January 15: The one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is approaching. The invaders crossed the border Feb. 24, 2022. I arrived in the city of Przemyśl, Poland, in early March last year and will have spent over nine months in Ukraine on the anniversary date. I’ve returned home twice since but the time was brief. My work in Ukraine was unfinished and beckoning. (See “Local Animal Rescuer Is Home From the War, for Now,” October 2022.)
Today I am in a hotel outside Kyiv. The power has been off for a few hours, and it is getting colder in my room. No matter. I’ll be leaving soon to go into the city and load humanitarian aid for people and animals in Kherson. There will be just two vehicles in this convoy, mine and another operated by Ukrainian volunteers. The language barrier is there even though we all use Google Translate, which is not very reliable.
We leave tomorrow morning for Kherson and enter the city seven hours later, say our hellos, embrace, wish each other good luck, and then depart. I’ll be going to Dnipro from Kherson, while the others head back to Kyiv. I’ll reach Dnipro that night and get some rest before I reload the next morning for Bakhmut.
Bakhmut is a city in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine under attack by the Russian military and the Wagner Group mercenaries. It is a “meat grinder” for the Russians. They are losing significant numbers of soldiers attempting to capture the city. There are civilians with their animals that have chosen to remain, all hoping the Ukrainian military will be able to hold off the Russian advance and save what is left of the city. Those are the people we are bringing the humanitarian aid to.
January 16: Kherson is in the rearview mirror. We finished unloading during a Russian rocket attack. I went to visit a British friend before leaving for Dnipro. As we sat in his apartment the rockets came often and close. I could see people running rather than walking to wherever they were going. No point hanging anywhere too long. Another rocket struck and debris hit the building. Time for me to go.
January 17: I arrived in Dnipro this afternoon and went to the Ukrainian volunteer organization to load supplies for Bakhmut. Five hundred loaves of bread, 500 cans of beans with meat, 540 kilograms of animal feed and other humanitarian aid. I met a French bulldog there, Jessica, who was rescued from the Kharkiv region earlier in the war. Meeting rescued animals always makes the day better for me. I meet a lot them. I’m currently sitting in a mechanic’s garage having contaminated steering fluid flushed and refilled. It’s not warm here either. Thinking about tomorrow and what it will bring.
Tom Bates, Lakebay
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