Editor’s note: Methow Valley resident Shiah Lints is in Ukraine, volunteering with aid agencies in the Kherson region. This is his second trip to Ukraine.
My day starts long before dawn with a half-hour walk to meet my contacts at NewDawn_uk, who I will accompany into the newly liberated towns around Kharkiv. We will be delivering supplies to people in need.
On my walk I accidentally walk into a checkpoint while filming myself for a blog. I’m blinded by the light of my camera and nearly walk into an MP. Filming checkpoints is a big no-no, and I hope this won’t make me late. A quick explanation, a check of my phone’s photos, a stern word and a sincere apology; then I’m back on the move.
After making sure the radios work, we are off in three vans. The main roads we would normally take to reach our destination are impassable so we must take seldom-used roads, some of which are dirt quickly turning to mud. The land is flat with open fields separated by few trees and the occasional village. The Ukrainians fought a bitter battle to take this land. With no natural cover, each hamlet was a struggle costing many lives.
After getting clearance in a central town no larger than Omak, we head to our first village. They know we are coming and immediately there is a queue at the back of the van. Mainly old women and men wait patiently for a free bag of food and toiletries.
In the war zone
It is cold, a wet cold that we rarely see in the Methow. Even with all my ski gear I am not comfortable. Some villages show the signs of war and some not. One village we visited was in the grey zone between lines. People lived here the whole time. Their windows are all broken, there are holes in their roofs and all have stories of brushes with death. All have seen death.
There are still active mines and you must be careful to only walk on asphalt or concrete. While two armies fought for their village these people refused to leave. This is their home! They are the barnacles that cling to rock as the sea tries to break them.
In their faces can be seen the history of Eastern Europe; WW2, Stalin, Chernobyl, the fall of communism, and the chaotic rise of capitalism. This war is just another page in history. On our way home we stop to check on an old man we brought with us. He lost his wife and dog to a Russian shell that landed in his yard. He almost died under rubble. This is his first time home since going to the hospital. He insists on staying in a house full of holes and no heat. The volunteers for New Dawn are worried and discuss how to repair the house before we leave.
On our way home we get stuck in the mud and have to turn around and find another way. I arrive at my hostel just before curfew, my body aching from wearing an armored vest all day.
War is hell. Don’t do it.
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