Popular Front. A volunteer group in occupied Melitopol is under persecution for their aid


This is the story from a resident of another southern Ukrainian town, taken by Russian troops in the first day of spring. Life is half-starving there, but this guy decided to save those who cannot survive in the occupation at all, and now is detained in unknown place.

Submitted by Thunderbird on June 23, 2022

You are welcome to support the authors for restoration of their community in Kharkiv still being under daily Russian missile strikes all this days. Please join this fundraising.

Ilya Yenin is 22 years old. In civilian life, he was a freelancer. Then, he thinks from morning to where to get food, funds for its purchase and transportation, in order to send everything to his wards. For the most part, these are elderly people.

- On February 24, on the first day of the war, I experienced a shock. Immediately went with my brother Daniel to the stores, to the gas station. There was a premonition of impending famine.

And famine, by the way, was not long in coming. As we showed earlier, supermarkets and malls were looted by the residents, shops did not work. Everyone survived as best they could. The most scarce commodity, as in the Second World War, is cigarettes. They were almost impossible to buy.

- Somehow my brother and I stood in our area of ​​the railway station and started distributing cigarettes and water. We collected them for completely different purposes - we wanted to transfer them to prisoners in one of the penitentiary institutions, where I almost got due to the mistakes of my youth...

I saw how some males even had tears in their eyes when they thanked us. I remembered how at one time many strangers extended a helping hand to me in difficult times. So for myself, I saw in this situation a sign of fate - the time has come for me to help others.

Ilya honestly admits that if it were not for the war, he would never have become a volunteer. This, as he says, is a thankless task:

- Firstly, it is simply impossible to help everyone, so 99% are always dissatisfied with you. And 1% of those who managed to help do not even know what difficulties a volunteer goes through every day.

Later, Ilya cooperated with a local entrepreneur, Yevheny Pokoptsev. They decided that together would be able to more effectively help fellow countrymen in need. The team was called "Popular Front". Here are their Facebook and Telegram.

Requests for help began to come to the volunteer group from the first days of the war. There were the most unusual situations. One of the terrible stories happened in a family of Roma people:

- The phone is ringing (unknown number) - I pick up the phone and hear a terrible cry of a woman on the other end of the wire. I ask: "What happened?" I can't make out the answer. On the 10th attempt, I specify the address in order to drive up and find out what happened. When the guys drove up to the house, they saw a shot through metal gate. A woman met us and led us into the yard, began to show us the place where her husband's body lay. In the evening he went to the summer kitchen to warm up dinner and at that moment the shell hit the yard. A fragment pierced the man's lung and tore off his arm.

He was still conscious when his wife tried to drag him into the house. However, after a few minutes his heart stopped.

After this tragedy, the woman went to the ritual service, but they demanded 10,000 rubles from her. There was no such money in the family and they offered to put the deceased in a common grave. Ilya and his friends gave the widow money and a food package.

There are some regular visitors at the premises of Ilya's volunteer team. As a rule, these are pensioners. After the occupation, post offices stopped working in Melitopol and Ukrainian state bank was closed, where most pensioners received their monthly payments. Some get out. Children and neighbors help them - they transfer the elderly to PrivatBank and A-Bank. However, after the disconnection of Ukrainian cellular communications, these banks stopped working too.

- But we have one grandmother, who even before the war did not have time to draw up a pension and was left without any means of subsistence. By the way, she has two children, but they have been living abroad for a long time. Ukrainian post services do not work for us. There is no one to help her at all. Therefore, granny lives solely at the expense of the products that we give her. At first she came to our HQ herself, and then we began to bring packages with provisions to her house.

Melitopol volunteers buy food in the markets and shops. Money for it they receive from other caring people and organizations. First of all - United Help Ukraine, Nova Ukraine, Mid Plains community college, etc. Helping people during a war is difficult, and in the occupied territory with mass arrests it is difficult doubly. Nevertheless, Ilya and his team do not give up, knowing for sure that the obstacles are given according to their strength.

Unfortunately, during the preparing this publication, it became known that Ilya is captured. Approximately the 19th of June, 15 soldiers came to the volunteer's house at night. In front of his wife, two children and the grandmother, the guy was beaten by the invaders, his phone was taken away, and then they put him in a car and drove away. At the moment, no one knows where the volunteer is being held.

As stated a couple of days ago Melitopol's mayor Ivan Fegorov, in total about 500 people are kidnapped in this town by the Russians. He connects this with their lack of support from the civilian population and local authorities in the occupied part of the Zaporozhye region. In early 2021, there lived 150,000 of persons, now - only about 70,000.

Thanks to National Journalist Union of Ukraine for possibility to make this material

From other hand, Ukrainian authorities also prefer to enhance further impoverishment of people instead of increasing relief to them. In government-controlled territories, banks this month even renewed requirement of interest on loans despite job loss by half of the employed.

And for the city council of Kharkiv the war is seems to be over too - they returned payment for utilities abolished since the beginning of this invasion.

Glory to the heroes of community mutual aid! Build popular strength from below!