We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

For Ukrainian village cut off by river and Russians, deliverance is a rusty rowboat

21 15 29

ZADONETS’KE, Ukraine — The Siverskyi Donets River doesn’t look like much.

Only a few dozen meters wide in most places, the meandering river — usually referred to simply as the Donets — has witnessed bitter combat along its banks.

In 1942, the Red Army lost a quarter of a million men here as German forces eliminated a Soviet bridgehead over the river. Eight years later, in May, Russian tanks attempting to cross the Donets were pummeled by Ukrainian artillery, losing hundreds of men and dozens of armored vehicles.

Upstream from the site of the May battle, next to the destroyed bridge that once connected the villages of Zmiiv and Zadonets’ke south of Kharkiv, the Donets is a pleasant course, its muddy banks lined with reeds and small trees.

But for the 680 villagers of Zadonets’ke, the river represents a serious problem. With the Ukrainian army demolishing its bridges to slow Russian invaders, food and medicine would have to be driven 140 kilometers out of the way to reach the village and simultaneously avoid shifting Russian lines.

The volunteers at IdeaSoft HelpKharkiv — a relief agency co-founded by local Ukrainian-Israeli entrepreneur Peter Kolomiets — have come up with a straightforward solution, seemingly from another era.

Every five or six days, the young, techie IdeaSoft volunteers load up their white vans, throw on their Kevlar vests and helmets, and drive through a series of military checkpoints to the grassy west bank of Donets River.

There, covered by a Ukrainian Army platoon, the IdeaSoft staff makes several trips across the river in a rowboat to locals waiting on the other side.

On Friday, The Times of Israel joined IdeaSoft as they made the river crossing with Ukrainian forces.

Readying the supplies, the volunteers in the IdeaSoft offices in central Kharkiv were in good spirits as they slapped stickers on 80 aid boxes and carried them outside to three white vans.

Each box feeds a family for six days. They also piled white sacks of bread loaves and six-packs of water bottles into the vehicles.

As they headed south out of the city, damage from ongoing Russian shelling was everywhere. But locals were going about their day, riding the streetcars and poking around the outdoor markets.

The staff stopped to chat with the middle-aged soldiers at all the military checkpoints on the way. They were manned by relaxed troops who looked to be volunteers signed up during........

© The Times of Israel

Get it on Google Play