Shelling is a daily here – any help is hope

Shelling is an everyday occurrence in Zaporizhzhia. Houses that are even repaired are destroyed again by artillery shells. Despite this, many residents have not decided to escape. Everything is in short supply on the ground, including hope. This is why even the smallest deliveries are so important, which are being carried out by the volunteers of the Polish Centre for International Aid.

Volunteers delivered parcels of hygiene products and household chemicals to 666 families in Orichiv and Uspenivka. Exactly on the second anniversary of the escalation of the war in Ukraine. The residents of these villages are currently in a very difficult situation, often without running water and heating. Soap, toothpaste, or detergent are a significant support for them.

Ukrainina with aid on Zaporizhzhia

– Last year, driving around Orichiv with aid, we thought it was impossible to live amidst more destruction. We were convinced that the city would be completely depopulated in the next two, or three months at most. A year later, the reality is that shelling is a daily occurrence and so is the destruction. Residents repair houses, which are damaged again, and so on. Unless the buildings are destroyed,” says Andrzej, a volunteer at the Polish Centre for International Aid who delivers aid to Zaporizhia’s villages.

A few months ago, a blockpost in Orichiv, which volunteers passed every time, was hit. Civilians and police officers were killed. Such is the daily reality, several forced evacuations announced by the Ukrainian authorities after the fighting intensified, and people are still trying to live there. Mostly the elderly and sickly. There are still several hundred people living in the town.

– They tell us, and where do I go with all my livestock? Who will take me in with the chickens and dogs? How am I supposed to restart my life? – says a volunteer.

During forced evacuations, people are transported to a larger, relatively safer city, such as Zaporizhzhia, and are given financial support for a maximum of a few months. After some time, having no choice or prospects, some of them return to their family home or to what is left of it.

Up to several hundred shells a day on Zaporizhzhia

Orichiv is, unfortunately, that infamous place where once more than 250 shells fell one day and the shelling continued for several hours. Statistically, there is no longer an undamaged or destroyed building. It is increasingly difficult to get there, and it is too risky to move around the remnants of the city in a larger vehicle. Concentrations of people and delivery vehicles attract Russian shells like a magnet. Russian troops are successively patrolling the space with drones. This prevents people from gathering at aid distribution points. Under such conditions, it takes much longer to deliver aid.

– Now it takes not two hours, but almost five. So that we can deliver aid to a dozen places,” Andrew explains.

After each blast, people discuss whether it was the Ukrainian military firing a shell or the sound of a shell falling on Orichiv. Numerous of the most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities and those lying down, were reached directly by volunteers.

– It is hard to imagine how one can live with the prospect and sense of near death every day. Not a week goes by without someone dying in Orichiv,” says a volunteer.

For the war, animals are also paying the price. For them, volunteers have provided food. Daily, these most forgotten victims of the war are cared for by residents. The PCPM volunteer guide no longer counts exactly how many dogs and cats he feeds every day because there are at least dozens of them.

The volunteers also reached Uspenivka – the border of the Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions, more than two hours drive one way from Zaporizhia – with parcels. In Uspenivka, which is less devastated than Orichiv, it is slightly safer and there are slightly more residents. Some young people and even families with children remain.

An increasingly difficult daily life, an uncertain future

The remaining residents are still being helped by Ukrainian firefighters. Under constant shelling, their equipment wears out at a rapid rate.

For this reason, volunteers also delivered firefighting equipment and clothing to the unit in Komyshuvakha. At the end of November 2023, two firefighters from Komyshuvakha were killed during a firefighting operation following Russian shelling. As they were putting out the fire, another Russian shelling started. The firefighters from this small unit serve nearly 30 villages around Komyshuvakha. The wear and tear on equipment has been several times faster in the last two years than ever before.

Ukrainian firefighter on Up Zaporizhzhia

Many IDPs from cities such as Mariupol and Kherson have been sent to Zaporizhzhia since the start of the escalation. Their situation is also deteriorating over time. They have a roof over their heads but are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. PCPM volunteers have also reached Bilenke, one of the villages where many IDPs now live. As the crow flies, Bilenke is 50 km from the Russian-occupied Enerhorad, with its largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

International interest is decreasing, resources are melting away. And as the devastation progresses and time passes, more and more aid is needed. Agriculture, which was often the mainstay of the population’s livelihood, has completely disappeared. In some areas and is at best partially functional in others.

This is not the first transport of aid to Zaporizhzhia. Throughout 2023 and 2022, volunteers supported residents and firefighters. They delivered food, blankets necessities, and above all firefighting equipment. Their equipment was outdated, but also heavily used.

The volunteers of the PCPM announce that they will go to help again as soon as possible.

You can still help by donating through the website: