Yesterday Ukraine celebrated Volunteer’s Day and today is its Armed Forces Day. It’s not a coincidence that these two holidays go hand in hand since 2014, just like defenders and volunteers. A lot of people who volunteered in 2014-2015 joined the army at the offset of russian offensive on Ukraine. According to Ukrainian Military Pages, in 2021 Ukrainian military counted 245K people. In 2022, up to 700,000 were mobilized for Armed Forces alone and as of March of 2022, 100,000 Ukrainians joined the Territorial Defense Forces, the country’s volunteer force organized to resist the russian invasion. More than 1 million people in Ukraine are now fighting against Mordor that is russia, through sweat, blood, and heartbreak; 80% of them – former civilians with regular jobs and comforts of modern lives. Can you imagine a day-to-day life in the tranches? “How could anyone ever know of the price paid by soldiers in terror, agony and bloodshed if they’d never been to places like Normandy, Bastogne or Haguenau?” – Webster (Voiceover), Band of Brothers, S1.Ep8: The Last Patrol. This is what I am thinking about today. Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Pisky, Bakhmut, … . How will I ever know? But I know the basics – the need for heat, equipment, meds, nutrition and I can keep showing up with everything I can.
Here is a cool story of the rangefinder that was hand-delivered to Ukrainian front line all the way from New York: first, from one new yorker with Kharkiv roots to another; then in the carry-on of a lovely American young woman (also with Kharkiv roots) traveling from NYC to Chicago; then in the carry-on of an equally lovely childhood friend of mine traveling home from Chicago to Kharkiv via Lviv where it was picked up by a member of the TDF (Territorial Defense Forces) and handed off to one volunteer then another volunteer (originally from Kharkiv) and finally – to this handsome Ukrainian brave.
Another fun fact is that in its previous life (in early 00’s) this rangefinder belonged to a rich russian tourist who brought it to America to hunt bears (as you do), didn’t find any bears and left home sans the instrument. Spoils of war.