Ukrainian civil society

Ivan’s team creates power banks for Ukrainian soldiers. Photo: Vechirniy Kyiv, courtesy of Ivan Volynets  

Civil Society, Russo-Ukrainian war 2022-2023

Article by: Christine Chraibi
Ivan and his IT friends have found a way to help Ukrainian soldiers keep in touch: they use batteries from used e-cigarettes to make power banks so soldiers can charge their mobiles at the front. They crowdsourced thousands of used e-cigarettes and the first models they created have been reported to work properly for over a month.

When the Russo-Ukrainian war erupted on 24 February, 2022, Ukrainian civil society organisations throughout the country once again found themselves at the forefront, distributing emergency aid, coordinating and providing support to IDPs and humanitarian aid, weaving camouflage nets, transporting tactical supplies for territorial defense units, delivering necessary supplies – from food and socks to bulletproof vests – to the Ukrainian army, etc.

Since the beginning of the war, Ivan Volynets and his IT friends have been engaged in helping the Ukrainian Armed Forces: some fight the enemy on another front as “cyber warriors”, some create patriotic images, others block enemy channels and propaganda sites, donate to the Armed Forces or collect humanitarian aid. Ivan has built a strong and united team that includes his fiancée and artist Natalia, programmers Oleksiy and Dmytro, and tester Nastia.

Ukrainian civil society

Ivan Volynets (foreground, right) and his team. Photo: Ivan Volynets Instagram

In March, they left the capital for western Ukraine and began to think about creating something useful.

“I bought some tools and decided to return to my first hobby – electronics. I started assembling power banks from components, because I knew that these devices were sorely lacking at the front. But, it wasn’t easy to find such elements and the prices were out of this world! So we started looking into other techniques…” says Ivan Volynets.

The band of friends got together for brainstorming sessions in order to figure out the technical process. Would it be at all possible to re-use batteries from disposable e-cigarettes? Some of Ivan’s friends were used to vaping and had started collecting the used e-cigs in a drawer, because such cigarettes should not be thrown away, but should be recycled so as not to harm the environment.

“We thought that e-cigs contained disposable batteries that could not be re-charged. We took one apart and discovered that was not the case! So, we removed the batteries from the e-cigarettes and created protection modules for them. Thus, by saving money on batteries, we could buy many more components and build many more power banks for our soldiers,” says Ivan.

What started as a simple idea began to come to life! All five friends posted calls and photos on their social networks to collect used e-cigarettes.

The posts went viral and became very popular – thousands of likes, shares and responses in a very short period of time. In a matter of days, the team was swamped with e-cigarettes and decided to stop collecting and concentrate on the actual production process.

Local residents also got into the act, helping to disassemble the used e-cigarettes into spare parts and sorting batteries.

To date, the team has assembled over 50 power banks and transferred them to the front lines, where they help Ukrainian soldiers stay in touch with their families and relatives.

Ivan Volynets admits that he does not know how long these homemade power banks last, but, according to his army friends, the first models have been functioning properly for over a month.

The team produces power banks with different capacities, on average between 17,000-20,000 mAh. These are usually sufficient to recharge smartphones with 3,000-4,000 mAh batteries two or three times.

Ivan’s team will continue to create power banks for Ukraine’s military, but they have other ambitious plans for the future – to raise recycling awareness in the community and teach people how modern technology and smart devices can help the environment.

They would like to see the creation of a Ukrainian centre for e-waste recycling and disposal, where batteries, metal and plastic components could be recycled and used in new devices.

A strong civil society: the secret to Ukraine’s resistance

Editor’s Note

The 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine forever changed Ukrainian civil society. The protests on the Maidan in Kyiv and in many Ukrainian cities, towns and villages led to a formidable mobilization of civic activism and participation based on the loudly proclaimed European values of individual freedom, responsibility and human dignity.

A wide network of civic activists and initiatives was created and further stimulated by Russia’s subsequent invasion and occupation of Crimea and some parts of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts. Today, this huge wave of civic activism continues and constitutes a powerful factor in the ongoing war against the Russian aggressor.


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