Ukrainians living under Russian occupation have found their lives and cities transformed overnight. In addition to continued war crimes, occupied cities see extreme shortages of supplies. The few shops still operating charge exuberant prices due to shortages, many Ukrainians have lost access to their bank accounts as Russians try to force citizens to switch to the Ruble for currency, and proud Ukrainians refuse to participate in Russian propaganda campaigns by accepting aid from the occupiers.
Volunteers do the dangerous work of delivering aid from Ukrainian cities to Russian occupied areas, in the cities where aid from Ukraine is still allowed. Even as they are allowed to pass military checkpoints with supplies, local authorities see such work as undermining the forced Russification of Ukraine, and volunteers face arrest or worse to keep doing what they do.
Volunteers Risk Their Life to Bring Aid to Kherson
Because of its strategic location near Crimea, Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian occupation and remains occupied to this day. An important port in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea, Kherson had a population of about 350,000 before the war. Today, over 60 percent of the residents are estimated to have fled the city.
It is difficult to overestimate the desperation that has gripped Kherson since the occupation on March 1. Hundreds of civilians have been killed. Survivors find themselves trapped. The city is cut off from supplies. The Ukrainian currency has been replaced with Russian ruble. The local post office was shut down, keeping residents from accessing their pensions. Many stores and pharmacies have closed and grocery shelves are empty. Residents have experienced looting, kidnapping, torture and rape under Russian occupation. Humanitarian assistance in the city is only allowed from the Russian military, and many people in Kherson refuse to accept it.
In the months since, local volunteers have played a vital role in helping those in most dire need. In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, volunteers also evacuate residents on their way back from Kherson to Zaporizhzhia. To do that, volunteers put their own lives on the line. A volunteer who helped evacuate more than 100 people was killed by a Russian sniper during an evacuation.