Oleksandr Velychko, also known as Uncle Sasha, disappointedly calls himself a "shitty" volunteer today, although he and his wife Anna are considered to be very active aides of the Ukrainian military deployed near the Sea of Azov. He says it's due to lack of funds, for Ukrainians suddenly ceased transferring money for the army since the announcement of the armistice.
Oleksandr owns children's recreation facility in Berdiansk - that explains his nickname. All summer he provided housing for the soldiers of the Azov and Donbas battalions, border guards, and refugees from the east. He was an active participant of the Maidan in Berdyansk and witnessed the creation of the Azov battalion. Almost all of his family is currently serving Ukraine: his wife, a Muscovite, does not yield an inch to her husband in patriotism, and the eldest son fought in the National Guard near Sloviansk and as part of the OUN battalion in Pisky.
"Volunteering in Berdiansk and in the southern Ukraine is very much different from volunteering in Kyiv or Lviv. People campaigning for European integration and against Yanukovych were considered weirdos. They pointed at us saying we were crazy. But our city was saved because the patriots had organized themselves very quickly when the separatists began to gather in March. More than 300 people joined self-defense in three days after the first major separatists' rally.
"Our volunteering began with the aid to certain guys at the checkpoints - to provide them with water, food, and basic safety equipment. There is still much home-made Berdiansk volunteering, when people just collect canned food, warm clothes, and deliver it to a random checkpoint or unit. I know a woman who brings something for the military from a village once in a while. Many people donate 50 hryvnias (an equivalent of $3,20 - ed.). Such aid may not seem very impressive, but these acts are very important, and they are absolutely equal to the fact when Biriukov (one of the most famous volunteers in Ukraine and adviser to the President Poroshenko - ed.) repairs an aircraft. And it is still dangerous. For example, the volunteers in Mariupol are still hunted for.
"Well, one can call me an Azov battalion volunteer. Kharkiv residents helped me with funds, and I tried to cover their basic needs - from sleeping mats and washing machines to digging tools and barbed wire. Recently, my volunteer assistance to Azov battalion has become the supply of meat. Lots of vegetables, fresh and preserved, are donated mostly from Central and Western Ukraine. But we sorely lack protein foods. At the same time, the Azov is relatively well-supplied. The guys from the 72nd at Volnovalha, they are basically starving.
Oleksandr and his son during his service in the volunteer battalion
"Regarding the winter war, I heard this statement which I liked: Russia is not ready for the winter, just like Ukraine. Because both armies spent winters in barracks. The three-day exercise is the maximum that was done to prepare the army for military action in the winter. Last time the Russian (then Soviet) army fought in winter was 70 years ago in 1944. This is the main argument in favor of the fact that there will be no winter war. I just do not know if it's good news or bad.
"Volunteering died together with the Minsk agreements. The volume of donations dropped significantly. People have less money, but this is not the reason. Before, people had a dream that if we take from ourselves and give it to the front, we win - a very simple paradigm. Poroshenko suggested a different model - 'we win without fighting.' And it became unclear - how we can win if we do not fight?
"No one can say how we would have lived in Minsk agreements had not been signed. Chances are, life would have been bad. But as for me, the Dignity Revolution ended with the Minsk agreements, for they were not dignified. The massive aid that we received suddenly stopped. Me and Anna, my wife, we were screaming that we needed winter clothing. But this didn't help. People were shocked.
"However much potatoes we gather, we cannot produce thermal underwear from it. We cannot raise even for winter boots. Before we think what happens in spring, we have to survive the winter.
"If another conflict begins, people would donate again. This is not a secret that logistics is very poor in the Ukrainian army at the moment. For this war, it was totally covered by the volunteers. But we cannot manage it on our own. Currently, the volunteers together with the Ministry of defense attempt to create a new effective system of supplies. I hope they succeed.
"We are being told that if not for the cease-fire, Russian tanks would have roared in Zaporizhia (the regional center in the east of Ukraine, next to the Donetsk region - ed.). But I doubt. At Novoazovsk, there were 70 people from the Azov battalion fighting the Russian tanks, and they said the Russian soldiers would not proceed deeper into Ukraine for they lacked motivation.
"The official map of the ATO zone is very pessimistic and does not reflect the irregularity of the territories covered. If you look at the ATO zone on the map, you see a hose-like piece of land from Telmanove to Mariupol. There are no villages there - just steppes and a few settlements. The little Novoazovsk with 30,000 people is the end point. The Azov battalion could smash the 'DPR' from there easily, but they do not have the order to do so.
"The mood in the city (of Berdiansk - ed.) is gloomy. People were expecting a good king to defeat the bad one. But now they have to understand that they will have to do this on their own.
"There are no people who see themselves in some sort of 'Berdiansk People's Republic' or anything weird like that. In May, when we had first refugees from Mariupol after the separatists' Sabbath there, people understood much. Before that, there were these moans that if we fight with Russia, we will lose the tourists from Moscow. Babushkas were upset that the money would run out, and so on. The money did run out - this year, I earned by eight times less than usually - but I don't cry about it. The country is more valuable."
Bank account for donations to aid Azov battalion and other detachments in the region of the Azov sea:
Card #4149497824489134 (Privatbank, Ukraine), recipient Velychko Anna Valentynivna
Olha Skorokhod, Censor.NETИсточник:http://censor.net.ua/r313487