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  • Robert Rose My Summer in Ukraine Poster
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    Raw Travel's "My Summer in Ukraine" documentary series is announced along with premiere dates.
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    My final full day in Kyiv was full of faux normalcy. It was a weekend, and my new friend Olie (of Kyiv Punk Rock Tour) invited me to a small Vegetarian Festival.
  • Andrii Barmalii
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    A month may seem like a long time to visit a location, but it passes quickly in a country at war like Ukraine. There are no flights in and out of Ukraine because the airspace is closed. Crossing the border means either train, car, or, in some cases, on foot, which can take hours or even days.
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    My friend Dima is the lead singer of the well-known Russian Punk Band Tarakany (Cockroach) on my Punk Outlaw Records roster. Like a good cockroach, Tarakany! has been a staple on the rock music scene for over 30 years.
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    The musician Sting has an anti-war song from the mid-1980s Cold War, “Russians,” with the lyric, “I wonder if the Russians love their children too.” Of course, they do.
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    After visiting severely injured soldiers at a military hospital in an undisclosed part of Ukraine, I more firmly believe in Hedonic Adaptation (baseline happiness), a theory positing that most people generally will eventually return to their baseline level of happiness.
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    When things can’t get any more surreal in Ukraine, the next day one-ups the previous. Anastasia and I were allowed rare access to a drone-flying school where we hung out with soldiers of various platoons for a full day, some fresh from the front and returning there the next day.
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    Anastasia and I met Misha and his girlfriend Valeria at LF Music on our second evening in Kharkiv. As with most things in Ukraine, our meeting would be fortuitous.
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    In 2014, Russian-backed separatists forced Anastasia’s family to move from their home in the Donbas region to Kyiv and start all over. They were adjusting well when the full-scale Russian invasion began in February 2022.
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    I met the founder of H.U.G.S Ukraine, Paul Hughes of Calgary, Canada, through an introduction from U.K.-based humanitarian Hymie Dunn and Arizona-based U.S. Marine Corps. Mark Cary at the LF Music concert in Kharkiv. Hymie first met Paul in the early days of the full invasion.
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    Anastasia’s cousins, Dima and Maria, are from Kharkiv and were living there when the Russians first invaded in early 2022. After time away during the occupation, they recently returned home and agreed to show us the devastation and beauty of their beloved and besieged city.
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    Mark knows that music is a big part of Raw Travel and my love of music, especially punk rock and independent, alternative, and underground music, personally. Mark’s connection is vital as well. His daughter Sam, a country music recording artist, plans to visit Ukraine and tour.
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    Mark, Hymie, Anastasia, and I continued from Poltava to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city (1.5 million in peacetime), lying in the country’s northeast. Kharkiv, also known as Kharkov in Russian, is just 20 miles or so away from the Russian border.
  • Riding in car
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    It was time for me to tag along on Hymie and Mark’s next mission, to Kharkiv, which Mark had insisted I visit. This time, we had the pleasure of having Anastasia join our team. Her camera skills and fluency in Ukrainian were invaluable assets.
  • Memorial
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    Hymie’s van was emptied of supplies, and it was time for us to depart Mykolaiv and Kherson to return to Kyiv. On the way back, as we stopped to get gas and food, we met a church group heading into Kherson that was due at the same Baptist Church where we had dropped off supplies.
  • Armored truck
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    Mykolaiv was our home base while operating humanitarian missions to nearby Kherson City and Kherson Oblast. The reasoning was simple: hotels existed in Mykolaiv still, and it was much safer than Kherson City.
  • People gathering water
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    Driving from Kyiv to the Southern parts of Ukraine, I can see that farmland is everywhere and that Ukraine is the world’s breadbasket. Wheat is ripening. Fruit is in season. Farms, as far as the eye can see.
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    Either I was calmer, or the bombing of Kherson City calmed a bit. Probably a bit of both because I don’t recall feeling any angst or fear on day two. We focused on dropping off supplies at a new contact of Mark’s, “Support Kherson” or “Kherson Unbroken.”
  • Rob in front of a building
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    I woke up early in Odessa and went for a run by the harbor, primarily inactive because it’s been mined by Russians (who don’t bother to map the locations) and Ukrainians (who map the sites, as is typical protocol).
  • Driving a car in Odesa
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    I had finally met Mark Cary, a U.S. Marine turned humanitarian from Arizona, and his humanitarian colleague, Hymie Dunne. Hymie hails from the art world in London.
  • Rob looking at junked car art
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    One of my objectives for returning to Ukraine during wartime was to embed with U.S. Marine turned humanitarian, Mark Cary, from Arizona.
  • Woman in Kyiv
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    This was my first visit to Kyiv after the full-scale invasion (my last visit was in 2019). In typical Raw Travel style, I stayed at a Soviet-era apartment share in a suburb in the Obolonskyi District, a neighborhood I would get to know well.
  • Rob and friends in camper
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    After a year’s absence, I arrived in L’viv to prepare to visit Kyiv and parts of the east. On the train ride from Poland, I was in an old-timey sleeper car...
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    Read about my first trip to Ukraine in wartime in the summer of 2022