June 26, 2023

Good evening,

I apologize for the delay in getting updates out. The fiasco with the Russian Telegram pages caused issues with my Yahoo account so it is no longer in use.

After leaving Kherson we went back to Kyiv for a day to regroup and resupply. I wanted Rob and Nastya to visit Kharkiv with us since it is my favorite Ukrainian city, so we loaded up and headed that way for the second time. We immediately stopped off at the volunteer hub of our friend Roman and his wife, also Nastya. We will designate her Nastya# 2. Roman runs a small NGO called ETOC and I work with them frequently. We delivered more aid bags for soldiers, more boxes of the Ukrainian produced food as well as some additional cash for the purchase of supplies for their 3D printer. The printer is used to make rifle parts and tail fins for drone deployed munitions. The design they have developed makes the munitions much more accurate.

I haven’t seen Roman and Nastya or their team since December. I was immediately struck at how tired they all looked and they were not their usual selves. Another member of the team, Gleb said hardly a word when I gave him a hug and then he immediately went into another room and did not return. I asked Roman if Gleb was ok, and Roman replied in his broken English, “he has been in the field for several days, and he is, how would you say. fucked in the head.”

The attack on the Kakhovka dam following the harsh winter has taken a toll on everyone, and Kharkiv is hit with missiles pretty much daily. Despite this city being tough and proud, The war is talking it’s toll on everyone. That night there were four missiles launched into the city. One impacted and woke me up, the sirens went off and stayed on for another hour. The next three missiles were intercepted. It is a distinctly different and comforting sound and feeling when they are destroyed in the air versus when they land. At the same time, over 20 missiles and drones were launched at Kyiv and falling debris hit a residential area and killed five people.

At the same time, all of us were gripped by the short lived, confusing and distinctly Cold Warish drama of the Wagner Group and it’s owner Yevgeny Prighozen. The entire country was glued to the news, but despite this weirdness, the Russians in Ukraine continued their barbaric behavior. Now the attention is focused on the Zaporhizia Nuclear plant and the fact that the Russians have also rigged that with explosives. This has been known for awhile, but apparently new intelligence states that the Russians may try to damage it, and blame the Ukrainians as they did with the dam. Broadcasts of preparation and steps to take in the event of a nuclear incident are on all TV and social media channels. I have iodine pills, and an escape plan but I cannot fathom that this could actually happen. But in this place, anything is possible.

The next day we again visited our friend Paul Hughes of HUGS Ukraine and delivered additional laptops and cell phones. Later that evening we met Paul, Rob, Nastya# 1 and other friends at the LF Club on the riverwalk. The club owner, Icey is a musician, producer, bar owner and humanitarian volunteer. When he isn’t rescuing babushkas from front line villages he is touring with his Linkin Park tribute band raising money for the units from Kharkiv. Icey has invited my daughter Sam to perform there as well as given me the names of music connections around Ukraine for a possible tour she is planning for the troops and military hospitals. We will see about this down the road.
Rob and Nastya #1 interviewed Icey, got a tour of the club and the underground military and volunteer only section and we met up with our new Kharkiv friends Misha and his wife Valeria. I met them in December and they have pretty much adopted us now and have offered us accommodations and other assistance whenever we are in Kharkiv. Again, this is typical Ukrainian hospitality. Old friend William from Florida (Florida Man) joined us with his rescue trench puppy, Vona. I first met William during my second trip here last year and we worked together delivering supplies to front line villages and the homeless refugees in the subway stations

We were sort of accosted by a very drunk Hassidic man. I scolded him for attempting to steal Vona and for conducting business on Shabbat which is prohibited. Along with theft of course. He abruptly departed.

I drove William home to his apartment and the sirens went off. Which meant the power was reduced, which meant there was no internet access, so I navigated back to the hotel using a map, a compass, a flashlight and street signs which are few and tiny in Ukraine. Always remember the basics.

The next day we headed back to Kyiv and are prepping for another trip to Kherson to partner with the Red Cross guys and clean up villages along the Inulets River. That is the plan anyway.

But the motto of Ukraine should be, “Our country is strong, our women are beautiful and our plans are vague.”

In Kyiv I met with a group of Legionaires and western military trainers that I know through the grapevine and now in person. We had an excellent discussion about logistics and I will be expanding my cooperation with them by connecting them with others who can assist them. This is the most rewarding thing I do here.

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