My story in Foreign Policy:
Volunteers have no official agreements with either the Ukrainian Army or with the DNR and its Luhansk equivalent, the LNR. There is no guarantee of safety from shelling, despite white flags or notices on windscreens declaring there are children on board. Every day, volunteers risk being turned back, robbed, or detained. They have been attacked by supporters of the rebel republics who want to charge extortionate fees to take families out of war zones. Those from Protestant churches are a special target for because of their faith. But still they go to besieged towns every day, doing a job that no one else will do.
“Our job is to tell the history of our region. Today, our sorry history is our war.” My East Ukraine story in here in Foreign Policy about Slovyansk museum’s latest collection, trying to make sense of those terrible, absurd months of occupation in 2014 when armed militants looted, murdered – and bought tickets to visit the museum on their days off.
A ‘separatist helmet’
More from me in the Times today on families caught up in the East Ukraine conflict, and the volunteers doing such incredible work evacuating them from besieged towns to safety.
Many of these volunteers were refugees themselves until Slovyansk was retaken by the Ukrainian army in July. Now they are working independently of both sides in the conflict.
“The Ukrainians don’t bother us because we are helping them by getting people out; it means fewer victims,” says Vladimir Parkhomenko, who drives a bus daily to Horlivka from the Good News church in Slovyansk. “The DNR confiscated some of our vehicles, so we try not to go near them.”
The children he brings out of H0rlivka marvel to see shops fully stocked with goods in Slavyansk, and run for cover when an aeroplane drones far overhead…
My Piece for the Times today:
The humanitarian disaster in Ukraine is finally front-page news, but only because of a convoy that could be the start of open war. The people caught up in the humanitarian crisis are invisible, and so are the volunteers risking their lives to help.
Instead of their voices we hear political posturing. Tomorrow the world will turn its attention back to Iraq or Syria, and Ukraine will have lost its chance to win global support for those who need help. What a stupid, stupid waste.