Ukraine Owes Independence to Dedication of Volunteers
After over six years of war in the Donbas, the Ukrainian government has managed to fix logistics and the production of necessities, but volunteers still have plenty of work
At the start of Russian aggression in 2014, the Ukrainian army was not prepared to fight back.
Volunteers were the first ones who responded to the call to supply the army.
In the summer of 2014, journalist Iryna Huk saw an announcement on the page of a volunteer organization: We need people to pack medicine for the front lines. She decided then that she had to help. She thought it would be work for a couple of weeks. But she ended up volunteering for five years.
“Everything was needed back then: bandages, hydrogen peroxide, charcoal, throat medications, painkillers. There was nothing! People were bringing everything, even opened bandage packs. One entrepreneur brought several trucks of medicine!” she said.
When the front line doctors asked for first-aid kits equipped according to NATO standards, Huk did not believe that it would be possible to gather the materials. Yet they managed. Volunteers were able to send more than 13,000 kits to the front lines.
In 2016, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry significantly improved the packaging of state first-aid kits. But the need for tactical medicine First-Aid kits remains. Volunteers purchase them abroad with the help of the Ukrainian diaspora.
The problem is the government still does not supply combat medics with special backpacks.
“This is the smallest kind of backpack created by the national home front. We have sent more than 500 different models. Each one costs from $500 to 1,500 dollars. We deliver backpacks geared to the skills of each individual medic attached to a unit,” Huk said.
In 2014, volunteers purchased armored vests and put the words on them, ‘Come Back Alive.’
Vitalii Deynega, an IT specialist, at some point, realized that an armored vest can save a life, but a set of thermal vision goggles can save a whole unit. Over five years, the fund managed to send a thousand thermal vision goggle kits to the front lines. The goggles that were used in the battle of the Donetsk airport and Debaltseve, are still in service.
“This is thermal vision kit #390. This means it was purchased somewhere in the middle of 2015. It has been in use for four years. We are maintaining it and making sure it’s not ruined. That is why it’s been in service for so long,” Deynega said.
During the five years of war, the government was able to supply the army with basic necessities. High-quality uniforms, thermal vision kits, and UAVs are now being handed out to troops.
But there is still a lot of work for volunteers. The ‘Come Back Alive’ Foundation has organized a school for snipers and combat engineers. Professors from Ukrainian business schools give lectures on leadership to the officers. The organization regularly files expense reports. Trust is built, and donations are not a problem. About 20 million hryvnias are collected each year.
“A 91-year-old grandmother brought us $10,000 once. She sold her datcha,” Deynega said.
Russian aggression did not break the Ukrainians. This massive threat united the country and gave them a unified goal — saving their independence and as many human lives as possible.
“We have a lot of people with big networks. People who can mobilize fast and mobilize other people in case of a full-scale assault. These people have quick reflexes. They know what to do. Some go to the military recruiting station, others to the ATM, the last group rushes to help the fund,” Deynega said.
The war taught Ukrainians how to make tourniquets and assemble First-Aid kits according to NATO standards, find and purchase thermal vision kits, sniper rifles, and drones. Volunteers say that Ukraine has become a force to be reckoned with.