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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #341: Urgent Appeal to Assist the Residents of Kherson



I’m writing these words of support for a group called World Aid Runners, who are an incredibly brave group of people enduring gruelling conditions that I have experienced first hand to deliver essential supplies to civilians living in Kherson. To recap, Kherson is a city on the front line in Ukraine that was once occupied by the Russians and they then evacuated it under heavy artillery fire and constant combat of the heroic Ukrainian Armed Forces. Now they sit sullenly on the south bank of the River Dnipro which is the centre of Kherson, with artillery systems and sniper rifles, and at some points the river there is only 100 metres away. Given that a skilled sniper with a decent rifle can be accurate to 250 metres, when you are on the river front you are potentially within Russian sniper range. Still people live there.


Indeed there remains a substantial civilian community living in Kherson in the city centre and along the front banks of the river. I know this because some of the volunteers working in the city drove me up and down the main road that is adjacent to the riverfront one morning, at great speed, to avoid shells and bullets. Taxi drivers won’t go down there but there are people living in houses actually on the waterfront. This was once a beautiful promenade and walking down the riverfront in Kherson was a principal pleasure of travel in south Ukraine. Now it is a ghastly death trap.


Moreover in principle the Russian occupiers could return at any time, because the river is not particularly deep in Kherson and it could be pontooned by the Russians. This is why you find tank traps actually on the roads and waterfront in downtown Kherson: to stop Russian tanks if they tried to pontoon the river and reoccupy the property. There are soldiers and militia occupying the disused buildings and many of the former structures on the waterfront have been destroyed by shelling, but many have not and people still live there. This was and remains a residential district, albeit possibly the most dangerous place in the world to live right now.


The people who live in these houses - and I was taken to one of them, where I stared at Russian positions through a pair of binoculars - live precarious existences indeed. They typically sleep on mattresses behind concrete blast walls so that if their homes are shelled by the Russians they stand the maximum chances of survival. Everyone who lives there is carrying small arms of some kind or another, mostly carbines and assault rifles to mount an effective resistance to any Russian return. As the weather gets better and the summer fighting season begins it cannot be excluded that there is another Russian invasion of Kherson. After all, Russia has formally declared Kherson Oblast now to be part of Russia and presumably they want the city of Kherson because the parts of the Oblast they have currently occupied are really nothing more than swamp land in the delta. Therefore a renewed assault on Kherson is something that can be expected in the course of 2024 and these people who live on the waterfront are getting ready for that.


Life in Kherson is incredibly precarious. There is only one supermarket of substance and its shelves are often bare. Other shops are few and far between and people are scrabbling around looking for food on any particular day when one shop might have meat. Kherson has one hotel and one restaurant but the hotel is only used by occasional foreign visitors like me and the restaurant is too expensive for the impoverished local people to use. People living on the waterfront can’t get to the shops easily anyway because there is a constant risk of shelling. In fact the most dangerous part of the city isn’t the waterfront itself (unless you are in eyesight of the Russian snipers - so stay behind a wall or inside a building) but actually a band close to the road  behind the houses along the waterfront that encompasses the main street, which is full of potholes and is frequently shelled. Constant shelling is going on in and around the city anyway, 24 hours a day. So the people who live in the waterfront communities are essentially trapped in their own homes.


What we’re looking for are any of the following: non-perishable food; medical supplies; clothes; and blankets and other sleeping items. Please ship these items to me, Matthew Parish, Nova Poshta #77, 79008 Lviv, Ukraine, with the reference number +380 98 467 4579 (the Post Office needs that to inform me when your parcel has arrived). Mark on the outside of the parcel (in English) what is inside it, so that it clears customs quickly; mark the parcel “Urgent: Supplies for Civilians in Kherson”. I am travelling to Kherson on 27 February so if you act now these supplies can reach me and I can take them with me when I go there on my next visit. If you can’t do this, then please donate funds for these purposes via www.development-foundation.org and I will buy the supplies and take them down myself. Or another volunteer will take them down if they arrive after I leave. Please do something to help, as the people of Kherson are cold, hungry, starving, unwell, afraid, and the situation is incredibly dangerous.


This is an untold humanitarian disaster in the making, in which regular civilian aid cannot reach civilians because the situation is so dangerous. World Aid Runners are a group of committed volunteers risking their lives and welfare every day to deliver these items to people living along the waterfront and in other vulnerable positions in Kherson, and the people of Kherson need your help immediately. They are unsung heroes of our time, driving each day to communities, cleaning up after shelling damage and delivering such supplies as they are able to muster to the civilians in such dire need. Thank you for anything you can send in the way of material supplies, or any money you can send. It is for the most fantastic cause and It is the best money you will ever spend in your life.

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