Many social initiatives that emerged on Maidan are now successfully engaging in help for the Ukrainian army and the National Guard.
There are dozens, hundreds, and even thousands – within the scope of the country, – such groups. “UP.Life” chose several of the most well-known initiatives. Having made a joint effort – hundreds of volunteers and thousands of benefactors – they managed to transfer financial aid on a sum of more than 13 million Hryvnia.
An investment broker, an audit specialist, a manager of an American company, a project leader and a private business owner – this is what the group of activists, known for their Facebook page Army SOS looks like. About 2.8 thousand members are registered in this group.
Army SOS volunteers met during Maidan, three of them were participants of Automaidan and Autodozor. They work on helping the army after work, or even during it.
“During the first days of the mobilisation, my acquaintance complained that the 1st individual tank brigade in Chernihiv did not have even the bare essentials,” says Kostyantyn Ostrovskiy, one of the members of the group. “It was then that we started gathering things from our friends for the first time: sleeping pads, sleeping bags, warm clothes, socks.”
The first action to gather aid gave inspiration towards systematic work in this direction. The group de-facto engaged in supplying the first National Guard battalion. During training they fed them, and when the soldiers were sent to the East, they sent them bulletproof vests and walkie-talkies.
Since March 19th, Army SOS has collected 2.5 million UAH. This sum got them 450 4th class bulletproof vests, 150 radio stations, 200 tactical torches, 400 ballistic masks. As well as thermal surveillance devices, optical scopes and night vision equipment.
One of the activists (we do not name him for reasons of personal security – editors) want to the East together with the first battalion of the National Guard, in order to understand the soldier’s needs on location and give aid effectively.
“The battalion arrived on location on May 1st, and on the next day they were sent into battle. The special departments hit the terrorists out of roadblocks – they, while retreating, poisoned the wells, buries water sources. There was insufficient food and water, gasoline generators, pots, electrical equipment, wires, projectors,” says the “eyes and hands” of the group Army SOS working in the East of the country.
He drives his car around the Ukrainian roadblocks near Sloviansk several times a week and makes lists of what they need. Later the activists find funds through their Facebook page in order to cover the necessities.
Everything that can be bought for Ukrainian soldiers on location is bought in the nearest towns and cities. More difficult orders are delivered from Kyiv.
The group enjoys great trust, as it is very precise in its reports to its subscribers, publishing reports of its activities on a weekly basis. Half of the funds are transferred to the group’s accounts by big companies and private business owners.
All the volunteers working with the army know very well that if bulletproof vests are needed, they have to ask Yura Phoenix. His Facebook page – Wings Phoenix – has over 10 thousand subscribers. As soon as Yura writes that some brigade needs help, dozens of volunteers answer the call immediately. Within two months he received more than 4.5 million UAH on his account. Over two thousand soldiers have received direct aid.
Wings Phoenix’ specialisation is help for the regular army.
How did everything start? Yura is a private business owner from Mykolayiv. In the beginning of March his father went to the control point of the 79th individual air-mobile brigade in order to find out what they can do to help the soldiers. Having written down a long wish list, he understood that he could not do it without his son’s help.
The so-called Yura Phoenix has a special gift of organisation. He is able to solve difficult tasks in limited time.
Thus, it turned out that the 79th brigade seriously lacks bulletproof vests of the highest protection level. The officers of the brigade developed a model of the vests, Phoenix found production facilities: one to sew the vests, another for titanium supplies. Having coordinated the interests of the three paries, he was able to establish production of 4th class bulletproof vests. One vest costs 2150 UAH.
Starting the beginning of the ATO, officers have been giving Phoenix’ contacts to each other. His team and him engage with the interests of dozens of brigades, among which are the 26th Berdychiv artillery, 72nd mechanised Guard brigade, 164th radio-technical brigade, 15th Boryspil transport brigade.
Phoenix is able to do what army officers cannot. Thus, for example, he does not hide that he has to import contraband medicine needed on the front line.
Yura Phoenix is a “hub.” He is one of the first to find out what the front line needs, writes about it on Facebook. Those who can give financial help and those who are physically ready to participate in the project react to his posts.
Phoenix calls his permanent helpers “wings.” He has about 30 people: essentially they are project managers, which solve concrete tasks for individual battalions.
Phoenix personally escorts the trucks full of mail for the soldiers. He says that there was an instance when a major stole 40 bulletproof vests. But this is an exception.
“There are giant holes in the regular army. Taking into account that huge amounts of money is given to the army from the state budget. Now the army needs managers which are able to think, and not send money from account to account for their own gains,” thinks Phoenix.
He is convinced that despite the tragedy of armed conflict in Sloviansk, Ukrainians have been given the chance to create a highly professional and fully-equipped army for the first time ever.
Blogger fund Diana_ledi
“Only recently did the guys from the first roadblock in Sloviansk catch fish and send it to other roadblocks in armoured carriers. Because there was nothing to eat,” says former editor in chief of “LiveJournal Ukraine” Diana Makarova about her protegees.
Her LJ blog – Diana_ledi – starting the end of January has turned into a small blogger fund. During Maidan, Diana and a small team of volunteers provided for the Hundreds that stood at the barricades.
In the beginning of March her friends – the same fighters of the Self-Defence that survived Maidan, – enrolled in the National Guard. During a month they underwent training at the polygon in Novy Petrivtsi. The bloggers, having found out that one National Guardsman is provided with 17 UAH for food, organised produce supplies. And when the National Guardsmen were sent to the East, they began providing them with equipment and sending packages to Sloviansk.
“We work with regular soldiers and not the commandment on principle,” says Diana Makarova. “Our goal is to provide them with the bare necessities – uniform and special equipment. If, for example, Ivanov Ivan needs an optical scope because he is a good shot, we give it directly to him. Essentially, we are closing the “holes,” into which the hand of the state will never be able to reach.”
Together with her team, Diana Makarova supplies six roadblocks around Sloviansk. Each roadblock is guarded by National Guardsmen, the airborne force and the internal army. The activists cover the needs not only of the former Maidaners, but the fighters of the regular army as well.
“We have come face-to-face with the fact that our National Guardsmen say: ‘We can wait, you better give ‘kikimoras’ (masking costumes – editors) to the airborne soldiers.’ This way we got new protegees,” says Makarova.
The airborne soldiers help the National Guardsmen to form a “professional” list of needs. The statute says that a soldier doesn’t require an optical scope, a firing devise, special braces, tactical torches and gloves. But it is very difficult for a former civilian to fight without this equipment. Therefore the volunteers cover these needs.
There are eight people on Diana Makarova’s team. The social portrait is varies: there is a student here, a young mother, a married couple, a banker, who assembles packages for the East after work, another couple that drive their car to all stocks and bulk stores.
Every day someone from the group receives orders by phone from the front line. “The most difficult thing is not to find money, but the goods themselves. The military equipment shops in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk have all been emptied, therefore we are forced to order some things through the Internet in other countries,” says volunteer Irina, an accountant.
At the end of the week, a loaded car goes to Sloviansk. Within five weeks the blogger fund sent six vehicles on a sum of 100-150 thousand UAH each. The donation sum, which the volunteers have gathered for the army, is over 600 thousand UAH. The expense reports are published on the blog.
“I am being sent money from many countries, some benefactors attach letters to their transfers. The Russians often write: ‘forgive us’,” says Diana.
Automaidan for the Army
“A wife and two children give big thanks to everyone for the bulletproof vest and their father, who is alive. +1 life. After intelligence activities. Yes, friends, by helping the army we are saving someone’s life and fighting for the future of the country,” writes Vitali Umanets, curator of Automaidan for the Army, on his Facebook page.
The Automaidan activist, together with his friends, was among the first to systematically start helping the Ukrainian army in Crimea.
He has more than 25 thousand subscribers. Every day, tens of thousands of people address him. Automaidaners are trying to help many – but the units and battalions that are either on the front line or are being sent there have priority.
“While we began with buying uniform, boots and the bare essentials, now we have the following purchases: class 6 bulletproof vests which cost 8 thousand UAH, thermal apparatuses and other specialised equipment,” says Vitali.
10 people work permanently on his team. When the workload increases, the “base” increases to 25 people which engage to realise concrete projects. Volunteer frequently visit the units and check the petitions in person. Since the beginning of the conflict in Crimea, the Automaidaners have gathered a sum of approximately 1 million UAH.
“According to our calculations, people are donating more for the soldiers than they did for Maidan,” thinks Vitali Umanets.
Support the Army (EuroArmyMaydan)
PR specialist Anna Sandalova organised a group to support the Crimean soldiers in the first days of the Crimean campaign. They worked in a simple way: delivered food and water to the units, topped up cell phone account. After the attacks on the military units they organised the transportation of Ukrainian soldiers.
Then it became clear that the army will not manage without the help of civilians. Santalova has a lot of experience in business: her former employers are UEFA and Danone Ukraine. She knows very well how to divide a big project into stages and attract help from the outside to realise concrete tasks.
The first brigade which was equipped by the group EuroArmyMaydan – later the group Support the Army was opened – was the 30th individual mechanised Guard brigade. Having developed an algorithm to aid the soldiers, Anna Sandalova gave it to everyone who wrote on her Facebook page.
“The problems are the same in all units. Therefore the algorithm is as follows: we have to get the primary problems of an individual military unit, make a strict list of priorities, announce it publicly, and within two-three days we can find help – some will give it with money, some – with goods, and some will offer services. After realising the project it is imperative to report,” advises Anna Sandalova.
Now the initiative has over 6 thousand participants and wide network of volunteers. Besides Kyiv, the representatives of the initiative can be found in nine cities of Ukraine: Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Odesa, Zaporizhya, Mykolayiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhgorod, Lutsk and Lviv.
Together, the volunteers have organised aid to the soldiers on a sum of 5 million UAH within three months.
While only recently the group aimed to provide the soldiers with equipment, now one of the priorities is providing for the medical ATO unit. In the recent days the group sent stretchers, lung ventilation systems, medical bags, and Celox to the headquarters.
The team Support the Army is working on giving each soldier a Celox package.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina