The Mission Ukraine warehouse was holding around 7 thousand bottles of 0,5l of water, ready for delivery. With the help of Road to Ukraine we had previously transferred them to their warehouse on the road from Korcowa to Lviv.
In case you would like to donate any physical goods, you can either drop them off at the Mission Ukraine warehouse on the Polish side right at the border, or at the Road to Ukraine warehouse on the road to Lviv. Both organisations have been personally vetted and have a good track record of delivering aid responsibly.
Anyway, once I returned the Luton from Kharkiv to its home in Lviv, we decided to deliver the bottles to Mikolaiev because the people down there have no access to clean running water. I set off on the 20th and made my way south. Passing through Uman on the way, where I stopped for the night and Simon Massey of Mission Ukraine provided me with a hotel room. The desk was staffed 24 hours a day, which is confusing since there shouldn’t be many guests after the mandatory 11pm curfew. Even though it was 1:30am, the very nice clerk let me check in and I had a good nights rest before heading off towards Mikolaiev.
The road from Uman to Odessa is quite nice and absolutely not a problem to drive on. However, about an hour southwards my GPS took me to an exit which should lead me directly to Mikolaiv. I have no words for how that went.
The road I went down consisted almost exclusively of potholes, some so big that there was no way to drive around them. And that was the case for around “4 hours of driving”. Thats the time my Google maps told me it would take. In reality it took me around 7 hours. The Luton had a tear on the drivers side in the fiberglass chassis when I left, and that tear kept widening. At one point I had to stop for gas, so I pulled in at a very small remote gas station, paid for around 50l of Diesel and went to fill the truck. I grabbed the doorhandle of the passenger side to open the door, which is needed to access the fuel cap. But the door wouldn’t move. At this point I realized that the entire chassis had shifted so far to the dront, that it pushed its way over the passenger door. The guy of the gas station wanted to help, so he left and came back with a screwdriver. Without confirming his plans to me first, he jabbed it between fuel cap and door and pried the cap out of its socket. He looked at me full of pride and proceded to fuel the car up while I had to process the events that just transpired. We work with Road to Ukraine, but the car is still not ours. I would have to make it up to them once we’re back.
The rest of the travels went okay, and by around 6pm I arrived in one of the residential areas on the northern outskirts Mikolaiv, where Nathan Mullaney of Mission Ukraine was already waiting with one of the local government members. We put the Luton into position and opened the loading ramp.
Some people were already waiting, but more soon flooded in. It was quite the humbling sight. We started giving out two sixpacks to each person, but soon realized that there wouldn’t be enought water for everybody, so we announced that sadly we cannot give two for each person, but only one.
I would like to appeal to whoever is reading this right now. First of all, thank you for taking the time. Secondly, should you have 10 Euros, Dollars, Pounds or whichever currency you use that you could comfortably be able to donate without it affecting your finances, we would greatly appreciate a contribution. For us to support people like the ones in Mikolaiv, who rely on us and other organisations to provide them with clean drinking water, it takes money for gas and supplies. This war has been going on for over six months on the day of me writing this, and we have been here since the start. We know that the western world is starting to get tired of it, and due to all the corruption and people taking advantage of the situation for their own personal gain the donations are drying up. But we will remain here, doing our best to help those who still need it, and we hope that you trust us enough to help us continue what we do. You can either donate to us directly over our GoFundMe page, or to some of our partner organisations. We can guarantee that your money will be spent wisely, and as Teleport, we will publish all our expenses periodically on our website to ensure maximum transparency. Thank you! Now back to the report…
(Insert Donation Link)
We gave out most of the water bottles, but had to keep a few for the drop outside of Mikolaiv on the next day. There were still around 20-30 people there which couldn’t get any fresh water that day, and it was so sad to see. In situations like this, when you’re not able to help everybody, its a gut wrenching reality check of your own limitations. If we wouldve had more funding, we could’ve brought more waterbottles. But it was done, and we closed up the Luton, were invited for coffee and some bread, and shortly after headed back to Odessa to spend the night there.
Me and Nathan split up and I went straight to one of my good friends and collegues Vitaly Rozman, whos the head of AidSupply.in.ua, one of our dear partner organisations. He always offers me to stay at his apartment in Odessa, and we used the time to catch up on how things are going for the both of us.
The plan for the next day was to meet up with the organisation WeAreFromUkraine, because they have also supplied a lot of the remote villages outside of Mikolaiv with fresh water. We got in touch over a good friend Gus, whom I had met at Help Ukraine Center where he was volunteering at first. He had been going on runs with WeAreFromUkraine prior, and helped them a lot with fundraising. So early morning on the 22nd of August, we started driving towards Mikolaiv again, me and Dima in the Luton, and Gus, Masha and Sasha in Gus’ BMW. There is a spot in Mikolaiv where they pump up groundwater and purify it. It is one of the only locations in the whole city where you’re able to get fresh water. So that’s where we went.
I was under the impression that the Luton was able to carry 3.5 tons, but turns out I was horribly wrong. We loaded three 1000l watertanks into the back and began filling them. Combined with the bottles that remained in the back the weight was too much. The left tire in the back started bulging around the rim and looked like it was about to pop. In fear of that happening on our drive through literal no-mans-land close to the front we unloaded one of the watertanks, reducing the total weight to a little over 2 tons. Just when we were about to leave, I jumped in and turned the key. Nothing. Dead. The Lutons battery had died while we were loading. So now we’re all looking for the battery, which in all German engineering manners had been placed under a plate on the passengers side, unaccessable with the tools we had. Luckily there was a guy who had the genius idea to grab the bolts with a set of pliers and open the cover. During all that, the sirens were going off mulitple times, and you could hear distant explosions, which made it all the more pressing to get back on the road ASAP. So we did.
We drove north out of Mikolaiv on the road towards Bashtanka, but at the last checkpoint we were stopped by one of the police guards that had seen our back tire. He told us to pull over, and had no problem gesturing towards the bulges on the tire with the barrel of his assault rifle… Basically we were told to change it before we leave or else we might be trapped out there for up to 10 days. So we did. That was another 2 hours of finding a tire shop that had a replacement tire available and have them change it. I won’t get into it too much, but eventually we were ready and finally left Mikolaiv northbound.
Me and Nathan had been to Bashtanka before when we dropped off the medical supplies, so I knew the road. About halfway, Dima told me to take a right, and with that we were going straight towards the front lines. The whole horizon was covered in smoke, which made the reality sink in even quicker. Before I left Lviv, I borrowed a GoPro from Arthur of Road to Ukraine so I could document these missions and give the people a little more insight into how things go out here. So I took it and started filming the fields where farmers were burning down their crops, when Dima tapped my shoulder and told me not to film Ukrainian positions. I was confused, but as we passed the smoke I could see trenches appear in the distance. So we made our way past the second front line to the first town where we would beginn dropping off some of the water we had. You could hear and feel the explosions of the not-so-distant Ukrainian artillery firing upon Russian positions, and during all that, we saw teenagers on motorcycles drive by, people taking their dogs for a walk, and generally life going, what I assume, is its normal way down there.
I gave all of the footage that I recorded with the GoPro to my good friend Maxym Fam, and he cut it together in a short video. If you have four minutes, check it out below.
We went to 4 seperate locations after, over the span of around 4-5 hours. While at first I had my worries about being where we were, after I saw all the people down there that were so excited to see us, these worries evaporated really fast. This was by far the most important drive I have done in Ukraine. I also had the chance of helping a really nice Babushka dragging her giant milk container to her house a few hundret meters down the road. Her dog almost bit me but I guess you could call that a occupational hazard.
It went all as planned, and before sunset we had unloaded all of the water we had, and were back on the road towards Odessa. Overall, it went alright and we managed to do all the work we set out to do. Minor complications with the tire and battery, but it happens.