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War diary from Ukraine [Part 2]: “Just before we left, we were reminded of where we were – Bang! Bang! Bang!”

Last month we published Part 1 of Riot Turtle‘s war diary from Ukraine. This month he was in Ukraine again. Below we publish part 2.

On May 11, we wanted to drive to Kharkiv. There we wanted to distribute medicine, dressing material, water and food. Due to the bombing of various oil refineries, fuel is rationed, but we were able to buy 5 fuel stamps for 10 liters of diesel each on the black market. In times of war, capitalism has always brought people on the scene who take advantage of people’s need to fleece them with horrendous prices on the black market. I still remember well the anecdotes of my grandmother about how she had to pay huge sums on the black market for a piece of bread in the Dutch hunger winter in 1944/1945. Because something had gone wrong during an action by the resistance, she had given a part of her food stamps to someone who was hiding Jews. These people could not go to the black market, the risk was too high. So she went to the black market herself to get bread for her 4 children. When she told me the story decades later, she was still trembling with anger about how hunger was mercilessly exploited by the sellers on the black market. The inhuman capitalist logic of supply and demand sends its regards. She was happy that shortly afterwards a “stamp office” was successfully robbed, so that enough food could be organized again for the jewish people who were hidden. And now I was on the black market myself.

To bring relief supplies to the front there was no other option. We paid 80 € for the 5 stamps, each good for 10 liters of diese. For the stamps, in addition, the diesel must also be paid. For the 80 € we could have bought some food for the people living close to the front. I looked the guy who had sold us the stamps in the eyes and understood over 20 years after my grandmother had died all of a sudden her rage, her trembling with anger and powerlessness. But I had put on my poker face, paid and thanked him kindly for the stamps. This is not the time or place to fight this conflict. Not now. After all, we may need fuel stamps more often in the future to travel to regions where people need support.

Image: Ukrainian firefighters try to extinguish diesel storage tanks that were attacked by the Russian army in Chernihiv.

The Kharkiv action was prepared with a comrade from Kyiv. But again it was not possible to carry out the operation. The Ukrainian comrades who were supposed to accompany us had to go somewhere else at the front to take care of injured fighters. Of course, this was a priority. One of the first things you learn in the war zone is that you need a lot of patience and everything always turns out differently than you think. The comrade from Kyiv made some calls and managed to solve the problem, at least partially. Some comrades who are already in Kharkiv and wanted to distribute the things together with us and the comrades from Kyiv will now do it alone. Thus, less can be distributed, but at least something. We then took the relief goods to a delivery company in Kyiv and sent them to Kharkiv. A few days later we received a video of the distribution action in Kharkiv and we were happy that at least something could be distributed near the front line, because there is a lack of almost everything for the people who live there.

The next morning we drove to Lviv and met the two street musicians from Kharkiv again. As I wrote in part 1 of this war diary, they had fled Kharkiv after the district in which they lived was reduced to rubble. We had thought about some questions together and then we did an interview with them in Lviv. We had a nice evening together. Kristina played something on a piano that was standing in a nearby square outside. Stas was not feeling well, he had problems with one of his legs. A cop had attacked him in Lviv when he was still outside after curfew started. But even so, it was clear that Stas had not yet come to terms with the mortar shell attack he had experienced at close range. Maybe you can’t really deal with something like that.

I wanted to cross the street and suddenly a car cut me off and I had to stop and wait before I could go. And the next moment I saw two shells hit an apartment building and the blast wave blew up another one.  I heard those horrible noises, crashes, screams, and when people started running, I joined them. A severed leg fell right in front of me and there were a lot of dead bodies around. 

Stas

Before that, we had already met with a contact person to talk about some details of the planned supply line.

On May 13 we drove back home. The border crossing from Ukraine to Poland went smoothly. But it took several hours. The EU countries are afraid that weapons might be smuggled across the border. At least that is what I assume. The Polish customs officers check every single car. But we didn’t have anything forbidden with us and so we could continue our journey. When we arrived home, I felt fine, but mentally I was somehow empty and tired. In the days that followed, I noticed that I reacted very petulantly to “Yes, but NATO” conversations. When you were only a few streets away from the impact of a missile attack by the Russian army and “Bäng! Bang! Bang!” is echoing again and again in your head, you are not in the mood for “Yes, but NATO” jabbering. On the couch or in a pub, far away from the scene, people may be able to afford a purist attitude. However, a war of aggression has never been ended by political theory. On Twitter, I guess, neither. But yes, NATO is a shitty organization and has left a trail of devastation on this planet. Our Kurdish friends have to experience this again and again. And not only the Kurds. But this does not mean that Russian nationalism, autocracy and imperialism are less dangerous. The capitalist empire is collapsing on all sides and they are reacting with violence. But that is no surprise.

But to be honest, we didn’t have time for such discussions anyway, because we immediately started with the preparation for the next tour. We organized a storage room and published a list of things that are needed in Ukraine. Before, we had compiled the list with comrades in Kyiv. At the same time we developed a PowerPoint presentation for info-evets about our work and the situation in Ukraine. We deliberately included a part about the “völkische” ideology and strategy, which major parts of the Russian elites have been supporting for years, in our presentation series. Alexandr Gelyevich Dugin sends his regards. Various political scientists and german mainstream media refer to Alexandr Dugin as Putin’s “mastermind” (Der Spiegel), “whisperer” (FAZ), “teacher” (Focus Online) and “Rasputin”.

How bizarre the claim is that the Russian invasion is about the denazification of Ukraine becomes clear, among other things, in an article by Dugin from 1992. In the article, Dugin does not consider the Third Reich to be a uniform entity at all. In addition to the intolerant Germanocentrists, there were also cosmopolitan, pan-European forces. They had appealed to almost all the peoples of Europe to participate in the crusade against the Western “plutocracies” and against communism. In Dugin’s view, this ideology that united the nations was primarily represented by the Waffen SS (!), which in the article “The Conservative Revolution” in the first issue of Elementy magazine is regarded as a kind of island of intellectual permissiveness within the Third Reich:

“Instead of a narrow-minded German nationalism … the SS propagated the idea of a unitary Europe … in which Germans were not to play a special role. The organization [SS] had an international character, even ‘non-white’ peoples were represented here. …. The SS was a kind of Knights’ Order based on the Middle Age model, with such ideals as poverty, discipline, physical asceticism.”

Alexandr Gelyevich Dugin

Dugin’s ideas have not only reached Putin and his clique. Through the Russian state media, the ideas of the man who spoke at a conference of the far-right German magazine ‘Compact’ in 2018 have been widely circulated. Supporting extreme-right parties in Europe was also an idea of Dugin. The idea is to destabilize European states. Not that I personally have a problem with European states collapsing, but Dugin wants to replace today’s so-called liberal democracies with an authoritarian “far-right international”. Under Russian leadership, of course. Dugin said a few years ago that the Russian sphere of influence should extend from Vladivostok to Dublin. For this reason, the Russian state apparatus started about 8 years ago to support ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis all over Europe financially, materially, but also through systematic disinformation on the Internet. From the Slovakian LSNS to the German AfD, Orbán in Hungary, the FPÖ in Austria, Salvini’s Lega in Italy, to Le Pen in France.

On June 10, the first information event took place. There were not many people, which was a bit disappointing, but there were also people from an exchange program between people from Wuppertal and Auschwitz survivors. They asked if we could take some things for Auschwitz survivors living in Kyiv with us on our next trip. Of course, we immediately said that we would do that.

Meanwhile, preparations for the next journey to Ukraine were in full swing. We wanted to drive with a vehicle with an LPG tank because of the fuel shortage in Ukraine. This would increase our range enormously. But, the car broke down and there were also problems with the diesel vehicle we had used for the first trip to Ukraine. Both vehicles had to go to a repair garage. We kept our heads up and organized canisters for diesel and also some medicines.

The car that drives on diesel was ready in time and on June 15 we set off again with 3 people. The car was packed with medicines, dressing material and canisters. This time we did not drive via Lviv, but via Warsaw and Lublin, directly to Kyiv. We had 3 drivers and drove quite fast. It took us about 6 hours to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border. As I said, you always need a lot of patience for such operations. The road was much worse than the route via Lviv. Some bridges were destroyed and we had to drive a few times on pontoons and a temporary road around destroyed bridges. When we drove through the Butscha region it became quiet in the car. Burned out Russian tanks were standing on the roadside and whole residential areas were completely destroyed. When you drive through such an area you feel the terror of war. It is not comparable with pictures and videos on the Internet or television. We also drove over a destroyed bridge at a snail’s pace. The bridge was like a V, first steeply down and then steeply up again. After about 27 hours of driving we arrived in Kyiv and greeted our comrades. But the first thing we heard was the air-raid alarm. Welcome to Kyiv.

The next morning we took the relief supplies to a warehouse where our comrades temporarily stored them. The comrades had been waiting for our canisters full of diesel and immediately filled up one of the vans with 40 liters. This van was then packed with relief supplies and set off for Kharkiv to support both the local population and comrades fighting on the front lines. In the afternoon we handed over the things we had brought for the Auschwitz survivors. In between there were air-raid alarms from time to time, but these constantly wailing alarm sirens become dulling. One gets used to it.

On Saturday the 18th we walked through the city with one of our comrades. Near his apartment, he tells how a special unit of the Russian army managed to get behind the defense line, but had to retreat after wild shootouts.

“The Russian soldiers ran across the street into that building there. They were firing everywhere. In this part of the city, many people are part of the Territorial Defense Forces as well. They successfully defended their neighborhood. It was really scary, but that didn’t stop people from fighting.”

Afterwards we had some conversations with comrades. Among other things, we talked about the things we could take with us on our next tour. What exactly is needed, what can we procure and transport? It is becoming more and more clear to the comrades on the ground that the war could last for a long time and the relatively spontaneously created structures are currently being reorganized and solidified. It was noticeable that many were happy that we were back in Kyiv after only one month. One of the comrades said:

“It motivates me very much that you are back already. The war makes sure that we are constantly overtired. There are always new things to do where we have to get active, and that’s exhausting. That you are here again so fast and have taken stuff with you that we urgently need gives me a boost.”

On Sunday morning we wanted to drive to Lviv, eat something there and then return to Wuppertal (Germany). But just before we left, we were reminded of where we were. The air defense shot down several missiles out of the air. One of them over the part of the city where we were staying. “Bang! Bang! Bang!”

In July we will continue to bring aid to Ukraine. You can support the work of the ‘Cars of Hope Collective‘ in Ukraine with a donation to the bank account below. Without your help our work would not be possible.

Account details

Name of the bank: Volksbank im Bergischen Land

Account holder: Hopetal e.V.

Description: Cars of Hope

IBAN: DE51 3406 0094 0002 9450 87

BIC: VBRSDE33XXX

2 thoughts on “War diary from Ukraine [Part 2]: “Just before we left, we were reminded of where we were – Bang! Bang! Bang!”

  1. Hey, I left a message on the site asking about organizing or meetings, but I did not see a reply. Any thoughts about that?

    1. We didn’t see a message, only this question.

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