It has been almost a year – a year of struggle, fear, suffering, loss and hope. Hope for an end to the war in Ukraine. But in order for this scenario to have any chance of coming true, support is needed. Ukrainian soldiers certainly do not lack courage and determination, but the problem is the lack of appropriate equipment. And that’s what the Open Dialogue Foundation wants to bring to one of the strategic units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
“This war is a war for resources, and their resources are running out,” declared Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, who by “their” obviously meant Russian forces. Reznikov also stressed that Ukraine wants to liberate all occupied territories to return “to the state of the internationally recognised 1991 borders.”
At the beginning of November, the Ukrainian armed forces liberated Kherson and the surrounding areas from the Russian occupation. The immense joy of the civilians was mixed with an overwhelming awareness of what the war was leaving behind. The Russians are trying to raze Ukrainian cities to the ground.
“(…) we found empty streets. There is simply nothing in the Kherson region. Everything has been bombed. There are huge craters in the streets, remnants of rockets stuck in the pavements. A playground, and next to it a bombed building,” Iza Mazurek, a volunteer with Via Vitae Foundation, told Daria Różańską-Danisz.
After a temporary drop in activity, the Ukrainian military is now planning to resume a counter-offensive. “Much has been done this autumn to strengthen the country’s position, to force the occupying forces to suffer defeat. We must do everything so that the same can be said after this winter. Regardless of the scale of the terror of the occupiers, the desire to rebuild our home has always been stronger. It must continue to be so,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Instagram on 13 December.
Rebuilding the country, and before that, forced expulsion of the occupying power, will be made possible by further support given to Ukraine. At the December summit, G7 leaders pledged further assistance with “military and defence equipment”. In the short term, aid will focus mainly on the supply of air defence systems.
However, the needs are enormous – due to the ongoing fighting and casualties suffered, the end is hardly in sight. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Open Dialogue Foundation has consistently supported the Ukrainian side, both civilians who have remained in the country and those who have fled in search of asylum, as well as the military. It is currently planning its next mission, and, in fact, it has already started it.
“Thanks to the funds raised, the Foundation has already delivered more than 71,000 pieces of equipment, including 5,614 bullet-proof vests, 1,117 helmets, 166 night-vision devices, 46 reconnaissance drones, five off-road vehicles and three ambulances. Together with the aid given to the refugees, since February the Foundation has provided support worth over PLN 30 million,” said Martin Mycielski, Vice-President of the Open Dialogue Foundation.
“The war in Ukraine has moved into a decisive phase. The defenders, in an act of incredible
perseverance and courage, are pushing back the invaders from key areas in the east and
south of the country. The brave Ukrainians are not only an inspiration to the whole world,
but they are also repelling an invasion that has threatened the peace of the whole of Europe
and, in the first place, the security of Poland. The coming winter will bring with it additional
challenges, representing for many on the frontline the most difficult period of this conflict so
The Open Dialogue Foundation
The mission involves transferring necessary equipment to one of the strategic units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – 20 young drone operators from the “Madiara Birds” group. These men are the army’s “eyes” on “the hottest part of the southern front”.
“The reconnaissance group has left the Kherson area since the area was liberated and is now stationed in the vicinity of Bakhmut (Donetsk region), where much heavier battles are currently being fought,” reports Natalia Melnychenko of the Open Dialogue Foundation.
Among those making up the reconnaissance group are a Ukrainian rock star, a European vice-champion in taekwondo, a world champion in kickboxing and their coach. The foundation wants to equip each pilot with one drone.
“Their job is to see the enemy. They have twenty operators in their ranks and only a few drones. They laugh that they have to argue among themselves about who will fly the drones on any given day, but it’s laughter through tears. That’s why an ambitious plan has been made – to buy equipment as soon as possible,” reports the Foundation.
“At the moment, the guys are losing a dozen drones a week, due to the intense shelling from both sides. In the first week of work in the Bakhmut direction, the boys lost 12 drones, so we are raising money for 20 drones, but the more the better,” adds Natalia.
In order for the plan to be realised, as much as PLN 250 000 is needed. Time to collect this amount is running out – in mid-December there is less than PLN 20 000 on the account of the fundraiser. And the game – although it is difficult to talk about the war in this way – is after all about freedom and life.
The humanitarian convoy is due to set off for Ukraine in January 2023. The mission’s slogan is ‘Opposition For Ukraine’. “MPs from all democratic opposition parties will travel with us to see the situation on the ground with their own eyes and deliver aid,” the organisers of the action point out. The action, is covered by naTemat as a media patron.
“As representatives of the people, the MPs also do not forget the civilians who have to survive the winter without electricity, water, heating or basic necessities. Hence, on its way to the frontline, the mission will also stop in newly liberated villages, where it will distribute the most needed humanitarian aid.”
The Open Dialogue Foundation
The Open Dialogue Foundation conducted similar activities at the end of September and the beginning of October – members of the Foundation went to the Mykolaiv region, as well as Kharkiv and Donetsk regions with a humanitarian mission. That experience showed how much such assistance is needed.
In addition to humanitarian aid and protective equipment, 2 drones were delivered to the “Madiar’s Birds” group. Another two were donated by the Foundation through a friendly volunteer a few days ago.
“Since the beginning of the invasion, we have already made 67 transports with protective equipment and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. But the mission planned for the beginning of the year will undoubtedly be our biggest logistical challenge. In our convoy will go as many as ca. 10 vehicles. Most of them are from friendly organisations: the Ideanova Foundation, the Pogoń Ruska Association, the U-Work Foundation or the activists Tomek Sikora and Bartłomiej Wadas, well-known for their help to Ukraine. We even have a Fire Brigade car coming with us, with the president of the nationwide association “Firefighters Together Against Leukaemia”, Paweł Gębalski,” Mycielski points out.
The naTemat interviewee adds that such an action means quite a few challenges. “Firstly, we need to collect and buy enough humanitarian aid so that not even a cubic metre of space is wasted in any of the cars. We, therefore, appeal to you to support our fundraisers. Secondly, security issues. We are well aware that we are travelling into an area of active hostilities. That is why we will have a military escort on the last part of the route and, under the care of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we will distribute humanitarian aid in the just liberated villages along the front line,” he points out.
Last weekend, a team from the Open Dialogue Foundation travelled to Kyiv to receive training in tactical medicine according to NATO standards. “It was conducted for us by the instructors of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Humanitarian convoys are a tempting target for the Russians, who attack them to discourage the West from helping – barely a month ago a similar convoy was shelled near Zaporizhzhia. Thirty-two people were killed in the rocket attack. Hence, the safety of the participants is a priority for us,” stresses the vice-president of the Foundation.
How to support the mission?
You can support the mission by going to the fundraising page and making a donation. But that’s not all – on Allegro, through charity auctions, you can bid for what the Russians (prisoners of war) left behind in Ukraine, and what Ukrainian military officers donated to the Open Dialogue Foundation.
“We received a whole bunch of “souvenirs” from the military from the front, so far in the form of seized equipment from the Russians: dog tags (old and new), combat belts (including officers’ belts with a hammer and sickle!), awards, tin food (produced for the army under the ironic name “we do not abandon our people”), first aid kit, anti-radiation kit, waterproof matches, coins, pieces of uniform, etc. We also have, for example, a starter from a Russian tank. And whole military uniforms have been promised,” the foundation is encouraging people to participate in the bidding.
In-kind donations will be given to civilians and military personnel on the front lines. We invite you to support the special fundraisers at www.zrzutka.pl/DronyDlaUkrainy, the auction of ‘souvenirs’ from Russian POWs at https://allegro.pl/uzytkownik/otwartydialog and donate in-kind gifts (contact: [email protected], 786 963 566). You can also fund the mission by supporting ODF’s campaign to help Ukraine at www.zrzutka.pl/PomocUkrainie.
Most needed donations: generators, winter clothes (sleeping bags, warm clothes, thermal underwear), food (canned food, coffee, nuts, energy bars, chocolate), hygiene products for women, heat/energy sources (heaters, power banks, batteries, 18650 batteries, trench candles) and medical supplies.