the mad delivery men of Kharkiv

published on Thursday, April 28, 2022 at 11:24 am

The trunk filled to the brim with food, the techno music blasting: in their red Opel Astra, three young Ukrainians deliver humanitarian aid every day in districts of Kharkiv regularly targeted by Russian rockets.

The last two days have been rather calm in this large city in the northeast, the second largest in Ukraine. But this Tuesday, the sound of the Ukrainian cannon like that of the Russian artillery resounded again.

The front line is less than 5 km from the northern and eastern districts of Kharkiv, and the Russian border is a few tens of kilometers away. Not enough to discourage the three volunteers, Nazar, Alexiï and Oleg.

In front of a kindergarten converted into a food storage center, they load the trunk of their car with plastic bags each containing bread and canned goods.

“Our main objective is to feed children and the elderly, they need it the most. Unfortunately, at the moment people have no money or work, many of them cannot even move to ‘to a supermarket,” says 24-year-old Nazar Tishchenko.

Upside-down cap, black sports T-shirt and shorts, bright red sneakers, Nazar looks like Karim Benzema, with his goatee, his shaved head and his black eyes from the top of his 1.87 m.

Football fan, he likes fighting but not the police. On one shin he tattooed the number 13 and on the other the 12, in other words in the order of the alphabet: ACAB (“All cops are bastards”, “all cops are bastards”).

Born in Tyrnyauz, Russia, he “lived all (his) life in the football fan movement, with nationalist guys who are steeped in love for our country,” Ukraine.

– Music against bombs –

Loaded car, direction a former post office become humanitarian center, which distributes meat. They will exchange bread for chicken thighs.

At the wheel, Alexiï, 23 years old, lean, thin and muscular cat build, blue eyes and a small lock on a shaved head. He was the one who had the idea of ​​the deliveries.

For two years he delivered bread to Kharkiv and the Donbass, then he was a mechanic.

When the war broke out, he became a bread delivery man again. Then his business closed. So he started to deliver himself. “But I couldn’t do it alone, so I asked Nazar to help me,” the young man said.

In front of the place where the meat is distributed, more than a hundred people line up.

Chicken loading complete, on the way to the first delivery. The red Opel is spinning. In the cabin you can smoke and the techno music is at full blast.

“We can’t drive without music. If there’s bombing, we just turn up the volume. We’re tired of the bombing. (Music) helps us relax, we’re not scared,” assures the tall tattooed.

The northern and eastern districts of Ukraine’s second city – almost a million and a half inhabitants before the war – are almost daily the target of Russian rockets. The strikes are random, spaced out, at any time of day or night, sometimes deadly.

One day, at the time of a bombardment, “all the shelters were closed”, says Nazar. “So we couldn’t hide. We lay down on the ground and we protected civilians to save them,” he said.

– “Do the right thing” –

The trio of volunteers arrive in front of a decrepit house. Fifteen people live there, including young children, in several apartments.

We deliver the bags, we chat, we play with the kids. Their visit is also a comfort, a social bond.

“While I’m here doing this, I feel like I’m doing the right thing, I’m not useless, I understand that I can help people. I don’t feel joy, I’m just doing this and I know it’s is right”, explains Alexiï.

A dull explosion occurs quite close.

Oksana Taranouchkav, one of the residents, jumps. Nazar reassures her. There is no danger, he explains: by ear we can differentiate a shot from the Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense – which was the case – from a Russian strike.

The 49-year-old woman welcomes the help from the volunteers.

“We don’t get any support, the shops are destroyed, we can’t buy anything, we survive,” she said, before tearfully imploring, “Please Mr. Putin, please stop. please!”.

The delivery is over, we kiss, the red Opel leaves for a new address.

At the end of the day, a Russian rocket hit a building in these neighborhoods. Three people died.