At the turn of April and May 2023 we set off on our third humanitarian mission to the very frontline of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Having first been to Kupiansk/Kherson and Bakhmut, this time we brought aid as far as to the vicinity of Avdiivka where Ukrainians now fight the heaviest battles against the Russian aggressor.
Our convoy of 6 vehicles carried 10 tons of aid for Ukrainian civilians and military and 8 people, i.e., Bartosz Kramek, the Chairman of the Board of our Foundation, Natalia Melnychenko as the co-leader responsible for contacts and the necessary permits on the Ukrainian side, Łukasz Krencik as the co-leader, mission organizer and driver as well as 5 other drivers.
Although the main objective of the expedition was to deliver 4 vehicles (2 buses and 2 pick-up trucks which have been properly fitted and repainted in camouflage colours) to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (ZSU) in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital was actually the last point on the route as we needed the vehicles to deliver aid to the frontline area and, therefore, we handed the vehicles over to Ukrainian soldiers when we were on our way back to Poland.
Destination 1: Kharkiv
We arrived in Kharkiv after three days of travel, having first arrived in Kyiv to pick up instructors on first aid in combat conditions according to NATO standards. In Kharkiv, Ms. Alina Pustylnyk and Mr. Andriy Steshenko from the SpecAeroMedic school provided a comprehensive TCCC ASM training to the mission participants. For Łukasz Krencik and Natalia Melnychenko, it was an excellent opportunity to refresh the know-how they acquired in December 2022 before the Bakhmut mission.
On the same day, representatives of the “Ukrainian Life” (“Ulik”), a charity organisation that provides care for bedridden persons in the Kharkiv region and runs a centre in Kupyansk where immobile senior citizens and military personnel are treated, arrived at the hostel where the mission participants were staying. For all of them, we brought half a thousand packs of adult nappies and incontinence pads donated by the “Znaki Pamięci” (Eng.: “Signs of Remembrance”) Foundation.
Destination 2: Izyum
It was the second time we have visited Tetyana and Anatoliy Vasilevskiy, a married couple who run an aid post for affected residents in this city which has been liberated from Russian occupation. In January 2023, we supplied them with power generators; this time we brough some 2 tonnes of food, hygiene products, candles and matches. The lion’s share of the aid was donated by residents of Warsaw and Żyrardów as part of the Easter campaign.
Mr. and Mrs. Vasilevskiy welcomed us with open arms and a typical Ukrainian hospitality, that is they treated us to fresh cakes, warm milk and handed us a bag of homemade yeast biscuits for our way. As a token of gratitude for our aid, Milana, 12-year-old granddaughter of Tetyana and Anatoliy, gifted us with handmade bracelets for ODF staff.
“The Russians withdrew from the city in the autumn, but even today we are still affected by the upshots of the occupation,” – recounts Tetiana. “The destroyed infrastructure, factories and plants have not been rebuilt to this day, so people who did not flee have no jobs here. This brought poverty and hunger, so the city has been divided into 33 quarters and there is an aid post like ours in each of them. And the aid from you is the most beautiful we have received so far,” she added, touched.
The town and the surrounding villages are indeed heavily damaged. According to the account by Mr. and Mrs. Vasilevskiy, the last rocket attack took place two months earlier; fortunately, it was deterred by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence.
Destination 3: Sloviansk
This, too, was not ODF’s first visit to the city. During our first mission to Kupiansk and the Kherson region we had the opportunity to walk the streets of the ghost town ruins and make a photo report. This time our stay was much shorter, yet more intensive as we have quickly and efficiently delivered over 30 card boxes of clothing for soldiers who are recovering in hospitals and 100 sets of cartridge bags for those who currently fight against the Russian aggressor. The supplies have been handed to soldier Valentyna from the 56th Motorized Brigade (the so-called ‘Mariupol Brigade’).
“The military still has huge needs,” Ms. Valentyna pointed out. “Above all, they suffer from shortage of new uniforms, but also all other equipment, such as knee pads, goggles and tactical gloves, not to mention helmets. Thank you for your help so far, the boys will be grateful for further aid,” she added.
Destination 4: Pokrovsk
We arrived in this town which is just a few dozen kilometres from the front line at the request of the deputy head of the Avdiivka’s Military Administration that deals with the effects of bombings in the area. The Military Administration asked for 200 fire extinguishers which we have delivered to a temporary warehouse located on the premises of a kindergarten. In the autumn of 2022, a tragedy struck there, and now the facility looks like a ghost area with a destroyed playground, holes in the walls, and bullet marks. “A “Smerch” came. It was on a parachute, the parachute got entangled in the treetops and the “Smerch” exploded in midair, scattering shrapnels,” explained Yevhen Vdovenko, deputy head of the Avdiivka’s Military Administration, showing the site of the explosion. “Seven people have been killed.”
Destination 5: “Madiar’s Birds” Headquarters
The mission would not have been complete had we not delivered drones to the Madiar’s Birds reconnaissance group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which we are friendly with. The unit which we visited in the Kherson area in October 2022 and in the Bakhmut area in January 2023, is now operating in the Avdiivka area where heaviest combat is concentrated.
In addition to the drones, we have donated 50 fire extinguishers and several card boxes of food from the Ternopilska Foundation to the Birds’ secret headquarters. The card boxes contained greeting cards, which the guys found particularly touching. They took us to their command centre, which has expanded and developed impressively since our first visit, and then to a room where engineers work on creating and improving drones; while 3D printers relentlessly produce parts and image sensors for them. Pyrotechnician Robert Terela, who participated in our mission, shared his experience and ideas for even better defence against Russian troops’ attacks with the soldiers. The meeting ended with a visit to a makeshift canteen, where the Birds treated everyone to a traditional Ukrainian borscht.
Destination 6: Kyiv
The Ukrainian capital was the last destination where we delivered aid as part of our mission in the Avdiivka area. In Kyiv we met with representatives of the 20th Presidential Brigade to whom we handed over keys to three vehicles (the fourth was scheduled to arrive shortly). The purchase of these vehicles and their servicing, adaptation to frontline conditions and logistics have been sponsored by ISS World Services Poland Sp. z o.o.. Soldiers from this brigade were due to move to Bakhmut in a few days’ time to participate in the defence of the city against Russian invaders.
All in all, during the mission we have donated the following:
- Food parcels for civilians (qty: 110)
- Food parcels for the military (qty: 120)
- DJI Mavic 3 drones (qty: 3)
- Fire extinguishers (qty: 250)
- Cartridge bags (qty: 100)
- Civilian clothing (qty: 300.)
- Headlights (qty: 100)
- Nappies and pads for adults (qty: 260)
- Helmets (qty: 1)
- Active tactical headphones (qty: 8)
- Cars (qty: 4)