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    Posted October 20, 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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    We Are in This Together


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     MaiaKiev is a freelance photographer and Christian ministry worker in Kiev, Ukraine. She has been documenting the Russia-Ukraine conflict since March and participated in this trip both as a volunteer and as a journalist.

    MaiaKiev says she was nervous about going into eastern Ukraine and that her group had bulletproof vests in the car, just in case. "Kiev continues to live a very normal, peaceful life...When we entered Luhgansk region it felt like we entered deserted land. No people on the streets of villages and cities. People are there, but they wouldn't go out unless they absolutely have to," she said.
    - rachel8, CNN iReport producer

    We start our trip at 4am on Saturday driving dark sleepy streets of Kiev and heading to the East of Ukraine. Our car is packed to the roof with sleeping bags, warm clothes and other supplies for a military group in Luhgansk region. The man driving a car, Sergei, is an IT specialist, who is making this kind of trip for the second time. He does it on his day off, instead of resting, spending time with his family. There are many others like him who offer their car and their time to deliver to the army supplies that have been gathered by volunteers.


    We speed up through villages and cities that are decorated with hundreds of Ukrainian flags, not because we have an upcoming celebration of Independence Day, but because for months Ukraine has been fighting against Russian mercenaries and Russian sponsored separatists. This show of flags is a part of demonstration of our resolve to free our land from invaders. As we get further East there are even more Ukrainian flags than in Central regions.


    By noon we reach our destination – a dislocation of a military group that we are delivering supplies to. They are like many others on front lines – men of different ages and backgrounds. Alexander talks about his work as an architect. He left it for now, because there was no more important work than defending Ukraine. Other men also came from very peaceful professions. A year ago these men couldn’t have pictured themselves in the army, but they volunteered because they wanted to protect their country, their homes, their families! They came from different regions of Ukraine – some speak Ukrainian, some speak Russian. All the differences don’t matter! Ukraine is united like never before, Ukrainians are united like never before!


    As they show us where they sleep, where they cook and eat food, as they share their modest lunch with us, a thought keeps pulsing in my mind, “We need to be doing more to help these men, these heroes!”


    While many men volunteered to serve in the army and are doing their dangerous part of liberating Ukraine from invaders, there is also a growing “army” of volunteers all over Ukraine who are contributing their resources, time, talent and skills to meet the needs of the army that are largely not met by Ministry of Defence.


    “Warm Up a Soldier” is a campaign started by Charitable Fund “Support The Army of Ukraine”. Many Ukrainians are participating in this campaign. With winter and cold weather coming there is a growing need for warm clothing, warm sleeping bags, there is ongoing need for food. We all know about that, because there is no Ukrainian who doesn’t have a relative or friend out there, in the war zone.


    Looking at the conditions that our military men are living in it’s easy to despair, but seeing how Ukrainians help each other, take care of each other, how determined they are to fight for Ukraine, there is no doubt we will win and we will be able to restore peace in all the regions of Ukraine!


    We are in this together! Each one is contributing what we can. One day we will all gather to celebrate a great Victory! And I hope even after that we will continue to help each other like we are doing now.

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