I am a volunteer driver of the Humanitarian Center “Here to Help” of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. For me the war began when on 9 May 2014 armoured vehicles came and broke up a demonstration of war veterans. This particular day stayed clear in my memory. And then the war really began when shells were flying overhead, above our micro-district. When the Left Bank [part of the city] came under shelling, I then felt it all.
Back then, I worked as a security guard at Azovstal Steel Works, and then I got an offer, just by accident… My mother-in-law was an IDP from Telmanove district and she lived with us. So, I was getting some humanitarian aid for her from the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. And that’s where I met volunteers. I had a mini-bus and they offered me a job.
A great danger was to go to the “grey zone”, to the first red zone. This is Pisky, Vodyane, Opytne, Luhanske, Novoluhanske. Those were very dangerous places. Sometimes we even went there to stay over and would spend a night in Myronivske. And at night we heard all the shots, shellfire in the apartment. It even happened so that the plaster was coming off the walls at the aid distribution points. Such a [heavy] shelling.
We made a very good and friendly team then. One year has passed since then, but we all still keep in touch in Viber [messenger].
One of the things I remember the most was when our vehicle keys were taken away at the checkpoint near Novoluhanske. It was very cold then, about 25 degrees below zero. And our truck was detained, we were all detained. They took the keys, put a watchman to see that we would not go anywhere. While they were sorting it out for four hours, it was good that the vehicle had an “autonomous” system that could be switched on without the keys, just pressing a button. We all, including the truck driver, stayed and warmed up in my mini-bus. This is what I will remember for the rest of my life.
I worked four years and three months, and I cannot fully describe how many words of gratitude I heard from people during that work. I had never heard so much before in my entire life. Especially in Opytne and Pisky. There are no food shops there, nothing. We would drive through Vodyane and hand over those 13 food packages there as only 13 people lived there. How do people survive there?!
We would come with food, would bring some help. There are no paved roads, just nothing there. If it rained, it was muddy and we could not drive out of there going through the fields. People were very happy with our visits.
I myself am a former military man. I’m used to commands, I’m used to discipline, I’m used to everything. Nothing changed me. I was just doing my job. What do I dream about? About peace! (crying)