March 22 2022
“We are ready”: How volunteers defend us from the ambush.
Since I was 15, I’ve only gone back to my old school to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. The buildings were then transformed into a center for the expression of their political will, and at the same time a gateway to time travel.
Cuddles with teachers who are decades older, the smells off the rolls, and the little conversations with former classmates you’ve never met. We had a civil maturity. I felt young and anxious when I went back to school. This presence made me feel how far I have progressed in life, and how much I have changed.
During these war days, my school became a volunteer center. I open the doors I opened at 8:00 every morning as a child and see Larissa sorting out donated clothes and food. She is the mother of one of the students in the school. “I’m just an active mom,” she told me, “and we’ve decided to organize help here at the school because it’s a densely populated area.”
People bring pasta, cereal, butter and canned food, and volunteers from the school take the food to a restaurant that serves hot meals and pass it on to children in refugee camps or to soldiers. Sanitary products, warm socks, underwear for soldiers, clothes for refugees of all ages, bedding and warm blankets are also sorted and put into different piles until someone needs them.
“People are often very happy with their ability to help, and we accept whatever they bring with them. It also helps them feel better mentally,” says Larissa. Her phone is ringing the whole time we are talking. Volunteers communicate through various reporting groups and manage themselves. When a need arises, someone sends a message over the Internet, and the transfer or exchange of donations between regions and cities is then coordinated.
Lyoda was a former basketball coach at the school. She now stands shoulder to shoulder with her neighbors to help with the products being donated. “I bought what I can,” she says, holding a box. Her children traveled abroad, while she stayed in Dnipro with her husband.
She explains to relatives on the other side of the border what is really happening in Ukraine. “My husband’s relatives in Belarus do not think that there is a war here” – Lyuda does not understand how this is possible. We called them yesterday and it was a scandal. They seem to understand nothing.”
I go down to one of the rooms on the ground floor and see Tanya. An accountant and volunteer with a story. In 2016, she went to the front in the Donbass to entertain orphaned children in orphanages. “We went to Turetsk (in Donetsk Oblast), villages that were two and three kilometers from the front, and organized recreational activities for them during the holidays,” she recalls.
Together with Larisa, Tanya makes sure that there are no ambush attacks in one of the districts of the Dnipro. “This country is unbeatable,” Tanya says, and I ask her if she can explain it.
“Because of the family for our country. We are not only ready to lie in front of the tank, but also to cut the throat of the enemy with a knife,” she said fearlessly.
“I am a mother of two children, I have a knife and a club. If we threaten someone, I will not pay attention to whether he is young or old. I kill and carry on ». Her words make me cold.
Larisa show me a room made for children. People contributed blankets, sweets and toys. Along the corridors I see classrooms turned into bedrooms with combat gear for adults. “We are ready,” said the volunteer, in a warm and reassuring voice.
Volunteers work all over Ukraine day and night. They provide all possible assistance to refugees, soldiers, hospitals and help in the evacuation from the affected areas. As I write this, I don’t find any statistics on how many people are volunteering in Ukraine right now. Based on my Facebook feed, everyone else shares.
When my international friends ask me if it is President Zelensky who motivates people to fight fearlessly for their country, I answer: No. It is the opposite.
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