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    Posted July 23, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

    MaiaKiev and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Ukraine crisis as it unfolds
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    Volunteer Movement to Help Army


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     MaiaKiev shot these photos of volunteers working to help Ukrainian troops last weekend: 'Personally I am very moved by how my people mobilize their efforts to help defend our land. From what I have observed in the last few months, once people become a part of something that serves others they really get into it. But that first step takes a certain effort.'
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    Ukrainians have been living in a state of war since beginning of March. The news seems getting from bad to worse, more and more lives lost, helicopters and military planes shot, tragedies like terrorist attack against Malaysian plane flying over Ukraine, our cities ruined as terrorists retreat and destroy infrastructure. All these bad news can discourage, but instead it mobilizes us to defend and free our land from Russian invaders.

    Today President Poroshenko signed an order of additional partial mobilization which means in the next 45 days Ukrainian Army, specifically the troops defending borders with Russia, will grow in numbers.

    As Russian mercenaries and terrorists occupying parts of Eastern regions of Ukraine continue being generously sponsored, armed and coordinated by Putin, Ukrainian Army is scrambling to get re-established, trained and equipped as they fight for every inch of our land, freeing one town after another. At the beginning of this unannounced war Ukrainian Army was almost non-existent, having been systematically ruined by Russian marionette former president of Ukraine Yanukovich. No doubt, the Army had been intentionally destroyed for a time like this, when it might potentially have to stand against Russian aggression.

    In the past two months many men volunteered or have been drafted to the Army and sent to the front lines, very often poorly equipped (without bullet proof vests and helmets, without basic supplies, and at times without food). As Ukrainians started hearing the reports from their friends and relatives in the military about all kinds of shortages in the Army, number of volunteer movement sprang forth to mobilize help for our soldiers.

    One of these initiatives – Support Ukrainian Army - started about three weeks ago by citizens of Kyiv with support of the largest national chain of Home Improvement Hypermarkets, Epicentr.

    What makes this initiative distinct is that volunteers are not raising money, but rather distribute the lists of what is needed so that people could purchase things on that list and know that a sleeping bag or a tent, or socks or mosquito repellant, shoes or toothbrush will be a small but tangible contribution to help our boys on the front lines. One of the coordinators of this initiative, Iryna Onikienko says, “we don’t hope that these things will defeat the enemy, but we know that they are given with love and they will be helpful to our soldiers. Our volunteers are stars! I am grateful that instead of going to a beach or a restaurant during their weekend they participated in this important initiative”.

    Volunteers sign up to spend a few hours during Saturday or Sunday to stand by one of Epicentr Hypermarkets distributing flyers with lists of needed supplies and collecting those supplies as people bring them. Other volunteers transport these supplies to the front lines. After the first weekend all the resources gathered could fit into a trunk of one car, last week it took two trucks!

    Another coordinator, Anna Sandalova, is saying that the initiative is growing. “The number of volunteers is increasing too, more and more people sign up -mostly through social networks. It started in Kyiv with 30 people, last weekend Zaporozhie, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kharkiv joined with over 100 volunteers. This coming weekend it will take place also in Lutsk, Vinnitsa, Nikolayev, Odessa, Uzhgorod. As volunteers make people aware of specific needs of the Army some people donate a few little things, some fill up a shopping cart. Kids also bring drawings and letters for the soldiers.”

    Iryna Onikienko wrote on Facebook page of the initiative, “when the war is over and our soldiers come back home, we will gather for a huge celebration picnic and will be sharing with each other stories of how we had pulled through by helping each other!”

    This war, the lives lost break our hearts, but it also strengthens and unites us as a nation! Our weapons might be inferior to Russian, but we are protecting OUR land, and it’s not only military who fight this war, we each help to defend our land by giving our efforts and resources.
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