Margaret and Agatha talk about mutual aid in Ukraine and Agatha’s experience trying to go there to fight in an anti-authoritarian platoon, but ending up doing a bunch of mutual aid supply distribution work instead. They talk about he intricacies of relief work and some of the special circumstances in Ukraine. Heavy content warning on this episode. Towards the end of the episode around 46:00, Agatha starts to tell a really intense story about being in a war zone. Around 56:00 is when it begins to get graphic.
Agatha (they/them) can be found on IG @jalutkewicz
You can donate to their mutual aid work on venmo @agathawilliams or on Paypal @email@example.com
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Agatha on Ukrainian Mutual Aid
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for it feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy. And I’m really excited about this week’s interview, I am going to be talking to an old friend of mine from quite a while back who haven’t talked to in a while about what’s involved in anarchists mutual aid in war zones, and specifically, Ukraine, and in the things that are going on there. Yeah, I’m really excited for you all to hear this conversation. But first, I’m excited for you all to hear that we’re a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network.
This is Margaret, from the future, coming back to say that this episode deserves a content warning near the end of the episode and there’ll be some heads up. We will be talking about, “Hey, so I hear you were attacked.” That part contains graphic descriptions of war and violence. And so listener discretion is advised.
Okay, we’re back. So, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then kind of a brief description of why you are in a good place to talk about anarchists mutual aid in places of active conflict.
So my name is Agatha. My pronouns are they/them. Yeah, I went over to Ukraine last year about this time to do mutual aid support with anti authoritarian units and anarchists units. Things got fucked up on my way over there. So, that wasn’t a possibility any longer. So, I just started doing aid runs with a convoy of other solo operators who went over there to try and do something to help alleviate the suffering of folks. Yeah, I’m here to talk about that.
So one of my questions about that, is, what do these aid runs look like? I’m under the impression there are different organizations working to try to get new vehicles and armor and all of these things that, you know, to frontline units, to anti authoritarian units. And these are like, organizations from outside Ukraine that are like sending people and supplies to then deliver the supplies? Like what does this look like?
Yeah, so me and a few other folks went over there with a group of cash all of our own, you know, what I mean, and we use that for operational costs, which was, you know, feeding ourselves buying diesel in Poland. And then we worked with some more wealthy sympathizers to the cause, who, one person we worked with owns a distribution company, and they have a giant fucking warehouse in Warsaw, Poland. And, you know, they would make sure items that needed to get to folks close to the frontline, where bigger NGOs wouldn’t go, could get things that they needed that were not getting there, i.e. like medicine, sanitary products, food, you know, and then later on body armor and diesel. So, this person would basically…they have a bigger organization that looks a lot friendlier on their website, and you can go and donate money and it has pictures of like Ukrainian kids smiling. So, the run would start like this, we’d get a text from this wealthy patron and they’d be like, “Alright, I’ve organized another run,” you know, “Meet me at my warehouse Saturday at four in the morning and bring four vans,” you know, “and eight drivers.” And like, we wouldn’t know where we’re going. We wouldn’t know what we’re doing. And then we’d get there at four in the morning and then there’d be all these like, gnarly angry Polish dudes just like moving boxes around and making piles. And then the, you know, the person who lead everything and orchestrated everything, she’s just a very strong, amazing woman. And she would come out and just start barking orders and be like, “You, you’re driving this van, and you’re putting all this in your van, but like, I have some other shit to hide at the bottom of the pile. So don’t load it yet,” you know, “load this van.” And then she’d like really quickly, have one of her cronies, bring out a pallet full of body armor inserts that were like, made at a metal shop out of like, AR500 steel that can withstand 556 and 762 rounds.
Yeah, gun Twitter will be very upset about this.
I said gun Twitter will be very upset that they’re using steel.
I know. But if you’re out there fucking around, you want something more than nothing, and it’s not gonna spatter, AR500 is at least not going to spatter on you, you know what I mean? Yeah, it’s not going to create any spalding. But, that regardless, you know, she did her own research on what steels are like the most bulletproof and then she fucking contacted a metal shop with a brake press that could you know, bend quarter inch thick steel that was hardened. And then she had them plasma cut out the designs that fit into vests that she had manufactured from different tailors around Poland, you know, it was just like, it was 100%, DIY, you know, ballistic vests. And it was just amazing. And she’d be like, “Alright, you’re delivering all this, like toilet paper, and ibuprofen, and like, you know, baby food to this one location, then you’re going to meet with my people at this location, and you’re gonna give them these 10 boxes,” you know, and those had whatever in them. I never asked, you know, but and then she’d be like, “Give them these 50 vests,” you know, “they have like a poorly equipped unit that needs them. They have a mortar unit that’s taken a lot of casualties because they’re so ill equipped,” like, blah, blah, blah. And then she’d be like, “Also, the next van, we’re gonna fill it with all toilet paper. But, at the bottom of the toilet paper pile, we’re gonna hide 300 gallons of diesel, you know, in these little containers.”
Why are you hiding it?
Because there’s like tariffs involved with transporting body armor and transporting fuel across conflict zone lines, apparently. I don’t know very much about it. I just know that like, there was like, a big to do. And you had to file a lot more fucking paperwork that took weeks and weeks, if not months to get like 50 fucking vests across the border, and then to the east of Ukraine. Whereas she was just like,” I don’t give a fuck, you’re going there anyways.” I mean, she was crazy. She was like, linked up, she’d be like, “Alright, these are your things you need when you get to the border. If you get there early, wait till 5:30 shift, change or whatever. And wait till this one dude is working. Show him this paperwork, and he’s gonna let you through without giving you hassle or looking in your van. If you go at other times, I can’t guarantee you’re gonna get through without a hassle.” So, she had stuff going on, that I didn’t know about. And I didn’t care to ask about. I was just into helping and I was good enough just bringing food and medicine. You know. When I found out we were bringing other shit and like hiding it. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” I was like, “I’m into it. Like, I’m sketchy. Like, I’m down.” you know? And so we just like, we would wait, we’d pack up all the vans at four in the morning when we met her there. And then there was a few Polish dudes who would run the convoy once we were on the road. And we all had radios. So, it’s like, you know, head convoy dudes like, “You guys got to pick it up, we need to make better time.” or people in the back would be like, “Hey, head of convoy slow down, we’re losing ya.” Yeah, because all our shit was painted drab green and had the organization we were working for plastered all over the side of it. So, we wanted to look like a convoy while we were in Poland and the West of the country, and stick together. And then once we’d get across the border, and hit Lviv, you know, then it scattered and we would take magnets off, and we didn’t want to look like a convoy, because convoys get targeted and like, all this other junk. So we had basically leave Warsaw at like five or six in the morning, we’d drive for fucking ever, we’d get to the border, we’d sit there forever, you know, we’d give our slips to the guy we were supposed to give them to, they would just wave us through, they wouldn’t search our shit. And then we drive fucking forever to Lviv. And then at Lviv, we’d unload like 80% of the stuff, you know, four out of six in the convoy would go back to Warsaw. And then you know, I was generally one of the ones who would go further east. So, I’d stick around, we’d get coordinates to a new warehouse that we didn’t know about, and then we would go refill our vans and Lviv with other shit going further east. And then from there, we’d hit Kyiv. We’d drop a bunch of shit of in Kyiv. If we were transporting vehicles, we’d bring them to the specific units that was asking for them, basically just four by four vehicles that can carry around and a little Assault Squad through mud and shit that they didn’t have. And then we’d deliver that shit. And then, you know, we’d spend a night in Kyiv and then we’d get more coordinates the next day. We’d go to another warehouse. We’d fill it up with whatever the fuck was planned for us. And then all this is going on while we are like doing our own shit. Like, last time we were in Zolochiv, they needed salt because their bakery had run dry of salt. They had everything to make bread for the frontline troops except for salt. So, they’re like, “We need three vans worth of salt” you know, “We need like 5000 pounds of salt.” So, we’d be like moving our salt around to make room for our wealthy patron’s shit that she wanted to go to specific units that she had friends in, or whatever that were hard up. You know? So we were just have to like, juggle shit around. And then like, make sure everything fit, throw our 50 gallon drums of diesel on the fucking roof of the car and siphon it out and fill our fucking tanks back up, because you just can’t get diesel in Ukraine when we were there. So we had to smuggle in all the diesel for the entire trip. And then, we’d be on our way again. And then we’d eventually get to Kharkiv or wherever, in the far east of the country, get rid of all our shit. And then just like, usually pick up some passengers who wanted to get the fuck out of Kharkiv or wherever the fuck they were, and bring people back and get them out of sketchy situations. And then we’d slowly make our way back to Poland. And we didn’t really stop when we were driving. So, some days we drive for like 48 hours straight or some couples of days and then we would take naps and switch out drivers. But on the way back, it was a little more relaxed, like we’d get a hotel or something like in between Kharkiv and fucking Kyiv and try and take showers and get like a good night’s rest and then whatever. And then we finally make our way back to Warsaw or Krakow, wherever our next pickup was. We’d rest for 24 hours without doing shit. We would just eat food sleep, nap, like fucking whatever the fuck we felt like doing. Go on walks. Then we’d get another another call from from our person who was funding a lot of this and she’d be like, “Meet me at the warehouse, Tuesday at 1″30 in the morning and bring seven vans this time,” you know, so yeah, that’s pretty much the cycle that was going on when I was there.
Yeah. Okay, so I have a bunch of questions about this. There’s so much that’s curious to me. Yeah, one of them is like, like, what’s in it for this lady? Like, I don’t know, if you want to like out her specifically or whatever. But like, it’s international solidarity? Is it like…
I couldn’t tell.
Is it just like, we don’t want Ukraine to fall because then we think we’re next? Is it just the same reason you’re there, we just got to fucking help each other? Like, what’s going on?
So, everything I gathered from talking with this person was that she just like, thought what was going on was super fucked up was like, disgusted that like civilians, were paying such a high price for the actions of, you know, a fascist imperialist government’s need to try for a land grab and was just like, honestly disgusted about how little the rest of the world seemed to care about these people who, like, were fucking starving to death and are still starving to death and like fucking living in occupied villages that change hands every couple of weeks, and like, can’t get anything because NGOs won’t go there. Because Red Cross thinks is too dangerous or whatever. Yeah, I mean, it is but like, that’s your fucking job. Like, that’s what you should be doing. And it like, came down to like, hundreds and or thousands of like, solo operators who have like these little groups, there’s a bunch of us, like, but it’s like, hard to…It’s hard to say what her end game was. Like, she had a bunch of fucking dudes who, I don’t speak Ukrainian or Polish, but there’s some words that are the same, you know? And I mean, like, we’d be driving and the radio chatter would be all Polish. And I’d hear like “Americanski,”” and then, “Blah, blah, blah,” and then nothing for a minute. And then you’d hear like, “Blah, blah, blah, Pistoleta, blah, blah, blah.” And I’m like, what do they got in their van? You know what I mean? But I’m not asking, you know. The most I ever asked was like, the lead dude who took us on the convoys just seemed like he knew his way around a warzone, knew his way, you know, bunch of those motherfuckers were into Brazilian jujitsu. And that’s where we like, connected a lot, because that’s something I’m into, and they all knew how to handle themselves. They all seem like ex military or something. And one day, I was just like, I was like, “Hey, dude, like, are you ex… It’s like, don’t answer mean if you don’t want to, but like, are you ex military or like current military or something?” And he says, “Kind of.” and then walked away. And I was like, “Okay, that’s enough.” You know what I mean? So like, I don’t know what their motivations were. They were like, super not into Russia, I can say that. It like, a little uncomfortable for me because like… and especially the closer you get to the border of the Russia, the more you start hearing terms like ‘orc,’ and like, stuff like that, as opposed to ‘Russian.’ I don’t know, they had seen more shit than me at that point, had really strong opinions and like, as much as I could tell, they just wanted to, you know, kind of ease some of the suffering that normal everyday people were going through because of the conflict.
Yeah. Okay. So that brings it back to like, you know, you mentioned that you, you headed out there hoping to specifically work delivering aid to the anti authoritarian units and stuff. Is that work that you got to continue to do or like?
in some ways. So, just to clarify, I originally went out to fight in an anti authoritarian unit made up of English speaking foreigners. That was my my first goal. I had issues with getting my passport in a timely manner. And then there was this like, horrible incident where the unit that had accepted me, they knew when I was coming, they had someone picking me up to bring them to the base and get me situated and fucking geared up. But they’re like, “You need body armor. You need a ballistic helmet. You need your own IFAK. You need like, your own fucking compass, you know, basically full kit was needed to be provided by me, because all they were going to….they’re going to stick me on a mortar team and I was going to be like, stuck with that mortar team with whatever I brought, or essentially, and then, on my way over there, something happened where the platoon leader was found dead on base. They got assigned a new Platoon leader. This dude was like, “You guys can still fly you’re anti anti authoritarian and anarchists flags as a unit, but we’re not taking in any more foreigners. And that’s that.” So while I was on my way there, I was told, you know, “No go on the, on the infantry unit. Blah, blah, blah.” So I just like, didn’t know what to do. I had like $5,000 worth of tourniquets, and quit clot and fucking chest seals. You know, I had I had ballistic helmets, I had a level four ceramic plates with me. I had more shit than I could carry. I looked like an asshole coming from the Warsaw airport to my hostel, you know. And then I couldn’t leave my hostel for like, a week and a half, because I had like, all this gear in there that wouldn’t fit in my tiny little safe and like, everyone was like, “What the fuck are you doing with all this shit? And like, why are you here?” And I didn’t want to say anything. So I just like seemed sketchy. And then I eventually found a group that was working directly with anarchists fighters at the front. And I was like, “Hey, I brought all this medical supplies. It’s basically only heavy bleed stop supplies to treat gunshots and amputations and things of this nature. Do you want it? Like, how do I get it to you?” And they’re like, “Yes, totally. One of our people, we’ll get with you soon,” you know. And this is when I started my waiting game in the hostel trying to like, not leave my shit for too long. And be there waiting for the call. And like a week and a half went by before I got any kind of information. And honestly, I was like, kind of bummed out. This group seemed like they knew what they were doing. Their social media presence was like on point. They were like, just vague enough to like, promote their cause, but like, not giving too much information out. You know, they’re just like, whatever. So, I was like, I’ll deal with these guys. Fine. I’ll give them this medical equipment. And then they just like, totally dropped the ball. And like, they kept saying, someone’s going to call me. Every day I texted them. I’m like, I’m sitting on all this crap, I need to get rid of it and be on my way and try and find another way to like, do what I’m trying to do. And it just kept going on. And then, you know, a week and a half. I’d never left the country before I left for this. And I speak no other languages. I’m like super neurodivergent, have like really high anxiety and was just in this foreign city where I didn’t understand anything. And just like, every day felt like a week. You know, I was just waiting for my phone to ring and then I could hand the shit off. And like, I had a couple of leads on folks who were like, “Yeah, when you’re done doing your thing, like, give us a call and we’ll set you up doing some aid work.” So I was just waiting and waiting. And then they finally called me. They’re like, “Go meet this person at this address. And they’ll take all your shit from you.” And I was like, “Okay, great.” So, I take a fucking cab like across Warsaw, I ended up at this place. I eventually find out it’s like, basically like a methadone clinic for like houseless people. I was like, oh cool, whowhoever’s doing this also works doing this kind of work you know, but then I just look like a sketch ball, sitting outside of this place with like three fucking duffel bags, waiting for….
Yeah, I have no idea who’s coming to meet me. Every person that walked by I’m like, “Are you them?” You know like, yeah, I don’t know shit. I’m there. Like the time they’re supposed to meet me goes by. I got there like half an hour early because I just wanted to not fuck this up. And then like the time they’re supposed to meet me comes and goes and then it’s like an hour later. And I call my dudes and I’m like, “Hey, your person’s not here yet.” They’re like, “They’re on their way.” and then they hang up and I’m like, okay, like literally like four hours goes by of me doing this. Like I’m just like, whatever I’m so bummed and then this like, door flies open to this place and this little person comes out and they’re like, “Hey, are you Agatha?” And I was like, “Yeah,” and they’re like, “Alright, I’m gonna take this shit. Like thanks a bunch.” and then like, drags in three duffel bags really quick and slams the door shut and I’m like, fuck like they knew my name, but like I’m pretty sure that was who I was supposed to give this to you know, and then I go back to my hostel and then like whatever. So like, it was like super disheartening to be told I couldn’t be in this fighting unit, and then like it was super disheartening to have trouble handing the shit off, but like, in the end, it was probably the best thing that could happen to me, because like, after being there for a while, I was like fuck, “I don’t know if I could have been of service in a unit where I have no military training,” like, you know, I probably would have been a liability more than anything. So like, Thank God that happened. And then I got hooked up with these people who like, it was like perfect for me. You know, I just drive for 30 hours and then like that was fine with me you know? Like I traveled the country a million times as like a dumb useless punk. Like this was like the same shit, just like felt better because I was like helping people you know what I mean?
Thousands of dollars of gear.
For everyone that’s listening. That’s how we that’s how we know each other, is being dumb, useless punks traveling the country.
So, I just applied whatI knew about like traveling and being comfortable being uncomfortable with like, doing shit and it was like a perfect fit. So, I originally went over to do that. Yeah. And then it switched to this. And then I was only there for like six more weeks. But, I did a bunch of shit while I was there. And, you know, I will probably get into it later. But, I needed to do like a lot of trauma therapy once I got back and like, it’s been a year and I just felt comfortable enough to buy another plane ticket there and I’m on my way back. But this time, I don’t have to figure anything out. I already have a crew. We have a fleet of nine vehicles. We have deliveries lined up for fucking months. So it’s like, I can just jump right back in you know, and like, it’s just nice when you like hand a bunch of fucking hungry people food or you know, yeah, like. And that’s the thing that struck me most is I went out there as an anarchist and then while I was there, I kind of just turned into like a humanist. I was like, you know, I just didn’t give a fuck who I was working with anymore. I was like, “Oh, you’re hungry and you need food. I’m gonna bring it to you,” and it didn’t matter to me anymore who was picking it up. You know, I even worked with some known fascist units who supposedly kicked all the Neo Nazis out, and anti Semites got kicked out, but they still have unscrupulous pasts as like street gangs and stuff, but like, you know, I was bringing them stuff to like, keep people alive. I didn’t. I just stopped caring, you know, about political affiliation and shit.
No, it makes sense to me though, like, because one of the things that has been so interesting to me about like studying disaster stuff and disaster responses, right, are these like, you know, there’s this moment that I wasn’t there for but sticks in one of my head, my head is that one of my best friends. I’ve probably mentioned this on the show before, but one of my best friends is this, you know, crusty traveling punk kid who went to go do flood relief in a place that you could normally drive into, but could only be flown into. And the people who were flying in, were all of these people with like, tiny airplanes, which means rich libertarians. And you know, and so my friend is like talking about being like, and you know, and they’re nervous person, and they’re in this tiny airplane driving and like flying into a storm with this, like, random libertarian guy, right? And it’s just like, and they were fine. And they landed and they delivered supplies and they got food out and got stuff out to people who needed it who were trapped and hungry. And I think that’s what’s so interesting about disaster, whether it’s, quote unquote natural, like the accelerating climate disasters, or, you know, the invasion of an imperialist power into your country is just this like….like the goal isn’t to help anarchists. The goal is to help people who are being destroyed by an imperialist power. You know?
It’s interesting to me, because I do have I have a…like it’s like cool, right, supporting the anti authoritarian unit specifically. It’s cool and like anarchists organizing this is cool, but a lot of that is like…well, I’m excited that an anarchist is at least one of the drivers of this organization that you’re working for, you know. Like you. You know? What is it? What is it like interacting as an anti authoritarian person within this like…you know, yeah, you have this like, rich industrialist lady who’s just like, pouring everything and all kinds of risk into just providing things for people and I presume you have this very…like is it this melting pot environment. Like, what is it like socially?
It’s fucked up, man. Like the guy I got stuck with like, when the group I started driving for wanting to vouch for me, they’re like, “We have a solo run. It’s like not very sketchy. We’re not going that far east. We’re just going like outside of Lviv. It’s like a fucking shit ton of sanitary products. And then like, you’re going to come back to Częstochowa and you’re going to fill up the van full of strollers and bring it to this orphanage that’s only run for orphans that were victims of losing their parents in fucking Bucha you know.
Well, it better be anarchists babies, because otherwise they don’t deserve strollers.
Yeah. But, the fucking guy picks me up and he’s wearing a fucking Black Rifle Coffee Company t shirt.
And I was like, What the fuck is this? You know? And I was like, this sucks. And I was like, cuz I knew they weren’t going to be anarchists. But I was like, this dude is wearing just a straight up fascist companies t shirt.
Yeah, this dude wants to kill you in the United States.
Yeah, well, he’s from Canada. And that’s the thing, like, his view on it was like totally different. I was like, you know, after like, nine hours in the van and like 18 cups of coffee. I was like, “So what’s up with your shirt, dude?” And he’s like, “Well, I just really like their coffee. And like, they have pictures of guns on their shit. It’s like good advertising.” I was like, “You know those are the assholes who like bailed out Kyle Rittenhouse, right?” and he’s like, “Who the fuck is Kyle Rittenhouse.” and I’m just like Jesus Christ. And, it was just like, super fucked up and like, we had like really long conversations about what like being an anarchist means to me. And you know, the more we talked, the more I realized our like end goal was exactly the same. He was like, just a farm boy from from South Central fucking Canada who grew up on a fucking….what’s that stuff called? I don’t want to say the name of it cause I hate it. And there’s another name for it. He’s from a canola farm. And he joined the military when he was young. And he’s like….I’m a pretty tall person. I’m like 6’2″, and he’s like three inches taller than me, built like a brick shithouse.Just look like the dude you don’t want to run into as an anarchist in like a war zone wearing a fucking Black Rifle Coffee Company t shirt. But the more we talked, the more we were just like yeah, we just want to fucking help people. And like that’s it. Like, I just don’t care anymore. Like it basically came down to everyone in our group wanted to ease some suffering that was happening at the behest of like, fucked up agitators who were acting on like imperialist like logic, you know? And yeah, that’s basically what it all boiled down to. So, like I went there as an anarchist trying to support anarchist endeavors….and because they were helping just normal people, right? And and then it just turned out like, you know, circumstances change. They didn’t…like multiple groups didn’t want any more foreigners. You know, I was never given explanations as to why….Someone said it was because my social media presence was too hard about going to Ukraine, and they didn’t want people getting their spots blown up. But, I was like literally all I said is I’m going to Ukraine, bringing medical supplies to anarchists units. And if you want to donate, donate here. I gave zero information on what unit I was delivering to, where I was going, who my contacts were. It was like vague as possible to just get donations, so I could buy more tourniquets. That’s like all I was doing. That’s that’s the most explanation I got, which never added up.
They must have had their own shit going on. There must have been like something that had happened recently or like something within the internal structure where they were like trying to hold on to their anti authoritarian unit within an authoritarian structure, you know?
Exactly. And I later found out like, once I was back from a couple runs, and the unit that had originally accepted me, and said no more was like, “Hey, we got a guy coming to Warsaw and he wants to meet you.” And I was like, “Okay,” and it was just like the most giant man I’ve ever met and he was just like, decked out in like fucking workout gear and he’s like, “I’m coming from the gym and I only got an hour I’m going back to the gym. I’m with this unit. I’m on leave blah, blah, blah.” And I guess what it was was like, you know, it was other foreigners who were in the group who were posting shit online they shouldn’t have been, you know, and one example was, there was someone who posted a picture of themselves outside of a building being like “Training for the good fight,” or whatever. And whatever fucking Russian like ops that we’re monitoring social media saw a picture of the building, did a bunch of fucking research, found out where it was, what the building was, and fucking a missile strike happened and like 500 volunteers died or some shit.
It was like super fucked so like, I totally got it, but like, and I wasn’t gonna argue with them, you know what I mean? I was like okay, I’ll find something else to do, but like that’s not me. And that’s not what I’m doing, but like, whatever I’ll try and help out some other way. So, I think that’s the kind of shit that was happening that led to me not being invited into these like strictly anarchist groups, because I mean, you know, fucking anarchists. Everyone’s like security culture. Like the feds are like bugging my phone because they want to know what dumpsters I’m hitting or whatever. You know what I mean? It’s like…
Oh my god.
Only here, it’s like they’re actually throwing missiles at you.
Exactly. Exactly. So I was like, I get it but, like whatever, so I think that’s really what it was and like I couldn’t fault them for it. I was like whatever, but yeah, I’m just some like scumbag from America anyways. Like you don’t know me. Like you don’t know if you can trust me like. Sure, I have tattoos on my face, but like whatever. Like you know what I mean? Like yeah, so I got it but like, I don’t know. I’m kind of rambling at this point. I’m gonna let you direct the conversation a little more.
No, no, I’m really curious about all of this kind of stuff, like I’m very curious and I think the audience will be curious about….I mean, even down to like how do people take you as this tall, you know, person who presents somewhat masculine, but often has a non masculine name, has face tattoos, doesn’t have like, you know isn’t like mister Mr. heterosexual cis man, but also is like a tough as fuck looking, like face tattooed punk, right? Like, what do people make of you? Like how did that go?
It just depended, you know, some people were just like, “Who the fuck is this guy?” Like? Yeah, cuz I mean, I do have a lot of visible tattoos, but just to like, give it some context. Like my tattoos are like of puppies and like, I have a giant heart on my throat. You know what I mean? They’re not like tough guy tattoos. Aside, I have some air 15 magazines tattooed underneath a “Do not resuscitate,” tattoo on my chest. My chest looks like some pre-schooler went to prison and got tattooed or something. It’s like light hearted. There’s like skulls and puppies and yeah, rifle parts and like a ‘do not resuscitate,’ banner and like shit, but like, that’s not stuff people generally saw. But they’d see my heart tattoo on my throat and my shit on my face. And like my hands were all blacked out. And you know, people were either like…A good example is like, people either didn’t say anything, or they’d be like…like, one time we were in Kyiv we’re kicking this grifter who had gotten caught up in our shit out. We needed like five to six hundred litres of diesel that we had shoved in his van. We needed to get that out before we kicked him out. Because we knew he would just steal it from us. I mean, I found out the guy had gone through my phone when I was sleeping. There was like links to his aid organization to the like, PayPal link on my phone. Like my Safari was open. And it was like, please enter your Paypal password to donate to this group. And I was like, “Who the fuck is this group?” And then we realized it was this guy and we needed to kick his ass out. But like, whatever, we didn’t know where to kick him out. Like we didn’t know if he was gonna get violent with us. So we picked like a super populated spot and Kyiv which is where we were at the time. And we’re like, “Meet us here,” you know, “at this parking lot for this fucking train station.” But the parking lot was closed. And, it was like, all the spaces were empty, but we couldn’t get in, and there was this like drunk ass dude wearing a body camera in this little booth. And he was like….we just went up and we’re like, “Hey, are you the one watching this parking lot right now?” And our interpreter could not understand a fucking word this guy was saying. He was so drunk. And it’s like the farther east you go like, the more the dialects change, so like our interpreter was 18 years old from from Lviv. He had never been this far east, you know, which Kyiv isn’t even that far. But like, you know, if you’ve never been to Kyiv really and you get there and then there’s people from the opposite end of the country who you know, I mean, it’s just like, there’s a big disconnect with with local dialects. He could only you know, figure some shit out. And we eventually paid the guy like a bunch of grivna not to fucking, just do this deal real quick. We’re like, “Hey, we’ll give you this wad of cash. Just let us park here for like 20 minutes, this guy is going to meet us. We’re going to move a bunch of shit around from Van to van, and then we’ll be out of your hair,” and he’s like, “Alright, fine.” But, he was like fucking hammered. And he would not leave us alone. And he was like, uncomfortable drunk where he was like in our faces, like breathing on us, asking us questions. And our interpreter was trying their best to like, fucking answer. And then it just got hot during the day, and I went to take my shirt off, and all my tattoos are black line work. They look like fucking prison tattoos. And this guy, I see him catch my eye as my shirts about to go over my head for a second. And I pulled my T shirt down real quick. And he’s like, “Ah, prison.” And I was like, “No, no, no, no, not prison,” and he’s like, “Prison.” And I was like, “No, it’s not prison,” and the guy just wouldn’t shut up about it. He just kept saying “prison” to me and like, give me the ‘okay’ sign with his hand. And I’m like, “No, dude,” you know? So, it’s like, it was like, stuff like that. And then other people just being like, “You’re a fucking freak American? Are they all like you”, kinda shit. it was just like, I don’t know, it was super weird. I got some shit for it. But like, most people, like I would talk to them for five minutes. And they’d be like, “Oh, you’re just a person who wants to like, do shit.” You know what I mean? But then, the more I got into this shit, and the more I was like, getting deeper into the east of the country, like, it got like, less and less about personal identity and what you what you were presenting to the world, right? Like I am an assigned male at birth guy who’s six foot two inces and like, I have tattoos everywhere. And I carry myself like, like, really confidently, because I’m a martial artist, and blah, blah, blah. I’m just like…and I don’t take shit from people like…It just was like a little easier for me to get by. But like, I was with this really well known fascist unit, who was giving personal protection to this trans woman, who was in the east of the country and had been there for months. Like she had gotten fired from her news organization because she started using the term ‘Orc’ in her in her pieces, and they’re like, “You’re no longer unbiased.” And she and she was like, “You can’t be unbiased. If you’ve been out here,” like, “These Russian soldiers are fucking pigs. Like, they’re like, they’re raping people. They’re killing children. They’re doing all sorts of shit. They’re bombing schools. They’re bombing hospitals, like, and all these people could just shoot their officers and come across the line with a white flag. And the Ukrainians would treat them fine, right? Like yeah, but they’re not doing that they’re doing what they’re told. And they’re being complicit in these atrocities, blah, blah, blah.” So she was like just going around doing all these pieces and her personal protection unit was all these supposed fucking homophobic, you know, fascist pieces of shit and granted, I never got drunk with these guys. I didn’t have beers with them. I don’t know what they really think but, they thought what she was doing was important enough to like give her a pass, you know what I mean? And like protect her, and get her to these like places to interview these people. And that’s the kind of like, shit I mostly ran into, was like, you know, you don’t have to agree with me right now, but we have a goal in mind. And once the Russians are gone, fuck it. We’ll figure out our differences later, but like right now, like were chill, and I got like pretty hopeful about it till I met this like, platoon leader in an infantry territorial defense unit who, after…we were bombed at one point our fucking vans got destroyed, and we were looking for a mechanic to fix our shit, so we could get out of the east of the country. And this dude who spoke perfect English came up to us and was like, “What are you doing? What are y’all doing?” We told them what was up and he was like, “I’ll try and find a mechanic. I got a mechanic buddy, like right around the corner, blah, blah, blah.” And then while we were waiting for a callback, me and him just like got some coffees and like, talked for a while it turns out, he’s like, uh, you know, he was a fucking, like, a human rights activist who was a lawyer forever, and like, graduated college in ’92, and started his own organization to help like, LGBTQ refugees from like Belarus and shit, you know? And I mean, he was like, super fucking cool. Yeah. And the guy just eventually was like, “Yeah, I went to school at a military accredited college. So when I joined the territorial defense units, they’re like, “You’re an officer. You’re, you’re in control of a whole platoon,”” and he like, tried so hard to convince them that he was not their guy.
That he has the wrong platoon.
Yeah, he’s like, “No, dude, I don’t know how to fight blah, blah, blah. These are all like seasoned infantry men that I’m supposed to be….” So he’s like, “I just fucking started listening to the most experienced dudes in my company and like, like, let them decide basically,” and then, but like I got talking to him, I was like, yeah. You know, I introduced myself to him as my birth name. And he’s like, yeah, you know? And then we started talking and it became apparent that he was not straight and all this other shit. And I was like, “Yeah, like, we’ve been working with this one group,” and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, they’re bad news, you know?” And I was like, “Are they, though? Because like, they’ve shown me to be like, pretty decent to like, a lot of marginalized folks. As far as I can tell. I don’t know.” Yeah. And I was like, “I go by Agatha in the states and like, my crew calls me Agatha. But like, I do feel scared enough to not introduce myself as Agatha to the people in this unit, because they’re, they’re staunchly fascist, right? Like, you know, they, they’re not into it.” and they’re like quick like without missing a beat they’re like, “Oh, yeah, no, do not introduce yourself to these motherfuckers as Agatha. They’re like, they did get rid of a lot of antisemites, they did get rid of a lot of overt racists, but there’s like homophobia is still a huge problem in the Ukrainian military and population in general. It’s very conservative. And so like, he like really opened my eyes that like, I was like, “Yeah, we’re all in this together. Like, who gives a fuck your political affiliations? You know?” And then he was quickly like, “Yeah. No, people still disappear all the time during wartime. You know what I mean? Like, yeah, watch your fucking ass and like, keep doing what you’re doing. But like, don’t get too comfortable with these people.” And it was just like….It was hard because like, I fucking was just feeling good about, working with people of different ideological backgrounds. And it felt good to just feed people and have this shared goal. And then just to be like, brutally reminded that, like, that’s not actually the case. And it could get backwards really quick. You know what I mean? If I like yeah, said the wrong thing to the wrong person. Like, I have like an antifascist action pin on my hat. It’s just like, you know, the little two black flags. It says “Anti-fascist action.” He’s like, he’s like, “I wouldn’t wear that, you know, I just wouldn’t. you know, and I was like, “Okay.” I listened to the guy, you know, he’s fucking awesome. And I like, kept in touch with the dude through Telegram, and it was fucking on and then he got captured by the Russians, and he’s still in captivity, and like, they’re trying to act like he’s a super Neo Nazi, because, like, that’s what they do to human rights…and you know, people who are obviously leftist who get who get taken prisoner. But, you know, he’s facing fucking 12 years in prison in the Donbas now, you know, and I’m just hoping, because he’s an officer, they’re going to do a prisoner swap, you know, but they’re like not into it. And I, you know, if I had weird questions, I’d ask them, and then they’d always give me like, a nice response. And, you know, didn’t treat me like an idiot American. They’re like, yeah, “You just don’t know the culture, blah, blah, blah.” So, now what?
Yeah, that’s, that’s a really good…it’s a sad, but it’s an important counterpoint in this conversation we’re having is to realize that like some of the civility between these units is probably short term, probably a veneer, and like, probably necessary veneer to drive out the invading force, but it makes sense to not to get too comfortable with it. And that’s sad, but it’s interesting because it’s like, I hold, perhaps naively, that a lot of center Right, people really are distinct from far Right people, and like, have, you know, some really good ideas in terms of “Hey, what if we all left each other alone and sometimes took care of each other?” And it’s like, easy for me to say as like someone who lives in a rural center Right area, but not a far Right area. And that’s an important difference, you know?
Yeah, but I think that’s like a pretty fair assessment too, of people out there. It’s just it doesn’t…you just can’t count on that for long because even though like you could be a center Right, dude, and then you spend nine months in a fucking infantry unit full of fucking mutant goons who are espousing all this hate and it’s easy to go from center Right to far Right, you know?
Yep. Yeah, no, totally. And it’s…Yeah, fuck. Well, to go from that light subject to another really light subject. You mentioned that you were attacked, your caravan was attacked.
Do you want to talk about that? Do you want to say what happened? Is that right?
Sure. It’s hard for me to just like, do it kind of like, you know, like, give you the synopsis. Like I kind of rant about it when I start going into details, because I start going into like lizard brain thinking about how I felt while I was there. So, with the caveat that like I want you to like be like, “rein it in,” if you’re like…if I’m given too many details, or if I’m going off on a fucking rant or whatever. Basically, we had done….we had been driving for like 48 hours on and off. We left Krakow. We got to Lviv. We dropped a bunch of shit. Picked up a bunch of shit. Got to Kyiv, dropped off a bunch of shit, picked up a bunch of shit, and this all started like insane. I was at the fucking ladies warehouse, loaded up like usual. And that grifter dude we were working with….so his thing was, he was working with the….What the fuck is their name? Not the Rotary Club. They’re like something like that. The Lion something? Do you know what I’m talking about?
Yes, one of those like weird things. It’s like not the Masons, but it’s basically the Masons.
Yeah, t’s not the Masons, but it’s kind of like the Masons, and they do like whatever…..So, he, I don’t know how he fucking did it got a bunch of funding for them, bought like two brand new vans and was out there, under the auspice that he was working for them. But he had all these weird things he was doing that he wouldn’t share too much information on. And he had a Land Rover and it was one of those fucking British Land Rovers with a steering wheel on the wrong side, or the other side, not the wrong side.
When we’re British people, we can say the wrong side. That’s fine.
So, we’re loading up all the shit. I’m waiting for the rest of my crew to get there. We got there a couple hours early. We get all loaded up. And I’m like, “Hey, person who runs the shit, like, what can I do to be of help while I wait for other people? Do you have shit that needs to get like moved around in the warehouse? You know, like, what do you need for me? She’s like, “I need you to get this fucking guy off my back. He won’t leave me alone. He wants to leave right now. And I told me, he’s got to wait till the rest of the convoy gets here so you all get to the border crossing at the same time when you’re supposed to. And you can give this paperwork to the guy who needs it.” And I was like, “Okay.” So the guy won’t shut up. Eventually, they get in a huge fight. He says, “We’re leaving,” and looks at me. And I was like, “What?” and the lady’s like, “Alright, good luck crossing the border,” you know. And he’s got his own van and he’s like, “You’re gonna drive this Land Rover full of shit by yourself. And you’re just gonna follow me to Kyiv where we drop this off to a unit of American volunteers who are all ex military. And they’re working on their own outside of the Ukrainian military. And they need a four by four vehicle to get in and out of like weird spots.” And I was like, “Okay, fine.” And then. So, I call the main planner of my group and I’m like, “Yo, dude is trying to be sketchy. He got in a fight with Lady. They’re at each other’s throats. He just wants us to leave. She wants us to get the fuck out of there just so she doesn’t have to deal with like, this, like sketchy male bodied person yelling at her. She just doesn’t need this, you know?” And he’s just like, “I’m so sorry to do this to you. But like, just go with him. Just like get out of there with him, like, help him out. We need his van space once we hit Kyiv because we have more supplies than we can bring to Kharkiv in the space we have. So, I was like, “Okay, fine, whatever.” And this guy like we eventually….She looks at me, she gives me a big hug. And she says, “I’m so sorry about this.” And I was like, “Sorry, about what?” And then she looks at the guy and she’s like, “Have fun crossing the border,” and handed him a thing of papers and like was like, “See you guys.” And then she’s just like, “Please stay safe, Agatha.” And I was like, “Okay.” And and then I was like, I don’t know what’s going on. This dude throws a radio on my lap. I had never used a fucking CB radio at this point in my life. And he’s just like, he’s like “Try to keep up.” And then he like fucking takes off on me. And I was like, What the fuck, and I’m like, racing to keep up with him. But, he’s passing all the semis on the highway and I’m driving a right handed vehicle. I have to get all the way in the other lane to see if there’s oncoming traffic, which is sketchy as fuck. I have never driven one of these things. It’s still like normal driving lanes, you know what I mean? It’s just a different driving side on the car. And it just was like the most stressful thing that’s ever happened to me. For four hours trying to keep up with this guy. And then we finally get to the Ukrainian border. We’re well outside that window of time she told us to get there. And he’s like, “Don’t worry, let’s skip the line. Let’s drive on the outside of the line in this like break down lane and get up to the gate and I’ll get us through.” And I was like, “I don’t think that’s gonna work, bro.” And he’s like, “Whatever.” We get all the way up there. I’m still sitting in the car. I see him arguing with the border guard. The border guard’s just pointing to the back of the line and then I’m like, “Fuck,” and then eventually he’s like, “Oh, we gotta try again blah blah blah.” And he like turns around and we go…we do this like three times. He argues with three different border guards. And eventually we just have to sit in line for like eight fucking hours like Lady told us we were gonna have to do if we didn’t fucking wait and he’s all griping about it and blah blah. Yeah. And I’m just like I want to be like, “I fucking told you so.” I don’t like this guy already. He’s like, super macho, has no regard for other people’s emotional like capacity for anything and it’s just about him and blah blah blah and he’s got to get this vehicle to this unit or they’re fucked and blah blah blah. We finally get through. He does the same shit, and I don’t know if you know anything about Ukrainian roads, but they are that was fucked up roads I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, before the war. Like there’s just like…they are fucked up. It’s like the main highways are just packed with potholes that like, are just so devastating when you hit them. You’re like, Oh my God, and like, he’s just flying down this highway and like, he’s like, “Keep up,” like I keep hearing in the radio get more and more staticky. He’s like, “I can’t see you back behind me. Like keep up. Blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “Dude, you’re going too fast. Blah, blah, blah. We do this for a whole day. And we get to Lviv and then whatever….I missed a detail. It wasn’t Kyiv we were going to deliver this vehicle to. It was Lyviv, which is much closer to the border. We get we get to Lviv, and he’s like, “We gotta meet this fucking dude, and hand off this fucking vehicle. And I was like, “Okay, fine, whatever.” We finally get to this gas station. And there’s these two dudes dressed in fatigues with their weapons out, like totally out of place, and they’re holding gas cans. And he’s like, “There’s my dudes.” And I was like, “Okay.”
From the Lions Club or whatever?
Yeah, yeah. Well, no. He didn’t tell me how he knew these guys. He alluded to the fact that he was in Afghanistan for a while working with Blackwater motherfuckers doing the same shit, but just equipping Blackwater units like not other stuff. So, I was like, alright, this dude’s got sketchy friends. Whatever. Turns out this dude doesn’t know the fighter at all. They met through the internet. He’s not donating this vehicle. He’s selling it to them and then fucking dudes like all sketched out because he looks at this Land Rover and is like, “So, this thing’s good to go. It’s all like mechanically sound?” And dudes like “Yeah, it’s good. I had a mechanic look at it and everything in Poland blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “Yo,” I could not shut up. I was like, “Yo, I drove this thing from fucking Krakow and it is not sound. Like you at least need new tie rod ends.” Like I’m a proficient mechanic. “I was like, You need new tie rod ends and or like fucking drag link for your steering unit. And like, I don’t know if you’ve looked at the back hubs, but like, they are rusted to fuck, like, Good luck getting the rotors off of the hubcap kind of shit. You know what I mean?” And he’s like, “Well, what the fuck, I can’t use this dude, we already paid you. I told you this was to get infantry units into hot zones, to do some sketchy shit. And to get out. Like, you told me this thing was going to be mechanically sound, and it just wasn’t and like, blah, blah, blah.” And I still had my whole kit from when I thought I was going to use my time there fighting. So, I feel bad for this guy. And I was like, “Hey, do you guys need any like, PPE or anything for one of your members of your unit? Like, he’s like, “Yeah, the Russians just overran our base. And we lost everything. Some of our dudes are wearing jeans and sneakers.” And I was like, “Okay, I got like, three sets of BDUs. I got a pair of combat boots. I got knee pads. I have a fucking thermal imaging camera. I have weapons sights. I have, like, you know, weapon attachments,” all this shit. And he’s like, “Oh, fucking A. Thank you so much.” And he’s like, you know, “Fuck this dude. I don’t know how I got mixed up.” I was like, “Whatever, just take all my shit. And we’re gonna get out of your hair. I’m so sorry this happened. Yeah, blah, blah, blah.” We get to Kyiv. We kick them out like I told you we did with a drunk dude. And then. And then like, another day later, we finally ended up in Kharkiv. We get rid of all our shit.
Okay, how much of this is lizard brain? I’m just…
A bunch. But I’m I’m at the point now it’s starting to matter.
I appreciate that you’re telling like a hitchhiking story. So it’s like, it’s very relatable to me. Yeah, please continue. Sorry.
So, we’re in Kharkiv. We’ve given up all our shit. We’ve re-supplied and done that shit like four times. We have one more delivery to do. And then we’re going to head back to Poland. And….
Wait, who you with at this point? This is the rest of…The rest of your crew has caught up with you at this point?
Yes, yes. The rest of the crew has caught up. They caught up with us after we handed off that vehicle to the unit. And they caught up with us in Kyiv. We did a bunch of drop offs. We did a bunch of pickups and then we all drove as a unit after we kick that dude out to Kharkiv, which is, I don’t know. It’s like 20 miles from the Russian border or something like that. I could be wrong. It’s not far. I mean, while we were there, you could hear artillery going off in the background. Yeah. You know, whatever. So we have 75 IFAKs to deliver to this one particular unit who, we had another wealthy benefactor, those two were in contact, the unit and this wealthy benefactor, this wealthy benefactor said “I know these people who will deliver it to you,” and that was us. So, we have 75 IFAKs. I don’t know if you know what an IFAK is.
Yeah. Individual first aid kit. It’s a trauma kit for gunshot wounds, for anyone who’s listening.
Yeah, it’s got a tourniquet. It’s got some quick clot. It’s got a chest seal. It’s got like a aluminum brace, it’s got all the shit you need to like, stop some bleeding for 20 minutes to hopefully get them to like a more well equipped place but…
They save a hell of a lot of lives.
They save so many lives and they’re so important and like…So, we were delivering 75 of those. We’re meeting this unit at this restaurant. It’s one of the only restaurants open in in Kharkiv that we can find. There’s like three Ukrainian families eating there. And we just start hearing artillery getting closer and closer to us. And we’re like, “Fuck, this is getting scary.” Like, we start feeling it in the table. Our glasses start shaking. And my friend with the Black Rifle Coffee shirt, he’s like, “Fuck, they’re bracketing us.” And I was like, “What is that?” And he’s like, “It’s when you have a, you know, an end goal in mind of where you want to hit. And then you like launch a round of munitions. And through whatever means whether it be like drones or whatever you see where it hits you readjust your calibration on your aiming device, you launch another round. It gets closer and then you’re getting closer to your target, right? Yes, I think they’re bracketing us.” The shit is getting closer and closer, because we’re at the base of the Soviet monument. And it’s like a 100 foot tall statue of a Ukrainian dude wearing like Russian combat gear from World War II and it’s like, supposed to be a Soviet monument to people who lost their lives fighting the Nazis in World War II, but someone had climbed all the way up there and taped a huge Ukrainian flag to their to their gun and it was like…it just seemed like that’s what they had to have been aiming for because it was like a big “Fuck you,” to Russia, you know what I mean? And yeah, so we’re like okay, and you know, we’re trying to get our social media presence up so we can get more donation so we ended up with this fucking Tik Tok’er with 2 million followers with us. And he doesn’t want anything to do with us most of the time. So, he got an Airbnb. We’re getting bracketed. We’re waiting for the….
This sounds like a movie. You’ve got a Tik Tok guy with 2 million followers….
It’s insane. It was fuckinginsane and we’re waiting for this military unit to come pick up the 75 IFAKs. We have our food boxed up. We’re like as soon as we give these dudes this shit we’re out of here. We’re leaving Kharkiv. And then someone’s like, my buddy, who’s the main planner is like, “Yo, y’all need to go get dude, he’s at an Airbnb, like fucking 10 blocks away.” So, we’re like, okay, so me and Canadian infantry dude get in a van and we start like going like 110 kilometers through the middle of Kharkiv literally shit blowing up all around us. We’re trying to get to this fucking dude. And we finally get there. And we’re like, “Where are you?” on the phone? We’re like, “We’re down here. Get the fuck in the van.” He gets in the van. We throw him a fucking vest with like body armor and give him a helmet and we start racing back to the fucking restaurant and it’s just like…there are just like artillery munitions going off all around us. it was fucking terrifying. And then we finally get to the park where this monument is that and we have to park, walk through the park itself to get to the restaurant where all the rest of our crew is at, right? So, we park our last two vans we have in the convoy. Me and Tik Tok’er get out. Dude I’m with gets out. Se start walking across the park and I mean even with….like people are just used to artillery going off in the city right, so there’s like old people everywhere soaking up the sun on benches and shit like that and people just like ignoring it and then we get like about I don’t know 30 minutes or 30 meters into the park and then all of a sudden I hear this explosion really close behind me. I turned around I see all the glass in our vans get shot out all at once. And then something blew up like right next to me and I lost consciousness. I woke up on the ground. Tik Tok’er was confused and like we both didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t hear anything. All I heard was like the biggest like ringing in my ears I’ve ever heard. My chest hurt from the impact of like the sound wave hitting me.
Yeah, yeah, I couldn’t breathe. I was just like freaking out. I just started like grabbing my body armor and seeing if there was like blood anywhere. I was like whatever, and then I realized I’m okay and then I’m like, “Fuck all the windows of the the restaurant that my buds were in are blown out and it’s like fucking on fire. It was like….so I run over there. Buddy is trying to….military dudes trying to tell me to get back in the van. I was like “I’m not getting back in the van, like that things like destroyed and blah blah blah.” And so I just follow him and we both run in and he’s just like “Boys, boys, where are you?” and we hear them yelling from the kitchen and everyone that was in the the dining hall went to the kitchen and we’re hiding behind this like knee wall and the military unit we were supposed to give this shit to was there and I was like “Fucking great. Like, there’s someone who knows what they’re doing.” Yeah. And everyone’s like, “Are you okay? Are you okay? Like, what’s going on?” And Meantime, there’s still rounds hitting all over the fucking place. And he’s like…everyone’s like, “What do we do? What do we do?” And I was like, “Yo, we got 75 IFAKs in the van right now. And there are people like hanging out with like, missing limbs and like, screaming, bleeding everywhere outside, like, we need to get out and try and help people. And I tried talking to the medic who was with the unit that we were meeting up and he just like, didn’t understand me. The interpreter was having a hard time. They lost their shit, you know? Yeah, everyone’s freaking out. And like, I’m just trying to get these people to follow me. I was like, “Just come to the park. Like, we know how to put tourniquets on. We know how to pack wounds, like, please, like, let’s just do this.” And everyone’s like, I don’t know.” A few of the people in my crew were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And then the people of this unit, like pissed me off, they’re like, “No, we should just hang out here till the artillery barrage stops.” And I was just like, “Fuck you. I’m going.” And then like me and four people went out. We ran to the vans, we fucking grabbed all these IFAKs and then we just like, dumped them on the ground and started ripping out tourniquets. And then we split off into different little teams and just started fucking tourniqueting people who were bleeding everywhere, like this one dude was like missing limbs and was just like screaming. It was like the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced. He ended up fucking dying. Like, it was just like, so nuts. And that went on for like, 25 minutes, 30 minutes. And, um, and my personal IFAK that I wore on my chest rig was like, that was the first one I ripped off, you know, and yeah, tourniqueted at this lady was bleeding heavily from her inner thigh and I was scared it was like a femoral artery or something. And, after like, 30 minutes, this ambulance shows up. And they’re just creeping by the park. They’re not stopping. And I was like, “Fuck,” and I like, stopped what I was doing because I had treated everyone I could find at this point. And I was like, in like, crazy mode. I was like hiding under a tree that would provide me no protection from an artillery round, but I was like, freaking out and then I saw them ran up. I was like, “Yo, you guys gotta get out of here. There’s people bleeding all over the place. Blah, blah, blah.” And then the military dude, I realized the medic had never even opened his fucking med kit. He was just standing there with hi AK watching us like tourniquet up…watching us of civilians like tourniqueting up all these people, and then fucking whatever. They’re like, as soon as the EMTs arrived, they eventually get out. They start tending to the people, we had been triaging. And then the military dudes just like, “Alright, we gotta get out of here.” And we get in our vans. We realized neither of them start. There’s like shrapnel gone through the engine compartment. So you can see a huge hole, yeah, radiator, whatever. So we get into their one of their vans, and we’re following them, then their car dies, because their shit was parked right next to us. And then eventually we make it to this military mechanic. And then we’re just sitting there and we don’t know what to do. The military unit doesn’t know what to do with us because we’re kind of their responsibility now. And they’re like, “We have a safe house in Saltivka.” It’s one of the biggest like developments in Kharkiv. It was, you know, it kept getting made bigger and bigger by more successive leaders of the Soviet Union trying to make their mark and blah, blah, blah, but huge apartment complex. And they’re like, “You can hang out here till we fix your vehicles.” And then basically we just hung out in this like barren apartment, drinking and taking our medics Tramadol, and trying to like not think about anything, and like, had like a corner of the apartment where all our bloody clothes were stashed. And you know what I mean, we didn’t want to go near it. And we hung out for three days getting bombed until we got our shit fixed. And then, you know, it was another two weeks before we finally got out of the country because their shit kept breaking. We kept coming across fucked up situations, but, and that’s eventually why I left you know, like, I was super traumatized. I had never seen someone die before. I’d never seen these fucking kinds of wounds before. You know, I’d never heard anything so loud before. Even that was scary. You know what I mean? And I was just, like, useless. I was like, “Guys, you can’t rely on me anything right now.”
I mean, you weren’t useless.
Well, yeah, I mean, I was like, “You guys can’t rely on me for anything. I can’t drive. I can’t like, go get snacks.” You know what I mean? I was like, in the back of the van just like crying. I was like, I didn’t know how to process what had just happened. And and as soon as we got…two weeks later, as soon as we got to Krakow, I like use the last my money to buy a plane ticket home. And, you know, I started doing trauma therapy again, because like, I’ve done a lot of trauma therapy from like, childhood abuse stuff. And, you know, I was like telling my therapist, I was like, I fucked it up. I was so good with my PTSD. And now I redid it and they’re like, “No, this would be way worse if you never did all that trauma therapy for the other stuff. Like you’re good. Don’t worry about it.” So, it’s just been like a year of trying to like come to terms with all that shit. So, that’s the short and long of it. I’m sorry, I went lizard brain on you.
No, no, I mean, one. I hope it’s like useful for you to talk about and I hope it’s useful for people to hear.
It really is. it really is. And I don’t mean to interrupt you again. But like a good talking point to that is like, I have no one to talk to this about with like, yeah, other than the people I was there with because like, I don’t want to trauma dump on civilians and like, or people who haven’t been in, in these kinds of situations because like, the few times I’ve been like, people are like “You want to talk about it?” And I do this and I tell them and they’re like, “What the fuck?” You know what I mean? They’re fucked up from just hearing about it. I’m like, I didn’t want to do that to you. Yeah. And then like, the other option is like, I’ve tried finding like vet groups where like, it’s all combat vets who want to talk about shit. And I’m not invited there. You know, I’m a scummy anarchist, who was not in the military, but they’re like, the only kind of people I can kind of relate to or whatever, but so that that’s, that’s a big thing. So it is really helpful. And I appreciate you holding space for it. And like, yeah.
Yeah, you know, we’re…I feel sort of bad that this is kind of coming in at the end of our end of the episode, but um, do you think you could talk….Do you want to like….So like trauma therapy? Is that the answer to how to deal with this kind of stuff? Is trauma therapy? Is that the kind of?
For me. Yeah, I don’t know about other people. You know, I was just talking today on Signal with some folks who were there. I was like…they were like, “We’re so glad you’re coming back.” Well, because a bunch of them never stopped. You know, some of them military dude from Canada went right back home. A couple other people went right back home. Our interpreter ended up hitting anti tank mine in the Donbass like fucking three weeks later, and everyone in his crew died except for him. You know, like, other people did different things. But like a bunch of us kept doing what they were doing. And I was like, “Yeah, I’m really sorry, I needed to take so much time. I don’t know how you guys got over it so fast or dealt with it so fast.” And they’re like, “We didn’t. We just have different ways of dealing with it.” So like, for me, it’s trauma therapy. For other people, it’s different things, you know?
Yeah. Well, do you, like out of this are you hoping, you know, for people to support the work that you’re doing? Is there something…or whether it’s supporting you directly? Or are there other things that you would like to point people towards if people who want to support getting shit to where it needs to go in Ukraine?
I mean, honestly, like, I can be, like, selfish and be like, donate to our org and like….
I mean, you can if you want.
I know, but like, it’s just like, at this point, I’m like, if you wanted to help by now, you you probably would have. I don’t know. I’m like super….
No, don’t be cynical about it. Like what? There’s like someone who’s listening who probably gave some stuff at the beginning, or maybe their financial situation has changed since the last time that someone reminded them you know?
Exactly, I would say for anyone who wants to help and is like, not wanting to go there and physically help rebuild houses or like help at an orphanage and change diapers or like bring aid to someone or go fucking fight like whatever. If you can’t do that, I would pick an organization that is really transparent about what they do with their money. Talk to the people doing the actual runs, because in my experience, everyone’s more than welcome to tell you what they’re doing, what they’re spending money on, how they could use more money. Determine whether or not it’s like a good thing for you. Like if you want to focus on just you know, medical gear going to places who need it or food to like villages where it’s only the elderly left, who haven’t left, who can’t leave, you know, whatever, aligns with your specific worry about this conflict and donate some fucking money to him because like, you know, most of my friends ran out of their savings. They fucking used everything they had. They’re in debt now. Some of them just stay there because it’s cheap and they don’t have any more money and they can be of service there you know? So like, that’s what I would do. I raised like 5 or 6 thousand bucks my first trip and I totally exhausted all of my funding resources, so I have no more way to like get funding other than I’ve just been working on for like seven weeks straight.
Do you want the people who are listening to this to fund you is what I’m getting at?
Sure yeah, if you want me to drop my Pay Pal on my Venmo.
Absolutely, please do.
So my Venmo is @Eric-Woodbury-2. That’s my birth name. I don’t give a fuck I’m not….
Can you spell Woodburry? And Eric actually can you just spell that for people.
Capital E-r-i-c dash, capital W-o-o-d-b-u-r-y dash 2. And my picture on there is a picture of my ex holding my son. Yeah, and then my my Pay Pal is @firstname.lastname@example.org.It’s my mom’s maiden name. I’m Polish from the Ukrainian border. Live my heritage. So, I’ve just always embraced my mom’s maiden name, but that those are my things. I’m hesitant to give the name of the organization I worked with, because I haven’t talked to them. Any money you give to me will go right to them.
Yeah, I think people now believe you from….as you’re describing the amount of work that you have gone through to give people the things you bought.
Yeah, you know, I just always feel like a fucking beggar or something. You know what I mean?
No, I mean, I understand feeling that way. But no, like, don’t feel that way for at least in this context.
I’ve saved up like five or six grand working in the last two months. And I’m just using. I’m just paying my own way. And using that, so yeah. But I want to thank you for having me on and giving me space to like kind of rant about this stuff. I don’t talk about it a lot. And I would like for other people to, to, you know, be able to hear what’s going on and like know about some of these experiences people are going through and if anyone out there wants to reach out to me, my instagram is @Jalutkewics. My profile picture is a tooth with a giant hole out of it that someone ripped out of my face, because I have bad fucking teeth, because I grew up in fost care, about like, whatever I’m down to like talk about shit. If you want to talk more about like how you can help, I can give you some direction or whatever, or just to say hi, like,
Okay, well, thank you so much for coming on. And I I hope that we get to have you back on to talk more about the stuff that you’re working on in the near future.
Thanks, Magpie. And I really appreciate you know, you reach now with our history and stuff. I was a scumbag when I was younger to all the listeners and like not the coolest guy, but like I always had good good moral compass and blah, blah, blah. But what….
You were the first person who is visibly amab with a woman’s name that I hung out with.
That was really useful for me.
Oh, that’s great. I know. I’m surprised now like when I meet that, like, it’s still kind of rare. But I like you know, gender queer politics and like, I don’t ever identify as like a cis man, whatever. So it’s been great. Like reconnect. I’d love to come back on.
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