Cover Stories
17 August 2022
Cover Stories
17 August 2022


How we volunteer during the war. Stories of Opinov8rs.

February 24, 2022, is one of the darkest days for all Ukrainians and residents of Ukraine. The whole country woke up at 5 am from the deafening sounds of explosions, shootings, sirens, and calls from family and close ones. 

On this day, russia launched an unprovoked full-scale war against Ukraine and attacked from multiple directions after several weeks of building up troops on the country's border. Horrific russian atrocities continued for almost six months and caused immense grief and suffering to innocent civilians. 

But all this time, the Ukrainian people are continuing the heroic resistance and showing the world what incredible bravery is. The entire world is in awe of their resilience, strength, and compassion. Ukrainians have become the bravest nation in the world. Today all humanity knows that bravery is to be Ukrainian.

The war united Ukrainians and friends around the globe. Millions of people are helping whatever they can. Opinov8 and every team member, along with the Ukrainian people, are courageously standing for their freedom, fighting on battlefields, in cyberspace, supporting the Ukrainian army and civilians with finance, safe transfer, temporary places to stay, blood donation, medicine, food and other supplies for those who need it, and just helping each other hold on. 

Opinov8 is systematically involved in helping the army and the country. In addition, Opinov8rs develop their own volunteer initiatives. Since the 24th of February, they have been combining several jobs, expanding their regular work activities to help civilians and defenders of Ukraine. We have collected some of their inspiring stories. Every volunteer has an incredible story to tell. In this edition, we will share two stories about life during the war from our volunteers from abroad, who before the war were outside of Ukraine or left later during the first weeks of the war and volunteered from there.

Maksym, Head of Client Management at Opinov8

Tell us about your first day of the war. How did you meet the war?

It so happened that on the eve of February 24, my family and I went on vacation to Amsterdam. That early morning my father called me and told me all the horrific news. That day was tough, like for all Ukrainians, even though we were far from home. πŸ˜” 

We began to worry about all our relatives and friends who stayed at home. And started to think and plan how to get our parents out of Kyiv because no one knew what to expect and what could happen. But it was extremely difficult.

Sometimes it is hard to persuade Developers or Project Managers to do something, but it turns out that our parents are much more challenging.

On the first day of a full-scale war, we formed the Opinov8 Emergency Team, which included our team members who were permanently located and living in Europe. Since I also was in Europe at that time, I quickly joined them.

Part of the team was engaged in internal communication with our Opinov8rs to help them with information and everything possible that we could do. 

Together with our managers, I kept in touch with our clients, who also needed communication and clarification, as the situation was difficult and uncertain. They were also worried about our people and their teams and offered help and support. We are very grateful and appreciate it very much. 

How did you decide to help? What exactly do you do? 

Since we decided to stay with my family in Europe for a while, I started thinking about how I could be useful here and how I could help my country.

Opinov8 is inspired every day by Ukrainian, who demonstrate incredible strength and bravery. Discover some of our Ukrainian team members' inspiring stories, who develop their volunteer initiatives and help Ukraine in whatever they can.

I believe that no significant initiative can be done by one person. Significant initiatives within the company require the involvement of the whole company. Significant initiatives within the country require the involvement of the whole country.

I thought, what can I do well, what am I good at, and how can I help? I have a car, I am the champion of Ukraine in racing, so I know how to drive a car quickly and safely for a long distance. Also, my professional experience and my skills played an important role. I can negotiate, I can research, I can knock out discounts, and so on.

The volunteering chain is long and rapidly changing:

  • Find who to help
  • Find out what is in need
  • Find out how you can help 
  • Find suppliers
  • Find out where you can buy it
  • Find out how to deliver it
  • And most importantly β€” find the money for it

By not having a single piece of this chain, I realized that I needed to focus on one-three points to which I have the skill and ability because doing everything would have been extremely difficult and super ineffective.

It seemed quite logical to join existing charity funds with the established chains. I didn't have any direct or even indirect contacts with any, so started looking for charities and foundations to learn what they are doing and how they support Ukraine right now. After a couple of failed attempts to get a response through the social media account, through my acquaintances in the media, I found contacts of one of the largest non-governmental aid funds that help the Ukrainian military. 

My first contact was a PR manager to whom I explained how I could help, what resources I had, and invited to matchmaking against the needs of that moment. I received a huge list of needs, and everything was needed in large quantities.

Being very far from the military area, the top priorities on the list was basically a set of incomprehensible gadgets and strange new words at that time for me. πŸ™„ And absolutely no idea where and how to find this, especially given the urgency of the maters. Somewhere at the end of the list, I noticed the first familiar words, among others containing sleeping bags, sleeping pads, flashlights, phone chargers, etc. I thought that's what I probably could find! But again, I have been told that everything is needed in large quantities.

I had local connections with a company that was involved in the wholesale trade of non-food products. And they quickly offered some of the things that were on their list. And in very large quantities, like, thousands and tens of thousands for some items. Ok, the first two pieces in the chain.  

All this stuff needed to be delivered to the fund's warehouse in Poland, but my car was not big enough to fit thousands or even hundreds. While checking who would rent me a trailer for a reasonable amount and right to drive it cross-country, I saw guys under my house who just had a trailer that would suit me perfectly! I quickly ran up to them and started explaining the urgency of the matter and all the related details. As you can imagine, regardless of their sympathy for the situation, they didn't give their trailer to a stranger who appeared from nowhere. πŸ™ƒ 

Simultaneously, I was also thinking about renting a small bus/van or cooperating with someone who is already in the game. Sharing the question with friends gave quick results, and I've got contacts of a local volunteer who "has a minibus and does the volunteering".

I was and still am amazed how within just a couple of hours, I got an agreement and immediate willingness to help from her. Actually, there was an opportunity for me to drive that mini-bus with the humanitarian help to Poland and refugees back to the Netherlands. 

The story with the fund evolved a bit, and it appeared that thermal scopes, night vision devices, binoculars, and digital radios were in higher need, and budgets were to be prioritized for these over the simple things.

After the first cycle of purchases for the fund, the mutual trust was established, and we could extend the collaboration. At that moment, Motorola radios were very difficult to find because volunteers bought up almost everything from the online and offline shops. 

And after several failed attempts to find at least something on the stock in online stores, I thought, who better than Motorola knows where their radios could be found? 😏 And after they refused to provide me with insights on availability, I got the contact information of every official reseller in the Netherlands and started writing to everyone asking what they had. Some have ignored me, and some responded that there would be no stock at least until September, but several companies actually had so much-needed radios, and with a couple of them, we established long-lasting relationships and delivered many items already. ✊

That's how, little by little, we established the whole buying process with the right suppliers. As of now, I have been involved in buying hundreds and hundreds of radios, thermal and night vision devices, drones, and others.

Also, I regularly tried to help individuals with their needs, such as finding or buying some devices, body armor, or other stuff, and delivering them. But it appears to be much more difficult. Hopefully, with other volunteers here, we will soon establish regular car delivery, but that's only in the proof of concept stage now.

What is the biggest problem or challenge you have faced so far? 

It wasn't easy at first because you didn't know what to grab and where to start. Volunteering takes a lot of time. In addition to volunteering, I also continued to do my daily work in the company. But if you want to help β€” you should help.

Volunteering itself is very disorganized, no one knows what goes where. But I think that's how it should work. I have a metaphor that: 

Volunteers are like partisans. It is impossible to fight them down because no one knows who they are, what they are, and what they will be doing.

But everyone is united by a common goal and value, for which they all continue their work. I think that it's impressive. ✊

What were your best impressions/feelings of volunteering?

It's nice to know that you bring value and can be useful. It's nice to see when someone sends you pictures of things you helped them to find and buy.

Also, helping to transfer fleeing from the war people is definitely motivating. Of course, it really is difficult, and the long journey of 1500 km one way certainly tires everyone. πŸ™

But it was nice to see how people could catch their breath for a while and feel safe in a calm and peaceful place. It's especially great to see how the children reacted and how they started running and playing calmly again. I hope this calm and peace will be back to all our homes in Ukraine soon. πŸ™Œ

What are you going to do right after the victory?

Like everyone else, I hope our victory will come soon. We have a lot of work to do. We all need to rebuild our country and make it even greater! πŸ’ͺ

Together we are strong, and together we will definitely win! πŸ’™πŸ’›

Alevtina, Recruitment Consultant and Opinov8

Tell us about your volunteer activities. How did you volunteer before the full-scale war? 

I am the kind of person who can't stand aside when something terrible happens. My career has almost always crossed somehow with volunteering. But, I do not position myself as a volunteer. For me, volunteering is a big word. These are those who do it professionally and systematically, who have all logistics processes in place, have permanent donors, and so on. So, I just help professionals. πŸ™Œ

A long time ago, in my past life, before my career in IT, I was a journalist. I am from Donbas and worked extensively in that region. I worked for public television, later became a freelancer, and started working as a fixer from 2014 to 2018. The fixer is someone, often a local journalist, hired by a foreign correspondent or a media company to help them to collect information for the story. 

At the same time, I worked in various non-governmental organizations and helped children who lived in the front-line territory. I also took care of an orphanage in Kramatorsk because this is my hometown. There I became a temporary guardian of the girl who lived there. We are still very close.

Before the full-scale war, I continued to help other orphanages and support different volunteer initiatives connected with the war in Donbas. My husband is a soldier and fought in the ATO (Anti-terrorist Operation zone on Ukrainian territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions) from 2014 to 2019, so he knows exactly what is needed. It happened so that I started to help my husband, our friends, and their friends. 

Tell us about your first day of the war. How did you meet the war? 

My husband and I, like most Ukrainians, were not ready for this. It seemed like a crazy idea to us. We constantly discussed this situation before with our friends, and no one believed this could happen too. Therefore, we did not pack our stuff and did not stockpile food for an indefinite period, although I did have such thoughts just in case. 

I even begged my husband to fill up a full gas tank in the car, but we didn't, which he later regretted. But, my husband, due to his profession, is always collected, and all his military equipment is on high alert. 

We woke up at 5 o'clock in the morning from our friend's phone call. A bit later, we heard loud explosions in our Ivano-Frankivsk, as well as in all other cities of Ukraine. πŸ˜” After that, my husband joked and said:

Probably, our children will not go to school today.

My husband was supposed to go to his brigade, but since he could not refuel the car before, he spent almost a whole day in traffic jams at gas stations. It was quite complicated to catch up with them. So he stayed in Kyiv, where he joined the National Guard of Ukraine to defend Kyiv. Now he is in the east of Ukraine defending our country there. πŸ’ͺ

I stayed with the children and waited for my relatives from Kramatorsk. It was dangerous for them to stay there. Because after the recent years of events in Donbas, we knew that staying there was quite risky. My two sisters came to me first, then my parents and other relatives. I have a large family, and somehow, we all decided to go to Poland. To this day, I wonder if it was the right decision, but when you have children, elderly parents, and other relatives (there are 9 of us here now), you are already not only responsible for yourself.

I am very impressed by how united people all over the world, especially Poles, and how are helping Ukrainians. Particular gratitude to the big Mozdzierz family, who welcomed all my relatives and became our second family in such a tough time. I just do not have enough words to thank them. ❀️

A special thanks to our Opinov8rs, who extended a helping hand to me in many ways, with volunteers and me personally. I am very grateful to all our Opinov8rs who helped and continue to help. Thanks to our teammates' donations, we bought one of the most expensive purchases to this date - a DJI Mavic 3 drone and Kia car for my husband's unit! ✊

Special thanks to our Christian (Opinov8 Co-founder, Chief Technology & Operations Officer), who met us in Poland and helped us in every possible way. And also, my huge thanks to our incredible Christiana (Opinov8 Recruitment Lead), who helped to take my aunt and her child to the train station and later my grandmother in Kyiv during those first dark days.

I know we have such people at Opinov8 who are always ready to help. That is very valuable and incredible. πŸ’™

What exactly do you do now? Tell us more about your volunteer activities.

After the start of a full-scale war, I thought of helping as a fixer in my free time. Recently I have been helping one foreign group. They were looking for various war crimes of russians. We were in the Kyiv region (Bucha, Gostomel, and Borodyanka cities) and also traveled to Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia. 

They wanted to go further to the front line, but I refused because it was hazardous. Π‘urrently, the situation is so different and complicated, and it is not at all like it was in Donbas. So, foreign journalists are often refused right now because none of the locals want to mess with that, as it is very dangerous. 

I also helped to find the victims of the Kramatorsk railway station attack. The strike killed 59 civilians (including 7 children) and wounded more than 110 on 8 April 2022. It is a very painful incident. This happened as the crowds were "waiting for the first train" to be evacuated to safer regions in central and western Ukraine ahead of an expected massive russian offensive in the east. When, all of a sudden, two missiles hit near the railway station building.

I found a little girl with her pregnant mother, they died on the spot. It turned out they themselves lived close to the DNR (Donetsk People's Republic), and they tried to get through Kramatorsk to a safer place. I found their family and helped collect money for the burial. πŸ˜”

When I came to Poland, I started sending humanitarian aid. We live relatively close to the Ukraine border, about 100 km, so I collected various things for soldiers. I help with medicines (hemostatic and antipyretic agents, etc.), clothes (backpacks, shoes, etc.), military equipment (thermographic cameras, etc.), and so on. 

I try to buy all necessary things online, but sometimes it is challenging to find something, as our volunteers emptied all military stores in Poland. Often I encounter delivery problems or wait for confirmation from suppliers, which is disappointing. It stresses me out because I know this stuff is in need right now, and every minute is essential. Besides my full-time work in the company, I try to be helpful all the time.

There are no days off during the war. Everything can change in one minute.

I arranged the logistics process and got to know the locals with cars or buses. Together we delivered all those humanitarian aid to the Ukraine border. Also, I got in touch with some friends and teammates from other countries and cities. So, little by little, we can find something that is in need there. 

In addition, I continue to help to fundraise for my friends and their community. Since something often breaks or burns down in war, I regularly help with collecting funds and purchasing what is needed.

I know that only together can we do more. Every little bit helps, and that is impressive. πŸ’™πŸ’›

What are you going to do right after the victory?

Honestly, I'm not planning anything yet. For me, the most important thing is that my husband comes back alive. And everything else can always be made. πŸ™Œ

Unfortunately, I think that this war will last for a long time, and of course, the victory will be ours. But the main thing is that we should remember: 

The expense of what our victory will be, as every step towards victory takes place at the cost of the lives of our loved ones and close ones.


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