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Now I’m Making Bulletproof Vests For Ukraine

Making bullet proof vests for ukraine

Several generations of my relatives devoted their lives to war and service for ‘the good of the Ukraine'

My maternal grandfather was a colonel, and a recipient of two Orders of the Patriotic War, 1st and 2nd class. He also received the Order of the Red Star. Many people say that I inherited his appearance, wild temper, and balls of steel. In 1942, he enlisted in the Soviet army in Chelyabinsk. He survived World War II, but returned home shell-shocked.

My paternal grandmother survived the Holodomor — “to kill by starvation” — also known as the Terror-Famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of Ukrainians. She lost almost all her brothers and sisters to starvation. My grandmother also survived the Second World War and was part of the Kremlin’s Saluting Battery in 1945.

My father served with the Soviet troops in Afghanistan (The Limited Contingent of Soviet Troops in Afghanistan). The war in Afghanistan was essentially started by the leadership of the Soviet Union to control part of Central Asia. It lasted more than nine years, and more than 160,000 Ukrainian soldiers took part in it. More than 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers and officers died there. My father came back alive.

February 15, 1989, is considered the date of the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. I was born around nine months later when my father was already in a military unit in Cottbus (then, still a part of the German Democratic Republic). My family returned to Ukraine when I was two years old.

My husband’s father also served in Afghanistan, and returned to Ukraine alive but without several fingers on both hands. He has never told us how he lost them.

All the suffering that my loved ones have gone through are, in fact, the fault of the powerful leaders obsessed with power and greed. It turns out that this so-called “service for the good of the country” is nothing more than using people as cannon fodder in order to achieve control over territories and resources.

Why should people give their lives? Why do they and their families have to suffer? Why didn’t the economy of the USSR get better after the victory over the Nazis? Why is Russia still desperately trying to find Nazis in other territories of Eurasia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union?

The fact that today’s Ukraine has become a victim of Russian aggression prompts us to rethink the events of 30 years ago. Looking back at the war with Afghanistan, the USSR committed war crimes against the civilians of Afghanistan, and against the soldiers of the Soviet Army themselves. They were mostly 18–20 years old boys who were sent to war without consent and appropriate military training. The responsibility for the deaths, injuries, illness, and fate of hundreds of thousands of people sits on the leadership of the USSR.

Apparently, these Soviet-era leaders have poisoned the modern leaders of the Russian Federation with an incurable disease: a thirst for power over the world and the desire to establish their own world order.

Today in Ukraine, hundreds of young soldiers from the Russian Federation, boys, who are 17–22 years old, give their lives again for “the good of the country” under the pretext of military exercises, the denazification of Ukraine, and the liberation of Russian-speaking Ukrainians from oppression.

The similarities are impossible to ignore.

In just a couple of weeks, the daily lives of Ukrainians have turned into a hell. Most of them are left without access to the necessities — food, water, shelter, electricity, etc.

On the first day of this war (February 24, 2022), after the Russian military launched an active military offensive against the Antonov International Airport, not far from where we live in Kyiv, my husband and I packed our things in a couple of hours. We took our dog and drove toward western Ukraine without the slightest idea where exactly we were going, where we would live, or what would happen next.

At the same time, my sister, along with her husband and two children, were trying to get out of Kyiv, but got stuck in the village of Nemishaieve. They were not far from Bucha, Gostomel, Irpin during the fiercest days of fighting and aggression from the Russian military. After staying there for several days without electricity and contact with the outside world, my sister and her family tried to escape, but came under fire while moving along the road. A Russian tank blocked their route and a soldier with a machine gun leaning out of it started firing warning shots until they moved to their car. They miraculously managed to escape, and local residents of the nearest village sheltered them and helped the children recover from the stress and shock they had experienced.

Two weeks after the start of the war, my family and I were finally settled and immediately decided to start acting together with our three friends to help Ukraine. We could not stand by, and we really wanted to help our country in any way we could to confront the Russian aggression. We got the idea to organize a charity project — tailoring body armor for our defenders, including many of our friends who ended up in the Armed Forces of Ukraine or in the Territorial Defence Forces. We decided to completely retrain as “production workers” and delve into technology and processes. The project was born.

In 1.5 weeks, we organized several small workshops for the production of bulletproof vests. We found suppliers for the appropriate fabrics and hardware — abiding by the standards of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. We use non-burning threads for stitching, and found a local supplier of armor plates of the fifth level of protection, with an anti-ricochet coating to protect fighters from missile shells. We also set up a logistics system with help from volunteers who have cars. In the first four days since the launch of the project, we have received more than 2,500 requests from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Troops, National Police, and other military institutions for the provision of body armor.

We are using donated funds to issue free vest orders for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and transfer them to the hot spots of Ukraine. We also accept individual orders from representatives of the territorial defense in different areas for a fee in order to be able to continue to purchase materials for further production.

Thanks to the expertise of my friend, Anna Baranenko, we were able to quickly streamline the tailoring process. Anna is a co-founder of our common project, who until recently worked in the fashion industry, but is now, as with many Ukrainians, left without a job. We now give out an average of 100–250 body armor vests per week and continue to increase production capacity for our army and territorial defense fighters in Kyiv and other regions.

We want to stop the war. We want to protect the lives of our loved ones. We want peace and we want to help our homeland. We can and will continue to do this work until we achieve our goal.

I believe that I have found my calling. I believe that our bulletproof vests will save the lives of hundreds of soldiers, and these soldiers will, in turn, save the lives of millions of Ukrainians. Our people will finally find a well-deserved peace — a world without pain, grief, and suffering. A world where the leaders of countries obsessed with power will no longer exist. What could be better!?

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