors until the enemy tanks crossed the border. And the locals used to believe they had friends on the other side of both borders. 

    We drive for a few minutes along empty streets until we meet Volodymyr. The man carries water home. He lives alone.

    “We were shelled with Grads, the windows flew out, the gate.” He and many people here speak a mixed dialect of Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian. We found Volodymyr’s commentary for a local TV channel online just a month before the war. He did not believe in the attack – he believed in the friendship of the three states.

    On the morning of February 24, Grads shelled his house from the side where he thought his friends lived. The man shows the broken windows of his house.

    – I covered them with plastic. In autumn, I will need to replace it. I have plastic but not glass, so I can’t replace the windows. I did not expect this: we lived together as friends. But it is what it is now. I decided not to leave since I had nowhere to go.

    Another resident, also Volodymyr, is working in the field nearby. He has a small farm; an old horse Orlyk grazes in the field that overlooks the border. “That’s where they mostly shell us from” – is a blue and white border sign where Volodymyr points.

    We used to have good relations with our neighbours. And now everything is bust, and there will be no relations.

    As in all border villages, there were strong family relations with neighbouring countries. On one of the streets, we meet Tamara; she lives here with her retired husband. She speaks quickly, in a very pronounced local dialect.

    Our film crew talked to the woman last year when we made a story about the weapons being gathered at the border. Then she assured us that war was impossible.

    It is hard to believe that you’ll be shelled by people from the land where you were born.

    – I am originally from Russia, from the Bryansk region, but I married and lived here for 38 years. And I consider myself a Ukrainian – my children and grandchildren grew up here.

    Now Tamara says the exact words with tears. The woman has a lovely house, and the yard is planted with flowers. Despite the war, she did not abandon the farm, although her home was hit.

    – The windows and the roof were smashed. My cow was killed. It was standing here, our breadwinner. We are planning to move to the next village over, where we also have a house, after we collect the potatoes we planted here.

    The biggest tragedy, Tamara says, is that her relatives in Russia do not believe in her trouble. “My sister lives in the Moscow region, and she doesn’t believe me, doesn’t call me anymore.”

    When we talk to Tamara, several explosions are heard. The woman is crying again, and her husband, listening to the sounds, concludes: the shell arrived in Khrinivka.

    Anatoliy has been watching our conversation from a distance for a long time. He is an older man who has lived here all his life. We talked to him two years ago and in 2014. He then said this about the neighbours, Russians and Belarusians: “There, when you arrive, people are hospitable. They will give you a drink, feed you, and if you get lost, they will lead you home.”

    He repeated almost the exact words when we met last year. Now he is reluctant to talk about the war: politicians will sort it out; politicians are to blame for everything.

    – You said earlier that people here are very connected with Russia.

    – Well, connected how – we have family ties there. Someone married there, and someone married here; we also speak a mix of languages.

    – Have you suffered from the war yourself?

    – Yes, I suffered. Everything is damaged. My daughter barely escaped from the damaged house without a penny to her name. 

    – Do your relatives in Russia know? 

    – There are no ties left. We do not talk. On the first day, my wife called them, but they did not believe her. She told them that our whole street was destroyed, and the relatives did not believe her, they said it could not be.

    Next to Tamara’s house, the neighbour’s house was destroyed. A whitewashed village stove is visible through the hole in the wall. The village was sparsely populated even before the war. Now the locals are not sure it will be around at all.

    The occupiers expected a warm welcome.

    “Be careful, do not ride off the road to avoid hitting a mine” – we are wished a safe journey at the last checkpoint near the village of Velyky Bobryk in the Sumy region. The navigator takes our car along a bad field road, and it gets worse when we approach the village.

    I have been here twice since 2014 and have taken the same road every time. Larysa Kremezna, head of the town, meets us in its centre.

    – There are a few places we won’t be able to reach. There is a checkpoint here. It’s too dangerous. The border is behind that land strip – she nods to the forest belt about a kilometre away.

    And then Larysa asks us not to point in that direction because the Russians see everything.

    Larysa is showing us around the village. She tells us that Russians caused issues with water and destroyed one of the water towers. Here a house was hit by a Grad. A farm was shelled. Some equipment was damaged.

    A farmer, who asks not to share his name, shows us a video of his farm equipment cut by debris. The village was not occupied; Russians were passing through.

    – We heard a rumble near the border for three days before the invasion. They warmed up their vehicles. And we thought they were doing drills. We realized it was not a drill at four in the morning of the 24th. There were a lot of them, long columns. They entered the building of the village council. And I was inside at that time, and I said: “Close the door behind you, don’t let the heat out”, – Larysa tells about her audacity.

    – They asked me to collaborate with them. “The government will change, but you can keep your job”, they said. And I replied: “No, guys, I serve the Ukrainian people”. The Russians from the other side said: “Now we will visit you by car”. No, they won’t come here.

    Our family ties with them were close; their kids went to our school. And the Russian villages on the border speak Ukrainian.

    Near the village council, there is a museum of Pavlo Hrabovsky. The outstanding poet was born here. Nadiia Skoropad has been the head of this museum for many years, and fortunately, everything was saved, and nothing was damaged.

    She leads us to the stand that tells about the joint celebrations in the village.

    Here are Russian grandmothers, look. I, by the way, was born in Russia. But I have lived here all my life. My parents’ house is there, and you know how painful it was to realize that your supposed mother became a stepmother.

    – Locals wanted to keep the border checkpoints working, but only because their relatives lived on the other side. That was our only concern. But now everything has changed – we have no ties left there.

    When we visited Hrabovske last year, a saleswoman in a local store complained that there were no Russian buyers because of the closed borders, and her income decreased. When the occupants came, they robbed this store.

    Ryzhivka, a village divided by the border in half, is under constant shelling.

    Probably, you can’t go there today. They started shooting in the morning.

    We have been sitting in the office of the head of Bilopillya, Yuriy Zarko, for an hour now. We are waiting for the enemy to cease shelling. But Ryzhivka has been constantly shelled since the morning. We wanted to see Ryzhivka because the village is divided in half by the border. One of the houses there is in the two states at the same time.

    Pensioner Halyna Budilina, who lives in that house, was often interviewed about life at the border.

    The head of Ryzhivka, Oleksandr Chekh, comes to the office to solve current issues. “No comments,” – he replies to our request to talk. And he leaves. We already talked to him a year ago, when the man spoke about two problems: bad roads and a closed pedestrian border crossing.

    Locals wanted to keep the border checkpoints working, but only because their relatives lived on the other side.

    The trip had to be cancelled. We decide to go to the neighbouring village of Iskryskivshchyna instead. “That’s where the border is; we are driving along the street that is shelled frequently,” says Oleksiy Miller. The village centre is burnt almost to the ground. Only walls remained from a local school.

    – It hasn’t worked for a year, but the school is the centre of the village, and we wanted to restore it someday. Here is the workshop, our place of work, and burnt machines. Across the road, the school is smashed to pieces. But there are people in the village, and a paramedic stayed here. Repairers regularly come here to fix the Internet after the shelling.

    We celebrated the village day in September to honour the village’s liberation from the Nazi invaders. The monument to those who died in that war was damaged during the Russian shelling. I do not know whether it can be restored or rebuilt.

    Any relationship with Russia is impossible.

    64% of Ukrainians believe that it will never be possible to restore friendly relations with Russia. This is confirmed by the research conducted by the “Reityng” group in April. Another 22% believe that the restoration of ties is possible in 20-30 years.

    In July, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology studied the moods of Ukrainians in this aspect. 79% of respondents believe that the borders should be closed. And compared to February, the number of such people has increased by 35%. 89% are currently against the restoration of any relations. Only 52% of people upheld such beliefs even before the full-scale invasion. 

    The mood of Ukrainians toward Russians becomes more irrefutable almost every day. You can find out whether our people are ready for territorial concessions to the enemy in our material. And you can also decide for yourself whether you are prepared to concede our territories to the imperialists.

  • Videos about War in Ukraine

    By Olga Sheiko:

    A film about Belarusians who help Ukraine in the war / Without retouching

    By Inna Popovich:

    ‘Keepin beast in the cage and letting it out.’ Chronicles of Russian occupation of Chernobyl zone

    By Olga Chytailo:

    If it happens, it happens, you have to live on! Hard life on the BORDERS with Russia and Belarus

    Operational news release for 20:00 (01.09.2022)

    The North of Ukraine is under shelling! How people survive in Chernihiv and Sumy regions

    Grids damaged by shelling are being restored in a matter of hours. How Ukrainian power engineers work

    By Andriy Lyukhovets:

    “There are three of us left” – the story of a farm that continued to make cheese even during the shelling

    By Vitaly Mekheda:

    HUMENYUK: “The enemy is furious, and we have something to calm him down” | Panic of the occupiers towards Kherson

    Crime, collaborators, curfew, etc. in the interview with the Head of the Main Department of the National Police in Mykolaiv region.

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  • Weapons as a charity, women in the army and the country of veterans: stories of three volunteer initiatives that bring Ukraine’s victory closer

    Purchase of a complex of Bairaktars and armoured vehicles, collection of millions of donations for the needs of the Ukrainian army, change of attitude towards the veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian war and help to soldiers who return to civilian life – all these are the victories and merits of the robust volunteer and civil society movement of Ukraine.

    By Liudmyla Tiahnyriadno

    In this article, you’ll learn about three organizations – the fund of competent army support “Come Back Alive”, the NGO “Women’s Veteran Movement”, and “Veteran Hub”. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, they have been doing everything to save as many lives of our soldiers as possible and bring closer victory in the Russian-Ukrainian war. 

    In the early morning of February 24, Russian occupation troops began firing missiles all over Ukraine. This day marked the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the terrorist country on the territory of an independent nation. Most NGOs prepared for such a scenario in advance, but no one knew exactly how it would happen. In the first hours, Ukrainians did everything to evacuate their relatives, help colleagues and ensure their safety. They also joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine to defend the state from the Russian enemy. 

    We talked with Ruslana Velychko, a volunteer of the “Come back alive” fund of competent army support, Yulia Kirillova, a veteran of the 25th battalion “Kyivska Rus” and coordinator of the social department of the NGO “Women’s Veteran Movement” and Artem Denysov, the executive director of the “Veteran Hub”. In these conversations, we learned how the volunteer sector quickly establishes its work and increases the assistance to the army, what helps them make unprecedented decisions, and what volunteers do for the Ukrainian victory. 

    “Come Back Alive”, or how to buy a Bayraktar for a charity fund?

    For reference:

    “Come Back Alive” is a fund of competent army support. Since 2014, it has aimed to make the Armed Forces of Ukraine more effective, save the lives of the military and systematically counteract the enemy. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, assistance to the army has increased significantly. They support the defenders of Ukraine, who changed their everyday life to join the line of defense. The Foundation purchases equipment that helps save the lives of the military, including thermal imaging optics, quadcopters, vehicles, protection and surveillance systems. The Foundation’s instructors train sappers, unmanned aerial vehicle operators, artillerymen and snipers. They also teach first aid and facilitate covert missions. Since 2014, the Foundation has raised more than UAH 3 billion for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and trained more than 10 thousand highly qualified military specialists.

    Ruslana Velychko, a volunteer of the Foundation, says that with the beginning of the full-scale Russian aggression, “Come Back Alive” registered as a subject of foreign economic activity in the State Export Control Service. This way, they could receive permits for importing various goods: “Then the military approached us with a request to buy the Bayraktar complex. I called one person from Baykar, and we started cooperation”. 

    The main issue was going through all the bureaucratic procedures on the Ukrainian and Turkish sides. The Turks also had to obtain an export licence to sell the Bayraktars to the “Come Back Alive” Foundation.

    “We did not immediately make the news about purchasing the Bayraktar complex public. A month needs to pass until after the goods arrive in Ukraine. We kept a pause until we finalized all the documents. At the same time, all volunteers need to understand that when they say something, write, or record a video, not only the Ukrainian side listens to them. So sometimes it is better to keep silent,” Ruslana explains. 

    “Come Back Alive” even signed a memorandum with Baykar – this is the second memorandum of the latter with Ukraine. The first was in 2021, signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

    Ruslana Velychko

    “We work a lot. I, for example, never thought that I would be engaged in foreign economic activity and perform the function of a logistician, engage in contractual activities, and find sellers. It would have seemed even more far-fetched if I learned that I would work with military goods,” the volunteer says and proceeds to tell how the Foundation has been working since the beginning of the full-scale war. 

    On the trust of Ukrainians and the collection of over UAH 4 billion

    “I am proud that we are the charitable organization that turned the arms market upside down in Ukraine and Europe. We triggered the market’s reform”. 

    “When the full-scale war started, everyone was scared. Then people donated a lot and sometimes gave their last. People have psychologically adapted to the war, which also affects donations. As for how much and who sends us the money, everyone can see the reports on the Foundation’s website, and we even make monthly reports.” 

    Reporting and control are something that “Come Back Alive” pays a lot of attention to. Ruslana shares with us her “hobby” – she “collects” all the criminal cases with volunteers that are undergoing right now.” In most cases, people get into big trouble because of a bit of stupidity. For example, they were honest people but fell for some schemes trying to import military goods easier or faster. Or they made deals, imported it as humanitarian aid, and then tried to resell some of the goods they brought. We do not do business like that. We work by the book of the law,” Ruslana Velychko emphasizes. 

    “We are the first organization to bring not just a UAV but an unmanned aviation complex,” she said. The Bairaktar UAV is a reconnaissance vehicle – “And the complex, which has a ground control station, a friend/ foe recognition system, with ammunition – the complete set is described on four sheets – is something the army can work with.” 

    Ruslana adds that the “Come Back Alive” Foundation focuses on supplies from Western partners and accordingly plans to assistance to the army: so that all complexes can cooperate with artillery. “So, for example, we look at the range of what our partners supply us and select drones accordingly. The Bayraktar TB2 drone costs 4 million dollars, and the total cost of the complex we bought is $16,502,450. A part of the complex worth 9 million dollars was gifted to us at no cost,” the volunteer explains. 

    “Come Back Alive” always helps the army “in bulk”. The fact is that, for example, preparing the paperwork for purchasing two or 800 thermal sights takes the same time. That is why the Foundation focuses on larger quantities. This way, they also get discounts: “To be honest, when I start a conversation with sellers, I immediately ask what the discount will be, – Ruslana says, – We, with “Come Back Alive” have turned the whole arms market upside down because now the charity organization can import what it needs without special exporters as intermediaries. And this means savings of up to 30%”. 

    Although there are many needs in the army now, like winter military uniforms or sleeping bags, “Come Back Alive” focuses on other priorities: UAVs, optics, radio communications, and vehicles. The Foundation has already delivered about 400 pickup trucks to the front.

    “Everyone knows that the artillery is the god of war. Therefore, we need artillery, unmanned reconnaissance systems, and we need Bayraktars. To protect people, we need equipment that strikes far away and does reconnaissance,” Ruslana Velychko says and adds:

    “I am proud that we are the charitable organization that has turned the arms market upside down not only in Ukraine but also in Europe. We triggered the market’s reform. We do not want to overpay for anything, and doing all the work ourselves is easier. Arms sellers started to come to us and offer their products for purchase”. 

    “Women’s Veteran Movement” or how to help women in the trenches and on the home front?

    For reference:

    NGO “Women’s Veteran Movement” is a union of women veterans created to increase their opportunities for self-actualization in society. The organization acts to advocate for and protect the rights of women veterans and active servicewomen and promote equal rights and opportunities through lawmaking and advocacy of the professional and prestigious security sector.

    Before the full-scale war, the NGO was engaged in advocacy for the rights of women veterans and servicewomen. Also, they worked with the rehabilitation of women veterans, their employment and retraining. They even organized an entrepreneurship school, many alums of which opened successful businesses. Now the organization is finalizing the development of the Unified Rehabilitation Standard. “This is a roadmap for veterans, for first- and second-level doctors. From what a veteran should do first when they come to a doctor’s office, what tests and screenings to take and which specialists to attend, etc. This project is already at the stage of completion,” explains Yulia Kirillova, a veteran of the 25th battalion “Kyivan Rus” and the coordinator of the social department of the “Women’s Veterans Movement”. 

    The Women’s Veterans Movement conducted advocacy campaigns for proper medical care for servicewomen and women veterans. Yulia Kirillova says: “Here we are talking that, for example, the field of military medicine was developed with only men in mind. Thus, in some hospitals, there was no gynaecologist at all. The same gaps were in the management of pregnancy of servicewomen, childbirth, etc. Even today, pregnant servicewomen give birth in civilian maternity hospitals, and civilian doctors tend to their pregnancies. However, any servicewoman on a contract is entitled to full medical insurance. Also, medical formularies do not provide many drugs that women need. We also had to take care of the faulty logistics, as there were no fitting military uniforms since they all were designed for men.”  

    “She was pregnant when she enlisted”

    Yulia Kirillova says that the “Women’s Veterans Movement” team saw February 24 come in many different ways. She was in Washington at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. 

    Yulia Kirillova

    “Around the 20th, we met with the girls in our office, planned what we would do, where we would meet, and how we would evacuate our relatives in case of war. Of course, we took our children out of Kyiv. Our Andriana “Arekhta” immediately enlisted and went with her brothers in arms to defend the Kyiv region. Katrusia “Strila” joined the Ukrainian Volunteer Army and returned to service. Olenka Lomachynska was pregnant then, but she also went to enlist and asked if there were bulletproof vests for pregnant women. Katya Pryimak and Yulia “Kuba” stayed in Kyiv and organized a volunteer rapid response headquarters,” the co-founder of the NGO proudly tells about her colleagues.

    When the number of servicewomen tripled

    Since the beginning of the full-scale war, the number of women in the army has tripled. Since 2014, this figure has increased several times, and after February 24, the growth has become even more evident. Yulia Kirillova says that although some react negatively to enlisted women, the majority perceive women as equals because, first, it is about respect.

    “After all, they stayed, decided not to leave, and made an informed decision to defend their country. In my opinion, the attitude has changed. It is felt even in communication. If earlier we heard some people say, “she’s a burden” or “I don’t want ladies in my unit”, now everyone speaks of servicewomen with respect.” 

    The “Women’s Veterans Movement” also works with logistics: they have designed an anatomically correct cut for the female uniform. Yulia Kirillova explains: “A simple example: men and women have knees at different heights, and when we buy a uniform with knee pads, it is uncomfortable for women; these knee pads will be above the knee, and if you squat or fall, the pant leg rises, and the knee pad also pulls up. Currently, there’s only talk of the change of uniforms for women, but I know that organizations are ready to sew a trial batch for the Ministry of Defence to improve the logistics. We also designed sets of women’s underwear because there is still no women’s underwear in the Armed Forces uniform. As a public organization, we also sew sets of underwear for them. Businesses join us and also sew women’s uniforms. So far, we are sending these kits directly to the girls who are fighting.”

    From advocacy to rapid response headquarters

    The work of the NGO has changed dramatically in recent months. If earlier it was mainly engaged in advocacy and assistance to female veterans in psychological rehabilitation, since February 24, the organization has turned into a vast headquarters. There, military personnel, the civilian population, and people who left the occupation received help. “Women’s Veterans Movement” also delivered humanitarian aid. 

    “When the fighting was going on in the Kyiv region, our kitchen started working from the first days; we cooked lunches, delivered this food to basements, and fed people. The headquarters also helped female veterans who went back to service. We bought cars and tactical medical kits, delivered aid to civilian hospitals. We bought bulletproof vests, helmets, thermal imagers and drones for the military,” says veteran Yulia Kirillova. 

    Now the organization continues to work as a humanitarian headquarters: it assists affected civilians and helps IDPs and people living in the areas of hostilities. Medical crews are also working. Now they are in Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. An evacuation team is working in the Donetsk region. 

    “We evacuate civilians, people with animals. We rescue abandoned and wounded animals. We help evacuated people with accommodation, take them to social protection centres and register them. 

    For example, when the fighting was ongoing in the Luhansk region, many people fled from Luhansk and Donetsk regions. People left en masse. At the same time, we rescued many animals and wounded animals too. We have agreements with veterinary clinics and shelters, taking them in and placing them in families. Now we can go to Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Chasiv Yar, Kostiantynivka, Selidove, Kurakhove. We are one of the few who evacuate people with animals. Many evacuation efforts do not include animals, so people are forced to abandon their pets. I cannot give you the exact number of animals we rescued to date, but, for example, today, we have evacuated 11. Soon we are going to fetch seven more,” – Yulia Kirillova says.

    Tactical medicine and a “drone workshop.”

    Now in Kyiv, the organization works in several areas: as a “drone workshop” where volunteers can do almost everything – assemble drones, upgrade them if necessary, and repair them; and medical, food and clothing warehouses. These goods are what people most often lack. The NGO collects requests for targeted aid, people leave them through a Google form, and then the NGO sends them the requested help. Since February 24, they have received more than 4 thousand applications, and although they couldn’t cover all the needs, according to Yulia Kirillova, they responded positively to 60-70% of applications.

    “Also, we now hold training courses on the basics of tactical medicine, general tactics, and driving. The courses are free. Both women and men come to us. We help everyone. Civilian organizations also apply to us for these courses and buy them for their employees. Part of the course money is spent on purchasing consumables, the other part – on responding to applications for assistance.” 

    Since the organization now also helps civilians, the biggest challenge for the “Women’s Veterans Movement” is winter. Yulia Kirillova explains: “People need to be set up somewhere for the winter, and we need to keep these living quarters warm somehow. We understand that the number of applications for assistance from civilians will increase. That is why we are now launching a humanitarian logistics centre, which will cover targeted requests for aid and carry out humanitarian missions to different regions.” 

    The second challenge, like for many, is the beginning of the active phase of offensive actions by the Russian invaders. “Winter is their (Russians – ed.) element, – says Yulia Kirillova, – They mostly attack in winter. As the practice of previous years shows, winters are the worst in terms of intensification of hostilities. Here we will talk about the insulation of dugouts, positions, and re-equipping of the military. And about the increase in the number of wounded. We are preparing for all this and started preparing for winter in August. We received the first batch of stoves and heaters at the end of July. We seek the best offers to purchase thermal underwear, sleeping bags and mats. We are preparing to respond to more applications for help and increase the amount of humanitarian aid. We have already started buying winter tires for our medical crews and devices for heating infusion solutions.” 

    Now the organization has also started fundraising. They also plan to raise funds for other areas of work. They have already launched a sewing shop for women’s uniforms. The plans are to sew underwear, T-shirts, hats, balaclavas, and maybe even thermal underwear. At the same time, they are working on weaving camouflage nets and “kikimory”. The work is in full swing.


    For reference:

    “Veteran Hub” is a space for veterans and NGOs working in veteran affairs. The hub team provides psychological and legal assistance to veterans and their families, helps them find new professions and employment and return to civilian life.

    Helping here and now

    With the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Veteran Hub focused on three work areas. “It is clear that there was no question of employment at all in spring. After all, everyone was trying to protect themselves first of all, – says Artem Denysov, Executive Director of “Veteran Hub.” “And that is how we got an unofficial administrative work area. When, for example, people were still on the road, they called and asked where to come and where to stay. But now we are receiving requests from people who are looking for work. The psychological area of our work also had to change. If before the full-scale invasion, we specialized in long-term therapeutic work; some clients worked with us even for a year, and now we are talking about crisis interventions. If we talk about the extent of this psychological help, now we are working more closely with professional doctors. The demand for legal advice has never decreased, even this spring.” 

    Artem Denisov

    Psychological support is still the main focus of the hub. How do we return veterans and other citizens of Ukraine to civilian life after the war? Artem Denysov is convinced that war experience has affected everyone: “Not everyone has and will have combat experience, but everyone has the experience of war. After all, our enemy does not care where to strike; they also strike at civilian infrastructure. You do not have to be a veteran or in the military to know what Russian aggression feels like. And these people will also need support. This does not mean that we will re-profile. It means that we as a society need to pay attention to this. And we need to do it now. If we wait for the end of the war, the victory and will only then start building something, we will lose very precious time.”

    “Veteran’s Path”

    “I am convinced that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, our country has already become a country of veterans”.

    Already in 2019, the “Veteran Hub” started working on the concept of the “Veteran’s Path” – a map of the needs of ATO/JFO veterans from the moment they decide to join the service until the end of their lives. Almost all servicemen, except for those who perish, will become veterans one way or another, so the organization believes that the process of this transition can be more organic if it starts in advance. After all, some of the processes that will take place in the future can be foreseen now. Currently, the organization is rethinking the concept of the “Veteran’s Path”, and although there will be no drastic changes, improvements related to the full-scale invasion will take place. 

    “I am convinced that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, our country has already become a country of veterans. Until now, we were talking about 460 thousand veterans, and now the number is much bigger. And one way or another, the whole country, all ministries and executive authorities will provide services for veterans,” says Artem Denysov. And then, he adds that the state should change the approach to veterans’ benefits because there will now be more people like that. However, the goal should not be to reduce the benefits. Instead, it is necessary to monetize the system and remove the barriers because even now, it is difficult for veterans who do not live in large cities to receive preferential services: “To minimize losses in this process, we must be prepared. We need to form a package of services from both the state and the non-governmental sector for veterans that will meet their needs. Foremost, these are medical services.”

    Veterans will also need employment. Artem Denysov urges us to think about it in advance: 

    “The vast majority of veterans were hired workers, now many of them are employed in the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies and defend our country. In the future, when they return, we must be prepared to interact properly with people with combat experience. That is why we at “Veteran Hub” continue working with employment centres to provide them with tools to establish communication better and respond to the real needs of such people. So that instead of offering them random vacancies, they take an individual approach.” 

    Another project of the “Veteran Hub” currently deals with HR practices. It aims at non-governmental institutions that employ veterans or active servicemen: “This project is transforming the work of HR departments to meet the needs of veterans in their workplaces. For example, let’s take working hours. Sometimes after returning, a veteran may have difficulties with planning and concentration. And if the management understands that a person does not just neglect their work, but due to the psycho-emotional state, they are effective not at 100%, but 60% during the workday, then such management will simply give the person some time off. Or they will change the approach to give a person a certain task, allocate some time for its completion, and let the person choose when to work on it.” 

    Now the biggest challenge for “Veteran Hub”, according to Artem Denysov, is the challenge of mutual understanding and building a unified policy of veteran affairs in the state. “The state will have its point of view, they are already forming the policies, and the public sector has a different stance. We work at different paces. For example, as a public organization, we can make changes much faster, unlike the state. We must realize that now every ministry is becoming the Ministry of Veterans. And every ministry will need to face the needs of veterans sooner or later”.

  • The Cost of Bread in Times of War

    The war made Ukrainians whose towns and cities were besieged or occupied by Russians view bread, a seemingly trivial product, in a new light. UNIAN visited several communities in Chernihiv Oblast and found out how people provided themselves and the defenders with bread and who had to give their lives for it.

    By Iryna Synelnyk

    Bread has traditionally been an essential part of the daily diet of Ukrainians. Some people enjoy it so much that they eat it with almost all the dishes. Some, on the contrary, eat it sparingly to stay in shape. While in times of peace, money determines the price of bread, several tens of hryvnias do not encourage much thinking about the everyday meaning of this product. You get it whenever you feel like eating bread. And when you’re out of it, you can always get a new loaf nearby.

    Instead, in wartime, the cost of bread is estimated by hours in line for it or days without it. In times of war, bread comes at a terrible price. It cost the lives of those who could not deliver the bread to the community, or those who waited in line but were gunned down by enemies before they could get a loaf.

    Those unfortunate Ukrainians under siege or occupation now appreciate the bread much more.

    “A Military Target”: Artillery Striking a Bread Line

    Lives and health were the cost of bread to those Chernihiv residents who stood in line for it in the regional center on March 16.

    Artillery shelling by Russian troops on the outskirts of Chernihiv resulted in mass murder. People lined up for bread at a makeshift kiosk. At around 10:00 Russian army carried out a heavy artillery strike. It killed 14 civilians and injured dozens more.

    Among others, a 67-year-old US Minnesota citizen died from the attack. According to residents of Chernihiv, the man cared for his friend in the hospital. He was bringing whatever food he could find in the besieged city to people in the hospital ward. On that fateful day, the women in the ward pleaded with the American not to go anywhere, but he was set on going out to get some bread.

    Meanwhile, in Russia, they tried to make this tragedy, like many others, look “ambiguous.” The official representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, Major General Igor Konashenkov, stated that “videos of civilians who died in Chernihiv, who Russian servicemen allegedly shot, were distributed on all propaganda resources of the Kyiv regime.”

    “I want to emphasize that there were no Russian servicemen in Chernihiv,” he said.

    However, the Russian army besieged the city for a month and subjected it to daily shelling and airstrikes.

    As residents of Chernihiv slowly go back to leading an everyday life after the retreat of the Russian occupiers, they continue to share their stories about the price of bread in a war on social networks.

    Thus, Lyubov Potapenko admitted that round white bread would always smell like war for her.

    “I didn’t get a round white bread smelling of war and the city’s siege today. The heavenly dispatcher took pity on me, so he sent an oval-shaped loaf. And two kilos of legumes – chickpeas and peas,” she said after receiving humanitarian aid.

    In the comments to that post, another woman, Nadiya Tymoshenko, shared that for her, “wartime bread is a loaf brought to her by her recent acquaintance under fire” – at that time, people shared the last piece with strangers.

    The woman also told how, one day, one of her neighbors appeared on her doorstep: “We know your husband has diabetes; we have dried rye bread for him.”

    Or another situation, when she found two loaves of bread in the house and took the second one to her friend’s father; the man was hiding from bombings in the same cellar where he once hid “from the Germans.” However, he was only three years old then.

    “Bread in times of war means a five-minute mesmerized stare at a bread stand, for the first time without a line next to it but with plenty of fresh bread in the window,” said a woman from Chernihiv, who survived the siege.

    “At-risk” Bread Trucks: Ruscists Shot at Cars Bringing Bread to the City

    In times of war, bread comes at a cost to human lives. An incident with men from the Ichnya community is a testimony to that statement. 38-year-old Mykola Omelchenko and his bride’s father, Serhiy Bondarenko, went to Pryluky on February 28, according to Mykola’s sister Oksana Omelchenko. They went together to be safe. Even though there were already many Russian soldiers in the vicinity, no one thought that the trip for bread would be the last for the men.

    Having loaded the truck with bread at the Pryluky bread factory, they could not return the same day due to the curfew.

    “The next day, at 8 AM, my brother called to tell me they were departing. I couldn’t reach him after that,” says Ms Oksana.

    Two dead men were found next to a shelled minibus on March 1, at the entrance to the village of Olshana. Marauders had already looted the truck. Nearby, another shelled car stood, facing the opposite direction. The driver of that car was taking a sick person to the hospital in Pryluky.

    “No one could think that my brother would die there. He was afraid to go through the village of Monastyryshche. And the danger caught up with them near Olshana. We still don’t know the circumstances of my brother’s death,” says the deceased’s sister.

    The dead driver of the minibus with bread. Photo of the Facebook group “Irzhavets”.

    She emphasizes that the pain of loss does not subside. The loss of her brother is a great grief for the family, especially for his children. 15-year-old Ivan and 9-year-old Polina lost their father that day. 

    Not everyone in the village of Olshana knows about the story behind the shelled bread truck. Only the security guard of the local enterprise in the village can point to the location where the truck was shelled. He says that Russian military equipment was standing in the field, next to the road. Corn is already rising in that field. Nobody knows why the civilians were shot there.

    Signs with the village’s name are still missing, but a bouquet is tied to one of the pillars that used to hold the sign to commemorate the people who perished there.

    The Bread Factory Increased Production Volumes

    During the war, it became clear in many communities that having their bakery, however small, is true bliss. If there is also a supply of flour available, then that community is twice as lucky. And if there is a whole bread factory in the community, it is heaven-sent. 

    After all, it means that not only the residents of the community but also their closest neighbors will have a higher chance of surviving the occupation. This helped the Sosnytsia community get through the darkest hours.

    A resident of the Konyatyn village of this community, Ms. Nadiya, recalls that they only had some trouble getting bread in the first days of the war.

    “They brought bread from Sosnytsia to the store, but there was very little of it. Our shopkeeper burst into tears because she was at a loss and didn’t know how to share the bread among the locals,” she says.

    We solved this problem by giving half a load to each person. And a little later, even though the community’s population increased (those fleeing the war from other settlements came to the village), there were no bread shortages.

    The Sosnytsia bread factory worked as usual even when the hostilities unfolded in the region. The head of the factory, Hennadiy Drobyazko, says that the first day of the war – February 24 – was an ordinary working day, albeit an uneasy one: because the female workers only talked about the fact that tanks were coming to the village.

    Hennadiy Drobyazko with a work shift. Photo by Iryna Synelnyk.

    The Russian military did indeed enter Sosnytsia, but they behaved quietly; they set up roadblocks at the exits from the village and did not bother the locals.

    “We had a flour supply of about 15-20 tons; that should have been enough for up to a month. But if in peacetime we baked 600-700 kg of bread per day, during the war we increased the production to 3,000 kg,” the head of the enterprise says.

    Drobyazko says that the tricky issues were the provision of salt and yeast. At a time, even local residents brought whatever supplies they had saved to the factory. The village education department also helped: they collected flour, salt, sugar, and yeast from all schools and gave them to the bread factory. Later, they went to Shostka (Sumy Oblast) for yeast. They tried to make sourdough, but because of the peculiarities of the production technology, they couldn’t make enough bread with it. They even tried to mix sourdough and yeast bread recipes. But then a sufficient amount of necessary ingredients finally came. When the bread factory ran out of salt, an enterprise that used to make pickles supplied the much-needed ingredient.

    They also managed to find the flour. In particular, about 40 tons were brought from Krolevets, from Sumy Oblast. According to Drobyazko, trips for yeast and flour were hazardous. And the fact that these trips resulted in success is incredible luck.

    It wasn’t easy to deliver even the baked bread to the community villages because sometimes the trucks couldn’t get beyond the Russian checkpoints.

    “One day, the driver was delivering bread as he saw an enemy column crossing the road in front of his car. He was fortunate not to have been hit. The man stopped the truck in time because his hands were shaking from fear,” the head of the bread factory shares.

    The bread came to some villages via forest roads. The bread truck would unload the bread there onto a tractor.

    A special crossing over the Desna river was built to supply bread to the Zadesensky part of the community. A boat brought the bread to the village of Pekars.

    Dobyazko says that during the occupation, the sense of unity was strong in the community. If flour needed unloading, the residents came and quickly did everything; if the factory required firewood, the forestry farm allocated the trees, and the people came together to cut down and stack the wood. Similarly, the employees of the bread factory worked with complete dedication. After all, their work provided bread for the Sosnytsia community and the neighboring ones that could somehow reach the factory against all odds. 

    Grandma’s Recipes for Ukrainian Soldiers

    The center of the Kiptiv community is 50 km removed from Chernihiv on the highway to the capital; some villages are 35 km away. During the offensive of the Russian army on Kyiv and the siege of the regional center of Chernihiv Oblast, the active hostilities took place very close to the community. Ukrainian military personnel was stationed in the villages of the Kiptiv community, and they needed the support of the locals, including the rations.

    “At first, feeding more than 1,000 soldiers per day was difficult, but then everything worked out,” says Iryna Dubyk, head of the culture, family, youth, and sports department of the Kiptiv village council.

    She emphasizes that the community residents clearly understood that if you don’t feed your army, you’ll have to provide for the enemies soon enough! Ms. Iryna remembers how residents of the Kiptiv community shared their food supplies, even slaughtered pigs and chickens, and gave dairy products so that the Ukrainian soldiers had a tastier lunch.

    Later, the food supply improved. However, bread had to be baked locally, and the flour and yeast were scarce. An old mill in one of the settlements of the community managed to solve the issue with the flour. The mill was constructed in the 1950s but it worked on a generator. A local resident, Volodymyr Shokun, and his sons kept it in working order. 

    While fighting was going in the outskirts, the miller ground so much grain that the millstone cracked. Now the man is looking for a replacement, although it is not an easy task. The lack of yeast did not prevent bread baking either, since local women remembered an old sourdough recipe.

    Nataliya Vlasenko, a mother of a big family, also baked bread for the soldiers (after the death of her husband, the woman is raising five children aged 6 to 22 on her own). Ms. Nataliya says that cooking skills run in her family, so she remembered her grandmother’s oven-baked bread recipe.

    The recipe is simple: to start the bread, you take 100 grams of flour and the same amount of water. If you add a little sugar, the fermentation process will speed up and be faster on rye or whole wheat flour. Daily, the leaven needs to be mixed over four days, and you should add 100 grams of flour and water. On the fifth day, the leaven is ready.

    The recipe for her sourdough bread is as follows: 8 tablespoons of sourdough, 600 ml of water, 20 grams of salt, 10 grams of sugar, vinegar, and oil, as well as 1 kg of first-grade or second-grade flour. Knead the dough to rise and then form loaves. The ready loaves will need to rise a little more, and then they are prepared for baking.

    With a professional oven, the woman could make 50-60 loaves of bread daily for the Ukrainian military.

    Miller and an old mill. Photo by Iryna Synelnyk.

    Iryna Dubyk recalls that the bread was delivered to the military at first, and then, due to shelling, they handled the logistics themselves. According to her, the poignant moments were when the defenders took freshly baked bread in their hands and kissed it.

    “The soldiers told us that they were happy to defend Chernihiv Oblast, where residents loved their military so much that they took good care of them and baked fresh bread for them,” she says.

    Finally, the author of these lines has her tale of bread in times of war. The village of Lyubechi was surrounded by Russian troops almost immediately. No one could either leave the settlement or enter. All goods have disappeared from shelves in stores. Bringing food here, primarily bread, had become a problem. The loaves were baked by a local bakery as long as there was flour and yeast. Later we managed to bring bread from the village of Ripki.

    The loaf was a reward for waiting in line for many hours. It was hard to resist eating it on the spot. Warm and mouthwatering. But it was necessary to bring it home and divide it among everyone.

    I was very impressed by a story on television, which showed the day-to-day of a bakery in a big city and a large assortment of bread and bakery products on the shelves of supermarkets. Having lived without bread for several weeks, I was dumbfounded by this luxury.

    My neighbor, who survived the Holodomor and the Second World War, never threw away any bread and used to say that “bread is the head of everything”. She taught her and the neighbor’s children and grandchildren to respect bread and the work of people in the fields.

    But to fully understand what she meant, you would have to experience living without any bread.

  • “Where Have You Been for the Last Eight Years?”

    Stories of residents of the Donetsk region who chose Ukraine.

    By Natalia Shevchuk

    No matter what military intelligence analysts and local prophets warned Ukrainians about, Russia’s attack on Ukraine on February 24 shocked many compatriots. But among them, some people are forced to relive this aggression for the second time: the residents of the occupied regions, particularly the Donetsk region. After I talked to a few of them, I discarded the draft of the introduction to this article. Their stories are louder than my words.

    Some people demanded that I not include their photo or surname, others – that I change their name altogether. Many were worried about the relatives who remained in the occupied territories; others felt vulnerable talking about their past grievances. Where were they for the last eight years, the years Russian propaganda parades so loudly? What was their life like? What were they thinking then and now?

    Olga, Donetsk


    I was born in Russian Transcaucasia, but at the age of six, I moved with my mother to Donetsk and lived there most of my life (Olga is in her late 40s, – auth.) I remember exactly when I left, it was August 14, 2014. We had to go for several reasons. Sometimes it was impossible to sleep. First, because of how our Ice Arena was destroyed, then because of the constant shelling of the Donetsk airport. I moved from my apartment to my mother’s house in another district, but even there, drunken local militants staged a street fight with shooting.

    In general, it was scary. Imagine – at the very beginning of these events, I was walking down an avenue in yellow and blue clothes. They grabbed me; they wanted to drag me into a minibus. What saved me was that they checked my passport, and one of the Russian cities was indicated as my place of birth there. They decided to let me go at that time with a warning. I have always been pro-Ukrainian; my neighbors and people at work knew about that. (I am a social worker.)

    One colleague hinted that they were interested not only in me but also in my daughters. The older one was already married and lived with her husband, and I worried about the younger one. Our family members left separately. My mother is a believer, and thanks to the church’s support, she made it to Kyiv. My younger daughter also traveled the Kharkiv-Kyiv-Bukovel route with people from my mom’s church, and I went to Odesa. We managed to meet up only after a few months.

    The eldest daughter and her husband moved in with us about a year later. She had her passport reissued with her married name first, and later there was no way out of the city for a while. They managed to flee to the Russian Federation. There were also troubles with the documents there, but finally, they arrived from there to us, in Odesa.

    Representatives of the church picked me up right at the Odesa train station. For about a month, I stayed with them, then for a couple of weeks in a hostel, then with another displaced woman for two years in Luzanivka, Odesa. We had three rooms for two families for a moderate fee; we were lucky. Back then, I thought that I was about to return home.

    I was looking for a job through advertisements, worked in a bakery and pizzeria, and sold women’s shoes in several markets. I left Odesa for several years and worked in another city (there were colleagues from my former job), but eventually, I returned. I don’t know why, but Odesans accepted me as one of them. I guess this is my native city now, too. I returned to social work. Now I am a member of the civil movement “Faith. Hope. Love”.

    I was terrified of a new war. And I knew that there would be war. I stocked up on cereals and canned meat in advance – I have a dog who needs to be fed. I was preparing, and still, February 24 was very scary. Eight years ago, I ran away from Donetsk with a tiny purse. But where to run now, when finally, after many efforts, I am back on my feet? When I am not so young and healthy and know no foreign languages.

    I was depressed and apathetic, to tell the truth. I took it one day at a time. All my fears from eight years ago came to life and cast me down me even harder. The only plus was that I no longer had to worry about the integrity of my home; I’m renting an apartment here. As far as I know, some mercenaries (whether from Rostov or somewhere else) took over my apartment in Donetsk.

    I was afraid of bombings and shelling, occupation, getting seriously ill – literally of everything. My brother, who remained in Russia, started writing to me more often. He bombarded me with messages: called me a Nazi, an idiot, and told me to look at my passport and see “the truth”… He stopped writing to me about a week ago, so there’s that.

    And then refugees started coming to us in Odesa. “Faith.Hope.Love” actively helps them, so I also began helping others. Together with the newcomers, I went to psychological group sessions. There was a great psychologist (he is from Mariupol), and he helped me feel some relief. Starting this week, I will go to him for personal consultations. I understand that my old emotional wounds have opened again, that I need long-term therapy, and that one or two meetings won’t cut it. But I will take care of this, especially since my family members don’t want to go elsewhere. We already suffered enough of this eight years ago.

    Victor, Bakhmut

    I was born and lived my whole life in Bakhmut, Donetsk region. I devoted my life to one place, one factory, where I worked for more than 40 years in engineering positions. Already in evacuation, in Odesa, I celebrated my 85th birthday. When Russia attacked Ukraine eight years ago, it failed to capture our city. But I still remember that emotional state: not fear but anger. That was my reaction to the rallies in the center of Artemivsk (the old name of the city, auth.) in the spring of that year. At them, Russian agitators (by no means local) freely, without hindrance, called for the creation of the so-called Novorossia to express distrust of the authorities of Ukraine. Russian flags accompanied all these actions.

    There were 50 to 100 people at these rallies from the city where 70,000 people lived. As for the kind of people that attended, they usually convinced everyone that they were “not interested in politics.”

    For the first five years out of the eight you are asking about, residents of the so-called “DNR” were allowed to come to Bakhmut. The purpose of those mass visits was to receive pensions and purchase food. I remember asking a strange woman from Horlivka: “How is life there?” She replied: “It’s good that we can come here!”. With the beginning of the covid pandemic, they no longer had such an opportunity.

    Reflecting on this, I see that not much has changed in eight years. The local print publications “Vpered” and “Sobytiya” ignored the neighboring entity – the DNR – completely. And at the annual city-wide celebrations of Victory Day on May 9, we heard no mention of the threat to peace from the territories bordering our district.

    This is already the second war and the second evacuation in my life. I experienced something similar for the first time when I was four. Despite my young age, specific episodes of months-long wanderings in the evacuation train were etched in my memory for the rest of my life… All I want now for my city and country is peace! Instead of the horrors of war. And I really want to go back to my city.

    The man was evacuated at the beginning of April, when the military administration of the Donetsk region asked people to leave the city due to increasing threats and because his son Gennady insisted on his departure. Gennady says that his father often experiences headaches and dizziness. This is because of his age and health problems and how worried he is about his hometown. After all, you can read in all the news that the direction Bakhmut-Lysychansk is under intense fire on the eastern front.

    Like every person who deals with bandits, the father realizes that at any moment, he can lose all his property, says Gennady. But there is no point in hiding something from him: he communicates with people who stayed in the city and is interested in other news. The benefit of many sources of information is at least that there are not only negative news but also encouraging ones.

    What do I miss most in my hometown? And on what scales should it be weighed? Do I miss my mother’s grave, or the young oak my father and I planted on the eve of the Russian-Ukrainian war in the local park? Do I wonder about the fate of relatives who did not want to leave? The ones who had been living in a partially destroyed house in the very center of the city for a month? How about the pain of losing the local history museum’s legacy, materials on the history of the oldest town of Donbas? How do I weigh what I love most about the country that shaped me and got me through many ordeals? The same with the native city.

    Natalya, Avdiivka


    Avdiivka, 13 km from occupied Donetsk, is still under the control of Ukrainian armed forces; but due to constant shelling, it has turned into an army stronghold. The houses here are destroyed, and hardly any local residents are left. The woman I’m speaking with left there when the first shots were fired in 2014.

    I was a private entrepreneur; I fried and sold chebureks at the market. And in Odesa, I am doing the same now, Natalya says with a sigh. In 2014, I was one of the first to leave because the health department offered to help parents with disabled children with evacuation. And my daughter has diabetes. I also have a younger son. When we evacuated, there was a train of parents like me, some with their children in wheelchairs.

    We took root here with difficulty. We spent the first summer at an old recreation center in the resort town of Serhiivka. We settled in fine, but one of our compatriots, a blind pensioner, hanged himself because someone stole all the money from his card. But closer to winter, the town’s mayor insisted that we should leave as soon as possible. However, the local people’s deputies offered him to relocate us to an unfinished building that we would have somehow fixed to be fit for living. But it didn’t work out. Then there was the Kuyalnyk sanatorium, then another eviction with a scandal because no one paid for us to stay there. I then managed to secure a spot for us in Luzanivka, at a center for people going through hard times. People who came later couldn’t stay there because of limited space; they had to make some other arrangements. We are still here, but we don’t know for how long. The center seems to be under renovation; new settlers are not accepted.

    My neighbors had an even harder time. They took over empty houses to live in, some on Uspenska Street, some on Fontanka. Media covered that story a lot. In 2015, I won a grant from the charity organization Caritas to start my own business. I left the equipment for frying chebureks in Avdiivka, but I received a new set here with this grant. Now I work in Novyi Rynok. Some of my former neighbors have left for Europe with their children. They went to Poland, Germany, Italy, and Spain. But I can’t go, not again! I’m staying in Odessa, although there is almost no trade now.

    My daughter grew up and studied to be a hairdresser, but she still has health problems and cannot work if it’s hot. The son is still in school. When I was leaving, I planned to later sell my place in Avdiivka, earn something from that sale, add some more money and buy an apartment in Odesa. But… I don’t have a home anymore. Now they say there will be a state compensation program for those who lost their homes. Maybe they will remember us, people who lost everything eight years ago? That would be fair.

    Some of my friends who went to Europe will probably get rooted there. Some will return. And I am still here and inviting all my friends and relatives to join me. Of course, if a person is in panic, not a patriot, or does not understand “who attacked whom,” then let them go somewhere else. They won’t do us any good here. But I keep my chin up. Sometimes it’s scary, but deep down, I’m convinced, for some reason, that Odesa will remain as it was. It will remain steadfast.

    The article’s author apologizes to those interlocutors with whom she arranged an interview but whose stories she did not include in this text. The material turned out to be longer than I expected. I am convinced that the topic of displaced people deserves further consideration, and I will return to it.

  • Following in the KGB Footsteps: How the Russians are Trying to Win the Information War, What Does Schvets Have to do with It, “The Good Russians” and What You Need to Know about Disinformation

    By Maryana Metelska

    What the Russians are good at is creating and spreading disinformation. They don’t change their methods for decades but adapt them to modern realities. The rapid development of the Internet only contributes to the spread of this disinformation virus. After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the Russians became more active on the information front, directing their efforts to rock the boat both in Ukraine and in the West in general. Their goal is obvious; they want to weaken Ukraine from the inside and disrupt its relations with partners and, in general, with the whole world. Then it would be easier to destroy.

    Russian disinformation is very diverse. If we were to describe each case in detail, we would need to write a whole book about it. However, for personal protection against disinformation, it is enough to know its general workings. “Volyn Online” briefly explains how propaganda and disinformation work, why these are two separate notions, and why you should not take their word for it from everyone who says they are against Putin’s war. It also analyzes dangerous narratives for Ukraine.

    The information front of the Russian Federation – how the Russians create disinformation and what methods of information weapons you need to know about

    Most people associate Russian propaganda with people like Skabeieva or Solovyov, who spout nonsense about Nazis in Ukraine, US Biolabs, and killer geese. However, hostile propaganda and disinformation go way beyond concocting primitive fakes.

    First, it is worth distinguishing the terms “propaganda” and “disinformation”, which are elements of informational and psychological warfare.

    Disinformation is false or manipulative information that is purposefully created to cause harm. Truth can even be a part of disinformation if it meets the set goal – that is, only that part of accurate information is presented that is needed to create the desired “picture”. A characteristic feature of disinformation is regularity; it occurs over a long time and is implemented by a group of people. One of the main tactics of disinformation is to fill the information space with numerous mutually exclusive messages to disorient the information consumer and subject them to manipulation.

    Propaganda can be positive (e.g. propaganda about a healthy lifestyle). The primary purpose of propaganda is to convince the target audience of something, shape its perceptions and guide its behaviour in the right direction.

    Also, you have probably heard about such a concept as a “narrative”. It means an interpretation, a description of events from a certain point of view. The hostile narrative will always target emotions and aim for vulnerabilities. E.g., “Refugees hate Western Ukraine because there are no hostilities there”; “Residents of Western Ukraine are against refugees because they will take all the jobs”, etc. The narrative always contains both true and false information at the same time. This is done to preserve some truthful information that can “hook” a reader and increase the distribution of the narrative on social networks. (why would you doubt the information that has a fact mentioned?). Narratives often contradict each other aiming to polarize society, destabilize the situation, etc. Thus, they will spread the narrative that the West is hostile to refugees in the East. And in the West – that all the residents of Donbas are waiting for the arrival of the Russians, etc.

    In 2018, the New York Times created a series of documentaries called “Operation Infection”, which talked about the methods of making and spreading disinformation that Russia has been using since the Cold War and until now. It is worth briefly mentioning some of these methods since the Russians currently use the same techniques on the information front. According to the film’s authors, they had reconstructed the seven commandments of Russian disinformation. They describe a time-tested step-by-step recipe for creating the perfect piece of fake news:

    Rule 1. Polarize. Find any social differences (economic, ethnic, linguistic, etc.) and inflate these differences so much that people stop believing each other.

    Rule 2. Create an audacious lie so big that no one would believe that anyone would even invent such a thing. And broadcast it everywhere.

    Here we can recall an example from the time of the Cold War. In the 1980s, the KGB organized a disinformation campaign called “Operation INFECTION”: they spread information that HIV/AIDS was allegedly created in the USA as a biological weapon. Articles in the press replicated this disinformation so much that eventually, it made its way onto American television. The campaign aimed to worsen US relations with countries where American bases were located.

    What do we see now? Russia is taking up the old ways again, inventing news about bio laboratories on the territory of Ukraine. As reported by “Volyn Online”, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation presented a “map” with such laboratories on the territory of Ukraine, and one of them is supposedly located in Lutsk. However, times have changed, so few people fell for this fake news except for the ruscists themselves and those intoxicated by their propaganda.

    Rule 3. Wrap this lie around an authentic core. The most successful disinformation operations contain elements of truth that make the rest of the fake information palatable.

    Rule 4. Hide your hands: Make it look like the message originated elsewhere.

    Rule 5. Find yourself a useful idiot. They define useful idiots as those who mindlessly accept the Kremlin’s messages and promote them among the target audience – the foreign population they want to affect.

    Rule 6. Deny everything. If someone is trying to disprove a fake, this is what this rule is for. You have to deny everything, to insist on your point of view aggressively.

    Rule 7. Play the long game. Russia wants to play the long game and invests enormous resources in things that may not bear fruit for years. The accumulation of these operations over a long time will eventually produce a powerful political impact.

    These seven simple rules were a powerful weapon of the KGB, and now Russia is using them again on the information front. And now, the age of the Internet is helping the Kremlin.

    Disinformation is a type of active measure. A former KGB agent Yuriy Bezmenov, who fled to the West in the 1970s, described KGB activities in detail. These activities can also be called “ideological subversion” or “psychological warfare.” According to him, KGB agents spent 85% of their time on these active measures. This is a slow, grand process of “brainwashing”, which aims at changing the perception of reality to such an extent that, despite a large amount of information, no one can draw reasonable conclusions to protect themselves, society, and the country. This process consists of four main stages.

    The first stage is demoralization. It takes 15-20 years to demoralize an entire country, that is, to educate at least one generation of students in an enemy country. Marxist-Leninist ideology had been rammed into the brains of at least three generations. A demoralized person can no longer determine the truth, even when given all the facts. It takes another 15-20 years to eliminate such “programming” by raising a new generation.

    The second stage is destabilization. It takes from two to five years. Destabilization of the economy, foreign relations, and the defence system are essential at this stage.

    The third stage is a crisis. It can take up to six weeks.

    The fourth stage is normalization. It can last as long as you like. It comes after a crisis with a drastic change in the power structure and the economy.

    The most common methods during the current information war are 

    • the big lie method (the bigger the lie, the more people believe it)
    • repeated repetition (the lie is repeated until it is perceived as the truth)
    • half-truth (the lie is mixed with the truth, and the more accurate it is, the more dangerous it becomes; some facts are easy to verify or everyone knows about them, and lies are imperceptibly thrown in between the points)
    • a horror story (people are confronted with two evils: a terrible and a lesser evil; people choose the lesser evil; the method is used to justify bad deeds)
    • “40 on 60” (60% of information is favourable towards the opponent to maintain the trust of the audience and the rest, 40%, is disinformation)
    • “information avalanche” (judgments that contradict each other are spread at the same time to disorient the reader),
    • “information laundering” (information is secretly given up to a particular expert in a specific mass media to hide its origin, and then, referring to a respectable source, it is replicated as much as possible)
    • the method of anticipatory version (consists of the desire to inform the mass audience about the fact, the event, and its interpretation, first, without particularly worrying about the veracity of the message or its correspondence to reality; even if refuted, only a part of the mass audience will change the opinion they already formed).

    Let’s look at some narratives to see how Russia is trying to defeat us on the information front.

    “The West allocates billions of dollars, and we are still raising funds for drones and bulletproof vests”. The money was stolen: how ruscist propaganda manipulates us.

    When the partners began to help Ukraine, sending weapons and allocating funds actively, betrayal came rushing from all possible directions. “Aid is being stolen” is the leading narrative propagandists never tire of. Remember, if there is even a drop of truth in the fake narrative, lies quickly go along. Given the many corruption facts in Ukraine, the public consumed this narrative rather organically.

    For example, Yury Shvets promoted such messages actively. He is a former KGB agent who calls himself a fellow student of Putin (but in fact, he is not because he studied in the same university as Putin but for different years). Enough evidence is that Shvets is promoted by the infamous Dmytro Gordon, known in Ukrainian journalistic circles for never following the standards of journalism and for giving a platform to various pro-Russian politicians, bloggers, singers, etc. He actively promoted Shvets back in 2017.

    It is worth emphasizing that Shvets’ YouTube channel appeared in June 2021, when Russia’s plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine became more pronounced. At first, Shvets recorded several videos a month, but when the war broke out, he began releasing videos every other day.

    For some reason, his supporters do not ask themselves simple questions: why did such a shoddy journalist promote him, why did a person suddenly decide to become an analyst in retirement, and why did he do it a few months before the war, how he promoted his channel so much money that in just a year it grew to millions of views and subscriptions. Usually, independent media achieve this in years, not in a matter of months. 

    How can he have time to analyze all possible news and do analytics every day if, for this, you need either to have a large team or to produce analytic pieces not so often? Of course, if it is an analytics and not ready-made scripts that you read on camera.

    Shvets’ channel was created and promoted all these months, building trust in the audience, knowing that the moment would come when it would be possible to use it. 

    Now, this moment has come; it is an opportunity to disrupt the supply of weapons to Ukraine and, in general, to present his audience with a distorted picture of the world and brainwash them. Why would he manipulate the facts he is presenting if it’s not true? Let’s look at the following examples:

    For example, in a video dated July 9, Shvets says that American taxpayers’ money is allegedly being transferred in cash for state structures to purchase weapons. According to him, various offices buy weapons, and the participants of these deals pocket 10% and higher commissions.

    “The sums shaved off there are colossal, well, take a billion dollars worth of purchases. Officials pocket at least 100 million in Kyiv. For some, war is hell. For others, it’s a time to prosper, so we are talking about putting this money so that it all goes to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and not as a commission to a Ukrainian official,” says Yurii Shvets.

    Here he mentions the US congresswoman, Ukrainian by origin, Victoria Spartz, who is said to have investigated this embezzlement. In the video, he talked about Victoria Spartz for several days in a row, calling her a person with a “high level of access”; therefore, she cannot use rumours. Victoria Spartz is not that influential in the USA. The American press wrote about her “toxicity” as she humiliated her subordinates and was even called the worst employer in 2021.

    On July 8, Viktoria Spartz wrote a letter to President Biden about the need to check whether the head of the Office of President Andriy Yermak had Russian connections and expressed concern about the possible smuggling of supplied weapons out of Ukraine. In particular, the congresswoman stated that she could not be sure whether the guns would not be smuggled into Mexico, Islamic terrorist states, or even Russia.

    Not to say that there are no such problems in Ukraine. Still, manipulative statements about the potential smuggling of weapons to Mexico or Syria can seriously harm Ukraine’s image and disrupt critical arms supplies. This is what the Russian Federation is trying to achieve.

    On July 12, the Financial Times published an article quoting the US Deputy Secretary of State for Arms Control, Bonnie Denise Jenkins, that “the possibility that American weapons sent to Ukraine could fall into the wrong hands is being considered.”

    Having gathered all these facts, Shvets speculates that the US Government is seriously looking into this issue, while the Ukrainian authorities pretend there is nothing to it. But at the same time, Shvets takes quotes out of context and does not say that, for example, the same Bonnie Denise Jenkins said: “We are confident in the obligation of the Ukrainian government to protect and report on US weapons properly.”

    By a strange coincidence, all these statements intensified when the flow of aid from the US increased, mainly when HIMARS were supplied and successfully used at the front.

    It is also worth emphasizing that the Co-Chair of the Ukrainian Caucus in the US Congress, Marcy Kaptur, stated that Spartz repeats Russian narratives:

    “Those who spread wild narratives against Ukrainian officials during the war are recklessly aiding Putin and his propagandists. As allies, we will continue working alongside President Zelenskyi and his office to ensure this war ends.”

    NATO stated that they are confident in the obligations of the government of Ukraine to properly store and keep records of the weapons provided by the allies. EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs Ylva Johansson also said that the EU is confident in Ukraine’s proper use of firearms.

    The Pentagon also said they did not find any evidence of smuggling the provided weapons.

    Shvets also talks about arms smuggling, apparently referring to “CNN” and “FT”, and emphasizes that everything is allegedly so severe that the EU commission decided to create a special centre in Moldova to fight arms smuggling from Ukraine.

    “The EU Commission believes that this issue is so urgent that it is creating a centre to deal with it in a neighbouring country,” he says.

    You will Google it and say, “That’s true. Such a centre is being opened.” Thus, the EU is creating a centre in Moldova to fight organized crime, particularly arms smuggling. It will become a universal one-stop shop allowing Europol to share information and the EU border agency Frontex to support border management and detect illegal firearms trafficking. The centre will also be aimed at combating human trafficking.

    However, there is no evidence that this centre is being opened because smuggling in Ukraine has already reached high levels. In particular, Swedish Migration Minister Anders Igeman said that most of the weapons supplied to Ukraine remain in the hands of the Ukrainian military, and “only a limited number of those weapons used in the war can be used by organized crime later.” He emphasized that “there should be measures to control the flow of weapons after the war in Ukraine.”

    And such manipulations are in every video by Shvets. To check this, it is enough to Google what he says, not only in Ukrainian but also in English, and see what respectable news outlets report on the subject.

    Shvets manipulates information using the half-truth method here. Let’s go back to rule #3 from the KGB – wrap this lie around an authentic core. Shvets’ video is a vivid example of this.

    It is logical that Shvets’ audience immediately feels angry that money is being stolen, and they want to give it publicity, so such videos and narratives from them become viral. And since disinformation is successfully mixed with the truth (there is corruption in Ukraine, there aren’t enough weapons at the front, etc.), the viewer perceives this “picture” as a whole.

    And what happens to the money, for example, that the USA allocates for Ukraine? Experts point out that the financial assistance provided by the USA, to a large extent, remains in the USA.

    “Most Western aid is not monetary. It comes as weapons, ammunition, medical equipment, and humanitarian assistance. The USA is the largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine. We should note right away that the lend-lease program, so highly promoted by our mass media, will only start working in October when the new fiscal year begins in the USA.

    US aid is coming as part of a much-publicized $40 billion aid package passed by the US Congress in May. However, not all of that money goes towards military aid to Ukraine. Only six billion will be spent directly on weapons, and ammunition, training Ukrainian service members and providing Ukraine with intelligence. Another eleven billion have been transferred to the personal control of President Biden, and he may use some of that money as military aid. Still, we cannot be sure about that. Another eight billion dollars is designated for financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The rest of the funds will go to NATO members in Europe, as well as to replenish weapons for the American army and even to overcome hunger in African countries. It is still not clear how much of this money will reach Ukraine. In June, only one billion dollars of financial assistance arrived at the National bank of Ukraine with this program to replenish its foreign exchange reserves. The program is only valid until the end of September; if some allocated funds are not used by that time, then Ukraine will not receive them.

    Even though the US has allocated considerable funds for military aid to Ukraine, American weapons and ammunition are expensive. For instance, one HIMARS salvo costs a million dollars. Moreover, the US estimates the price of military personnel preparation at a high level, and the same is true of transferred intelligence, etc. Six billion in military aid doesn’t mean an ample arms supply. Ukraine needs significantly more weapons and ammunition. The same is true of the assistance Ukraine is getting from other countries.

    And when it comes to Viktoria Spartz and some other politicians who state that arms supplied to Ukraine could be resold to Russia or Syria, most likely, such statements are issued for the politicians’ self-promotion. There was no evidence of Ukraine transferring weapons to any other countries. However, statements like these may slow the rate at which foreign help is arriving to Ukraine or even put a stop to it”, says the expert.

    Financial and economic columnist Bohdan Slutskyi explains that Ukraine receives both military (machinery, equipment, spare parts, etc.) and non-military aid (monetary aid to cover the deficit in the state budget). 

    “It’s essential to note that international financial organizations and partner states do not provide funds for military purposes. Instead, they assist with humanitarian needs such as covering salaries, pensions, social benefits, including the needs of internally displaced persons”, highlights Mr Slutskyi.

    Since February 24, international partners have issued almost 13 billion dollars in grants and soft loans to Ukraine as of July 14 (approx. 390 billion UAH at the official exchange rate).

    “This number looks astronomical, but it’s a false impression. War is a costly undertaking. Basic financing expenses (mainly the army and social benefits) come to 320-250 mill UAH. Only 50-70 bill UAH is collected as tax revenues. The other monthly 180-200 billion UAH need to be covered from other sources,” emphasizes the expert.

    An expert from the civil movement,  “Vsi razom!” Yevhen Savisko explains that the US government allocates money to Ukraine is used to finance the production of weapons in the US, both to replace the ones already given to Ukraine and to fulfil new military orders for the Armed Forces. The same funds are used to cover the expenses of intelligence work, including aerospace intelligence. So the money that comes to Ukraine is distributed according to targeted programs (to support the State Budget of Ukraine, to ensure the activities of law enforcement agencies and the State Emergency Service, to finance the particular needs of the war with the Russian Federation). Also, part of this money is used to support the refugees that left Ukraine for the US.

    There isn’t separate financing allocated for Ukraine to purchase weapons. The relevant US government structures buy and supply all necessary arms. One of the reasons is systemic corruption in our domestic government structures. Another one is the peculiarities of the US budgetary policies.

    Other countries are covering Ukraine’s financial needs in similar ways. They finance specifically targeted programs, like refugee support, aid to victims of ruscists, or allocation of weapons or protective gear.

    The president of the “First international development foundation for Ukraine”, Mykola Volkivsky, thinks along the same lines:

    “Stealing allocated funds is next to impossible for two reasons. The announced amount is an estimate of the worth of property or equipment that will be provided to Ukraine. So it will come in kind and not as actual money. In most cases, it’s the best scenario because all the necessary munition and gear cannot be purchased at your local store. The weapons don’t just come with manuals. People must be taught to use them (except for unified models), etc. And often, the amount you hear is an estimate, not a given weapon’s net worth. The other reason is increased control over the use of finances. Sometimes the money would be provided for certain purposes: it cannot be withdrawn, the result will be verified, and sometimes there wasn’t a particular Ukrainian interest in it”.

    “Our guys were left without provisions, their commanders fled, summonses are issued on the street, newly recruited are shipped to the front line”: how Russians are trying to disrupt mobilization in Ukraine

    Another direction where Russians are working tirelessly is the attempt to disrupt the mobilization in Ukraine. Most Ukrainians have certainly heard messages like “Our guys are left without provisions on purpose”, “The commanders fled and left our boys in the grind, “Only people from Western U Ukraine are being mobilized to fight on the front lines”, and so on.

    These messages are mainly spread on social networks, where it is straightforward to claim “betrayal”. Let’s look at the case of the so-called volunteer Oleksii Osker.

    Under the guise of being a volunteer, Osker constantly discredits state and local government members, sometimes even appealing to dismantle them altogether. The same goes for famous charitable foundations, like “Come back alive”, Serhii Prytula foundation and even Soros. Baselessly accuses them of embezzling volunteer contributions while chastising the government and the military for abandoning soldiers.

    In his live broadcasts on Facebook, Osker has repeatedly called on Ukrainian service members to leave the battlefield and attack Kyiv instead. These false claims quickly spread on social networks. Many pages that reposted his messages belonged to bots. 

    Osker has also distributed videos of the appeals of servicemen allegedly “abandoned” by their commanders. He added an emotional component by including the request of the supposed wife of the soldier. Thousands of people shared these videos to create an impression that the Armed Forces of Ukraine left some fighters to die and that no one but their wives and mothers cared for them. At the same time, there were many losses in the military in May, so his message fit the then-current narrative. Deserters recorded these videos, and there were just a few. They were members of territorial defence units, not the Army of Ukraine, according to the investigation carried out by “Hromadske”. Service members from the Ukrainian Armed Forces even recorded videos, apologized to the Ukrainians for such deserters, and declared that they no longer wanted people like that to serve alongside them.

    Osker also tells his subscribers that the aid from Western partners has been stolen. Bots and useful idiots readily spread this information on social networks.

    It is worth noting that this “volunteer” was once trying to sell the post of the head of the Mykolaiv regional state administration for 600 thousand dollars.

    Osker’s leading social media profile has been blocked, but he just created a new one.

    To demoralize our military, Russians also spread fake claims that Ukrainians are surrendering en masse because their commanders abandon them. This is not the case; there are no more than 8,000 MIA, so some may be in captivity, but this number is not nearly significant enough to be ground for such claims.

    Ruscists also use the fact that summonses are issued on the streets in Ukraine. As repeatedly explained in the centres of recruitment and social support, receiving a subpoena on the road does not mean they will immediately send a person to the front. 

    First, the person’s data needs to be verified. Only then are they sent to undergo a medical examination to determine if they are fit for service. If the person has little combat experience, they will be sent to further training before joining active combat.

    A lucrative narrative for Europe: “Putin is to blame for everything, and “good” Russians are against the war.”

    This is a particularly dangerous narrative actively promoted among Europeans. It states that the “good” Russians are not guilty of anything, they are against the war, and Putin is the only one responsible for the deaths of children and other civilians in the middle of Europe.

    This narrative is designed to remove sanctions from Russia and then lift the responsibility for the crimes committed by the Russians in Ukraine (since only Putin is to blame).

    If only Putin is to blame, then who is shooting at civilians? Putin himself? And then, who is more than 70% of Russians who, according to recent polls, support the war against Ukraine? And who are these people who wrote malicious comments under the photo of the four-year-old girl Lisa from Vinnytsia, who was killed by a Russian rocket?

    Same story with Maryna Ovsyannikova, who is believed to protest the war. If she were really against the war and not an element of Russian propaganda, they would have detained her and prevented her from leaving the country to work in Europe. Moreover, for some reason, the Western media overlooks that Maryna Ovsyannikova had been engaged in propaganda activities for years. That is, she is not just a “good Russian woman”; she is another person directly responsible for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    If we look back at WWII, every German was responsible for the crimes of the Nazis, not just Hitler. Nobody then bothered with arguments like, “We are not to blame. It was out of our hands.” The entire German nation was re-educated, and reparations were collected from the state. And no one even thought of shifting the blame only to Hitler and his entourage. So why shouldn’t Russia bear collective responsibility now if it does nothing to stop this war?

    Russia promotes the narrative that a peace agreement can only end the war, and Ukraine is delaying this process

    Russia sees that support for Ukraine is vital in the European community, the USA, and many other world countries. They understand that their active measures should first be directed at those countries that support Ukraine. They believe that stripping Ukraine of foreign support or shifting the blame for prolonged hostilities onto Ukraine may help them get their way.

    According to the Center for Countering Disinformation at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, pro-Russian “experts” have already begun to promote the corresponding narrative in foreign media. They postulate that Russia is ready to end this war and will attempt to do so within a month, delivering a devastating blow to Ukraine. For example, a former colonel of the US Army, Douglas McGregor, known for his pro-Russian position, gave interviews with such talking points to foreign media.

    The pro-Russian prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, also stated that Ukraine would not win the war and that a peace agreement must be concluded. According to him, European governments are “falling like dominoes”, energy prices have risen sharply, and now they should devise a new strategy.

    At the same time, prices in Europe are rising, and the Russians are using this as a basis for their poisonous propaganda, trying to convince the average consumer that Ukraine is to blame for their problems and not Russia, which launched an unprovoked attack against Ukraine. In particular, the media”Controinformazione” used a manipulative headline “Europe has lost four governments due to anti-Russian sanctions… and the EU is starting to ease them up.” The text cites Orbán extensively. The media does not frame Orbán’s words as his opinion, but as a recount of the state of affairs. 

    Russia also reminds Europeans that a cold winter is coming in an attempt to convince Ukraine to make concessions as soon as possible.

    What do we do with all this: advice instead of conclusions

    You can protect yourself from hostile disinformation and propaganda. And you can start small; first, learn to verify what you hear.

    A simple Google search will help you with this. You need to pay attention to the source of information: if the source is anonymous, if they appeal to your emotions instead of facts, something is fishy. At the same time, even time-honoured media sometimes make mistakes, ill-intended or not. Therefore, pay attention to the context: when was that particular statement released, who benefits from sharing this information, how established are the journalists covering the topic, and who are the experts who comment on the subject? If a person, for example, used to spread pro-Russian statements and now has changed colours drastically, this is reason enough to question their authority.

    If you are unsure, you have enough skills to verify information, avoid anonymous Telegram channels, hostile media or bloggers who appeal to your emotions instead of facts, or those who manipulate the facts to serve their means (again, use Google search to check the facts). Read established media that has been around for a while. Don’t be swayed by emotional calls to action such as “Share this right now!” and by divisive narratives.

    Professional propagandist Yuriy Bezmenov, who used to do the brainwashing professionally, advised fighting disinformation at the state level, in particular, to educate people in the spirit of true patriotism. He also recommended explaining the real threat of a socialist, communist, “welfare state”, Big Brother-style governance to people.

    “We need to stop supporting communism because there is no more urgent and pressing problem than stopping the Soviet military-industrial complex from destroying what is left of the free world. It is straightforward: there should be no loans, no technology and money exchange, and no political or diplomatic recognition of the USSR. And, of course, no trade in grain,” he said in the 1980s.

    Decades have passed, but these tips are as relevant as ever. The world did not understand then, but perhaps it is not too late to realize it now and destroy the Kremlin’s most terrible weapon – disinformation, a virus that programs us for destruction.

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  • We are evacuating everyone: how the newly formed Rescue NOW project takes people out of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions

    By Yuliia Bondar

    On March 9, a post “Save Kharkiv! Humanitarian aid and evacuation” appeared on Instagram. At that moment, the building of the Regional State Administration, the Uspensky Cathedral, Karazin University and many residential buildings were already under fire in Kharkiv. On March 9, 14 people appeared trying to save Kharkiv residents from the war.

    In a month, the fund’s team will increase to about 200 people, and Kramatorsk, Popasna, Severodonetsk and other cities and villages of Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be among the destinations.

    Volunteering is the second front

    Rescue NOW started with a small group of people who just wanted to help Kharkiv and its residents survive the war. Prior to that, future drivers and coordinators were engaged in fashion, restaurant business, photography, teaching, acting. Since February 24, the mission of these people has been the same – to restore peace.

    “The volunteer movement in Ukraine is the second front. Most understand that they can do something for the victory of their country. And people don’t think about their job or personal security until we win. Because no one wants to be occupied by Russians, and understanding of some future can only be after we win,” said Georgy Zeykov, a fashion designer and volunteer.

    They started with the evacuation – they took their relatives to safe places. Then other people were taken at least to the railway station, from where people boarded evacuation trains. The team grew, as did the desire of the people to leave the city. Today, volunteers have helped more than 5,000 people to temporarily evacuate to Dnipro or Poltava, and the call center and social network receive up to 1,500 calls and 100 questionnaires – those who are still waiting for help.

    Mykhailo Chernomorets, a restaurateur, took his relatives out on the first day and returned to Kharkiv himself. He says this is where he belongs. However, there was no understanding of what to do – chaos reigned. He started finding people through social networks to take out in his own car. On day 3 or 4, he was contacted by an NGO that had a bus but no drivers. Yes, Mykhailo started evacuating by bus. Now Chornomorets has switched to coordinating processes and rapid evacuation from Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    “At night, I raked up applications on social networks, sat on the floor in the toilet before going down to the shelter, because everything was exploding around me. During the day I traveled and answered calls. I wrote on Instagram that I needed help. One day a friend called and asked how to help: I passed some applications. That’s how our team started to develop. We created the first registration form,” says Mykhailo Chernomorets.

    To collect data, they registered on Instagram and Facebook, where they receive messages and distribute the form that needs to be filled out for evacuation, and for logistics and direct removal, they started looking for volunteers.

    Photo: Rescue NOW

    What does the work of the fund look like?

    Volunteers first receive an application where people provide the necessary details: location, contact phone number, person’s condition (whether the person has a disability or illness), or has a person who takes in a safe place. The volunteer contacts to update the questions and informs about the time and place of the meeting. Georgy Zeykov calls it a typical evacuation.

    When the war broke out, the designer did not think about work, although he did it for 10 years. He was looking for a way to apply himself and consequently found a foundation. Prior to that, he twice tried to get into the territorial defense. Now Zeykov wants to process all applications, save them, and then show the state where it is not working effectively enough.

    If a person is disabled or seriously ill, they use an ambulance. They personally help people with disabilities to get out of the apartment – first they took them down on bedspreads, now they use special stretchers. The team has a list of volunteers with transport, and if a person can sit, they are asked for help.

    Sometimes a team can take a person out of a specific address – it depends on the situation and condition. To do this, the fund cooperates with local taxis.

    The evacuation from the region began with a blockade of Mariupol, and the fund’s resources grew. Everyone was looking for a new direction. As soon as there was information that there would be an attack on Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Mykhailo went to check the safety of the road for evacuation. However, the first attempt was unsuccessful.

    The team started looking for reasons. It turned out that the evacuation was discredited in the region. Men were not allowed into the state’s one, so the whole family could refuse. Animals were not allowed either. Therefore, at first the evacuation of the fund was not shared with what the state was doing. So the foundation began to take everyone out, and also looked for intermediaries who could motivate people. They went to the employees of village councils and heads of OTG, who knew people and could communicate with them.

    As Georgy explains, the fund is trying to work out potential dangerous points in advance. To do this, they read the news, follow what is happening on the front line, and communicate with most of the cities.

    Driver Dan says that safe evacuation also depends on the driver.

    “I was waiting in line at one checkpoint, and it was shelled. The servicemen immediately took up positions, and I understood that I had people in my car. And I needed to do something. I asked everyone to lie on the floor, because it was dangerous to get out of the car. I stood like that for 10 minutes, but kept my foot on the gas soI could move out fast,” says Dan.

    It happened that the fund was looking for other ways to leave, because on the way back they met missiles in the asphalt or Russian tanks. However, Dan motivates himself with one question: “If I can, why not?”

    Nevertheless, there are stories in the fund when people refuse to evacuate.

    “An acquaintance asked to evacuate her mother and grandmother, who remained in the house from which the attacks began. And this is 2-3 weeks of war. They were so scared that they gathered in 3 minutes. They were in a terrible state. I can’t even explain. This is not hysteria – some horror in the eyes. They asked if we could meet the Russians or if we could get there. We even gave them a sedative,” says Mykhailo.

    Georgy had a different story: a woman and her husband who had cancer refused to leave becauseRussians started bombing less. They thought it meant the end of the war. However, their area was occupied by the Russians, looted pharmacies and occupied hospitals to treat their soldiers. Therefore, the foundation had to carry medicines there several times: they were looking for painkillers, and another person was taking them from Kharkiv to Balaklia. There, another volunteer picked it up in a safe place and returned through Russian checkpoints. An injection was given in Balaklia, and only after that did the woman agree to the evacuation.

    “It’s a story when you have to do everything on time. And if you don’t do that, you create problems for yourself and for others,” Zeikov emphasizes.

    In addition, Chernomorets believes that due to the fact that Russian troops have left some cities in the region, people have the impression that everything is fine.

    “Unfortunately, Kharkiv is leaving the information field, but the shelling is not over. It seems that the situation has improved. And people who left 2 months ago do not see information about what is happening in the city, there is a false sense of security. Sooner or later, people will start coming back, and it’s too early,” says the restaurateur.

    If necessary, volunteers also seek temporary shelter for people in evacuation cities if no one meets them. On the way back to Kharkiv, they buy humanitarian aid: food, medicine, fuel, baby food, clothes. Humanitarian aid is the second direction of the fund.

    The third is determined to feed people. To do this, in the shelter of one of the restaurants in the city they have opened a kitchen, which prepares about 10 thousand servings daily.

    Photo: Rescue NOW

    How much does an evacuation cost?

    The fund managed to attract $ 300,000 from American and European foundations and donors to purchase the necessary items. However, due to bureaucratic processes, which are delayed through large funds, volunteers are looking for money through social networks – urging people to donate.

    According to the fund’s estimates, the usual evacuation costs 550 hryvnias per person. For a difficult evacuation, the car from Kharkiv to the Dnieper will cost around 1500-2000 hryvnias for three.

    However, evacuation is free for people – all bills are paid by the fund. That’s why Rescue NOW has created a donation form: you can pay for fuel or humanitarian aid with a card, PayPal, Google / Apple Pay, Revolut or a SWIFT bank transfer. All valid accounts can be found on the fund’s Instagram page.

    It is difficult for the fund to cooperate with government agencies too. There was a case when they were refused a bus that was parked in the parking lot for fear that something would happen to it.

    At the same time, it is easy to work with small towns and villages where people know each other and cooperate better. So in one village the residents themselves agreed on a school bus, and asked the fund only for fuel.

    “You refuel them for 10 thousand hryvnias, and the evacuation of one costs less than 300 hryvnias if 30 people go. It’s cheap,” explains Zeikov.

    However, the foundation does not say that each such evacuation costs drivers their lives, because it is unknown when the Russians will once again fire on the city, highway or evacuation bus. Dan shares his rules of evacuation: think quickly in case of an emergency, do not take your loved ones on the road, because it will distract from thoughts about their own safety, and have a few ways to travel. Also, Dan does not buckle up to jump out of the car during the shelling – the probability is higher than the accident.

    “It’s scary, but nowhere without it. Fear drives us, ”explains Dan. 

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