Legenda – the NGO that I worked with for close to ten years in Latvia before coming to Ukraine – has now signed official paperwork with Ukraine’s Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories – a government ministry officially established in 2016 to manage occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea affected by the Russian invasion in 2014.
Our reason for getting involved is typical of Legenda’s work in general. Soldiers on both sides are dying en masse. We want to give dignity and respect to those who have been killed, Ukrainian and Russian. We will assist in the retrieval of bodies, attempt to identify them, and, hopefully, return these fallen soldiers to their families.
My team and I will be working to help safely facilitate this dangerous mission. How is it so dangerous? In a different way than you probably expect.
You may think that it is because they are removing bodies from active battlefields, where bullets crisscross the channels they need to take. That is not it.
The truth is, as the Russian forces have fled back towards the border they have began fitting the bodies of dead soldiers with explosives. They’re booby trapping corpses. A number of people have come across what they believed to be helpless, slain corpses, gone to help or investigate, and been blown to a thousand pieces themselves. It’s brutal.
I’ll explain a bit about it.
Training the Cargo 200 teams
WE are throwing ourselves into this fast. We will be hitting the road very soon to provide training to Cargo 200 teams – these are the people who deal directly with the belligerents who have been killed. They will salvage their bodies from the battlefields, take them to morgues, try to identify them, and try to get them back to the homes that they left before the war.
LEGENDA’S mission here is potentially deadly. Our job is to make it as safe as possible. If the Russian forces rare booby trapping bodies as they retreat, we need to make sure those hidden implements do not kill the people trying to provide these men with their final dignities.
We will try set up a safe approach for the Cargo 200 teams and help establish an operating procedure that ensures that more deaths do not occur during their mission. Some people have already been hurt and even killed by these booby traps. We want to make sure that number does not grow.
Survival and adaptation
THIS week has been frantic as we scramble to make preparations for these upcoming operations. It has been all hands on deck.
It is strange to see how fast people can adapt to what you would imagine – what the Russians imagined – would be oppressive, dismal, dispiriting circumstances. Humans are malleable creatures. Survivors.
The blackouts have been coming thick and fast. They come often and last longer than before. We are often left with no internet, no electricity, no light.
But it is nothing that the Ukrainians cannot handle.
Something really poignant
WHEN there is no internet, no electricity, no light, neighbours come together. They support each other in the most basic, essential ways. They share light, food and fire. What is happening here among the people is the opposite of what the Russians had planned. They wanted to beat the fight out of the Ukrainians. They wanted to tear them apart. They wanted to conquer their will.
Instead they have only managed to embolden the Ukrainians. They have brought them closer together. They have galvanised their will. The hardest steel is forged in the hottest fire.
With each bomb, each blackout, each bullet, the Ukrainians are given another reason to stay strong, become more courageous than they thought possible. They are determined to overcome this time in their history.
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