Ukraine: Travel in Enemy Country |


Status: 05/13/2022 11:24 am

They go to occupied territories to evict people: activists in Ukraine are in a lot of danger when they leave. They have to pay bribes at checkpoints, cross landmines and open fire.

Andrea Beer to ARD studio in Moscow, currently Zaporischschja

He has already risked his life 18 times. Wearing a thin red T-shirt and jeans, he sits at the wheel of a white minibus. “Ljudi” is written on the car with a sign – “People”.

Again and again, private aides drive people off the battlefield. But he drives straight to the Russian occupied territories. It starts in the city of Saporizhia in southern Ukraine, where many refugees come from Berdyansk, Chershen, and the area around Mariupol.

Every ride is different

As he drives, he often has to take long detours – shelling, landmines, searching for petrol or staying overnight, all of which complicate the journey and often work differently, he says. For the Bertians, for example, he had already covered 870 kilometers – only 220 kilometers on the direct route.

There is gunfire everywhere, and artillery can explode 20 meters away from you. The shell attack may start and you may not be able to go to the shelter. We must always think and improve. Sometimes we drive over fields, but they can be cut. Once while I was driving, one of our cars crashed into a tunnel and exploded.

For travelers who are already distraught, this can be a major stressor. Many of them are elderly and children sometimes share a seat if there is not enough space. Along the way they stay overnight in the fields, in schools, with hospitable villagers.

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Most of them lost everything and did not see the future in their previous residence. There they sat in cellars or passed through so-called filtration camps, where Russian occupiers registered people and searched for Ukrainian soldiers and activists like the driver. This is another reason why he does not want to be recognized.

Cigarettes for checkpoints

Denise stands a few meters away. He’s actually a DJ, but now he and his friends are helping to organize bold rides. As the driver continues to pack, Denise shows two cartons of cigarettes each driver sees. The cheapest type, he says – is the numerous checkpoints of the Russians and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, all of which must pass. According to Denise, they also asked for detergent and sim cards.

If you do not give it to them, they will keep you for a very long time or will not let you. Two drivers are currently arrested near Donetsk. The car was confiscated and they were arrested near Mariupol and imprisoned in Donetsk for a month. The sentence has been extended for another month. Both are public, 28 years old and 50 years old. He also wanted to help his sister. They are civilians not affiliated with the military.

Denise says more than 20 drivers are currently under arrest and is sitting in the trunk of a car with sunglasses. The next day, he reports, two vans will go to Berdians to pick up people from Mariupol.

Ear stick thing

The driver drives one of these vans, and he has to go on adventurous routes through the random checkpoints of the Russians. He says many already know him. “At the checkpoints, they are waiting for me to bring them something to eat and drink. Ear sticks too. Someone said:” If you do not bring me ear sticks from Berdyansk, I will not let you. “

Like most private assistants, the driver sits in the car without a helmet or safety jacket. He points to a small wooden cross on his wrist. That was his protection – a pastor in a village gave it to him.

He tidies up a little more in the car. Everything will be fine. ” He risked his life many times and now he is doing the same thing again. Of course he says his family is scared. His wife understands why he made this decision and supports him – while she and the children do not want him to drive. But he adds, “I can not sit at home when I have the opportunity to help people.”

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