Driver Vasyl Zolokotskyi has been working in our Kyiv team for three years. However, it is difficult to find him in the office, as he is usually on the road. His most important task is delivering humanitarian aid to the people on both sides of the contact line in the Donbas.
How does your family feel about your job, which is sometimes dangerous?
I often go on field trips; it can happen that I am not home for weeks. My family have already got used to such a schedule, yet they worry about me and miss me. My five-year-old son is always waiting for me impatiently. He knows that I drive a car with the Red Cross emblem. Once, when I was on a field trip, he was playing outside and saw a car of the Ukrainian Red Cross Society – our partners – passing by. He ran to the fence right away thinking that it was me back from the field.
Is there something you must always have when going on a trip?
We have everything we might need in different situations – tool kits, first aid kits, ropes, chains. We always carry some food stock. However, water is the most necessary thing. On my first field trip in summer 2015, we got stuck on the road for a few days. Then I realized that there must always be a lot of water in the car. Especially in summer, when you are hot and thirsty. There is no place to buy water because there is only a checkpoint with no shops ahead. We also carry sandwiches to have a bite. The situation on the contact line is volatile so we never know for how long we would have to wait.
What other functions do you have apart from driving?
Quite often I am a team leader, especially in large convoys. A convoy can consist of 28-30 trucks, including the commercial vehicles we hire.
When put all together in one line, these vehicles are half a kilometer long. When on the road, traffic lights, turns and hills make this line stretch for tens of kilometers. In such situations, the teamwork of the whole team is very important.
On some trips I have to be a mechanic. Our cars also operate in harsh conditions, so when something breaks, my previous work experience helps a lot.
Of course, we, the drivers, represent the organization and communicate with the various services we pass. We tell about the organization and its mission of helping people affected by the armed conflict. We explain that we carry humanitarian aid to our warehouse, so that it would be later distributed among those who need it.
What do you transport?
Mostly food and hygiene parcels, as well as construction materials. But there have also been many other goods. I remember carrying and distributing seed potatoes, chickens, animal feed, and sand for filtering stations.
In addition to delivery of goods from the main warehouse to the regional warehouses, we also go for aid distributions in settlements along the contact line, where there are no shops and one cannot buy essential goods. Not everyone has the opportunity to go somewhere for food. Then we come.
We have also delivered materials to ensure safety of schoolchildren. We brought a special film to reinforce school windows, and sand bags to place on the windowsills as extra protection against glass fragments during shelling.
Tell us about the situation that has impressed you the most.
There are many of them. Probably most of all I remember the schools near Mariupol, where we delivered aid. The first thing I noticed there was a red duct tape on the walls or a line painted on a certain level. Below there was a green line. In case of shelling it was forbidden to raise your head above the red strip – the so-called line of impact. One has to bend down to the green line level. These schools also have specially designated corners safe from shrapnel during shelling. That is how these children have classes.
Once we were unloading sand in a school when shelling began in the distance. An old woman was just passing by, picking up her granddaughter from school. They absolutely ignored the sounds of shelling. The girl of about seven years old was calmly telling her grandma about her day at school. They seemed not to even hear the explosions. Normally, the first reaction in such situations would be to hide. I am still shocked by calmness of that grandmother and her granddaughter. It frightens me how much the younger generation, who have been living with the conflict for four years, have got used to the sounds of war.