Tackle trade heroes in the Ukraine war zone make a new appeal for your help
By profession Serhiy Ivolhin is a video producer. But for the last year, sometimes instead of his day job, sometimes alongside it, Serhiy has also been doing voluntary work. No big deal, perhaps. Except that Serhiy has been volunteering to load up a van, drive right up close to the frontline of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and, once there, hand out much needed supplies to Ukrainian soldiers.
Serhiy (main image and on left, above) is based in Dnipro and is the Head of Video Production for IBIS, the parent company of the Favorite fishing brand in Ukraine. In the videos he shoots as he makes his perilous shuttle runs, he can be seen driving past blown-up tanks, bomb craters on the side of the road and houses that have been completely destroyed by the shelling. In one notable clip he stops at an abandoned camp and finds a smashed up soldier’s helmet discarded on the ground.
Serhiy’s journeys into the warzone might be the most extreme example of a job in fishing tackle turned upside-down, but he is not alone amongst his colleagues. Angling International has been in contact with Olena Druzhynska, who is the Head of Retail and Fishing Product Marketing at IBIS. For the first four months of the war she split her time between her day job and helping to organise donations from a warehouse in Lviv, both for refugees and those trapped in occupied territories.
Olena also tells of Ivan Samoylov, a Product Manager at Favorite, who is trained in tactical medicine for soldiers and who volunteers to pass on his knowledge. Other colleagues have made it a habit to donate blood every month for soldiers and injured civilians.
Olena is now back working full-time at IBIS. She has spoken to Angling International in the hope that her stories of the challenges of everyday life inside big cities and in particular the capital, Kyiv, will help generate fresh donations from companies and counterparts in the global tackle trade.
The management of donations is now highly organised, she says, in stark contrast to its haphazard nature at the start of the war. But the suffering of ordinary Ukrainian citizens is ongoing as Winter bites, and help is very much still needed.
Olena says: “When the war started the volunteer movement was chaotic, simply because everybody wanted to help. Some people received everything they needed and more, but others were out of sight and weren’t being reached.
“Today the situation is very different. We have big and well organised distribution centres staffed by professionals. And almost all Ukrainians have some soldiers that we help. For anybody donating, you can be sure that the goods will be distributed properly, right up to power banks and generators. If they are delivered to us, they will get where they need to be.”
The mention of generators is telling. At times over Winter almost half of Ukraine’s energy system has been disabled as a result of Russian missile attacks. After one attack on December 19th Kyiv and the surrounding area was left in darkness for three days. Another time, says Olena, the Kyiv metro system was put out of action through lack of electricity, leaving people to find their own way home in any way they could.
Scheduled power cuts are a regular occurrence and involve all lights being turned off every four hours. But then there are also emergencies where there is little chance to prepare food, obtain warm water or go about any daily tasks, including work. In hospitals doctors are reduced to working by torchlight.
Olena adds: “The most difficult situations are in high-rise buildings where daily life depends on electricity. People are having to live on the 20th floor without a functioning lift, water, heating and lights, sometimes for days at a time.
“People buy power banks, generators, ready-meals designed for travellers, gas burners and thermal underwear. But because of the high demand, it’s not easy to source all these goods in Ukraine, which is why we are needing for them from Europe. When the city doesn‘t have water, people take it directly from rivers and lakes.”
The cold weather in Ukraine lasts from October to April with average winter temperatures of around -5°C. In some parts of the country it can be as low as -30°C. Olena is at pains to point out that, even though life is tough in Kyiv, the real hardships are being suffered by those in frontline cities, and by the soldiers fighting out in the open.
It’s why Serhiy does what he does. And why he will continue taking risks he never imagined, right up until the war is over. And when he is not on a delivery drive, he has also found time to organise a fishing competition to raise funds to purchase a drone for frontline service. Such is life now in Ukraine and for those that once worked only in the fishing tackle industry.
“We need donations,” says Olena, when asked for a final message to the tackle trade. “People should know that we are grateful for all the support we are receiving in the most challenging time in our history. Our fight would be impossible without your prayers and donations. We are not giving up, please don’t give up either.”
• You can donate to help the people of Ukraine at these websites recommended by Olena Druzhynska and her colleagues at the Favorite fishing tackle company: