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Story and photos: Andrii Kryshtal

Illustration: #MariKinovich


Andrii has been living and working abroad for two years. He encountered the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine during his time in Kosovo where he worked on issues of reconciliation and dialogue in the Balkans. At first, Andrii hardly slept and tried to evacuate loved ones from dangerous places. Then, he was caught up by powerlessness and the desire to do something. Andrii received an evening call on February 26 from his friend Ostap who had the same desire, so they gathered an online team of volunteers in a few hours. This is how the NGO AidHubUA was created in Croatia.

The volunteers began to do everything that was urgent for Ukrainians: they carried humanitarian goods to the border and evacuated people fleeing from the war. Soon, they started collecting money to buy body armor, helmets, and thermographic cameras for Ukrainian defenders. No one knew about these things before, so Andrii independently learned to distinguish classes of defense equipment or dual-use goods (they could be used to create weapons). He had to take a long vacation from his full-time job in order to be fully engaged in helping Ukraine.

Andrii worked in tandem with his friend Anastasiia. Andrii communicated with suppliers who could deliver equipment in large quantities, and Anastasiia would look for donors. AidHubUA managed to purchase several thousand helmets, first aid kits, body armor, and armor plates worth more than $1.5 million in the first two weeks. Subsequently, the scale of aid began to decrease, and requests from Ukraine became more specific.

The next task for Andrii was to help hospitals in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy. Once it became possible to hand over a medical bus to the Hospitallers medical battalion. Also, instead of asking for or receiving gifts, Andrii celebrated his birthday differently this year: he created a “birthday challenge” which raised funds to secure a drone for the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the help of his friends.

Although the donations have not become as large as they were in the first weeks after February 24, the volunteers understand that the war has not ended. Therefore, AidHubUA is learning to combine volunteering with full-time jobs. The volunteers are trying to organize their work as efficiently as possible in order to confidently move towards victory for Ukraine.


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