Rest Halt for the Soldiers / «Солдатський привал»

The Internet Radio “Universe” presents the project “Unconditional”, supported by the US Embassy in Ukraine

The program was prepared by Tetiana Marchenko, Yulia Liubchenko, and Rostyslav Diagelev. The text was read by Yulia Liubchenko.

Программа про перший в Україні окремий волонтерський центр відпочинку для воїнів ООС. Його створили для відпочинку учасників ООС, мобілізованих, призовників, які транзитом проїжджають через Запоріжжя, військовослужбовців та співробітників правоохоронних органів, які перебувають у відрядженні в Запоріжжі, а також родичів учасників ООС, які перебувають на лікуванні у Запорізькому військовому шпиталі та цивільних клініках.

Today I am going to tell you a story how a person can find oneself by losing the most important. This is a story about the mission of tens of people. This is the story about the good that saves lives. We are going to tell about the “Rest Halt for the Soldiers”, a volunteer center that has been working in Zaporizhzhia for three years. This is a small, but well-kept yard of a two-storied building next to the railways station Zaporizhzhia-1. This is not an accidental place as the “Rest Halt for the Soldiers “ works for the warriors who are traveling to the front or back home via it, traveling on business or vocation. This is the place where every soldier can eat, have a cup of hot tea or some rest. This homey atmosphere of the “Rest Halt for the Soldiers” impressed me most: flowers on the sills, corridors with the pictures of soldiers’, a cozy kitchen smelling of morning coffee.

On that day, there were no soldiers in the “Rest Halt”, but the women kept cleaning, working in the kitchen as any moment visitors could come. Everything was ready for them: rooms with twin beds with clean sheets, showers, washing machines, real home-cooked food and heartfelt words – all the conditions to have a comfortable rest and to continue the travel. It is obvious that the atmosphere is created by a group of people that also includes Liudmyla Honcharenko, the main inspirer of the “Rest Halt”. She is an energetic, friendly, very strong woman with deep eyes.

This is how she talks of the moment when the idea of “Rest Halt” appeared. “We witnessed the situation: it was winter, cold, and the soldiers were simply sleeping on the floor in the railway station building. It should not have been like that. The situation was far from good. We felt sorry and started thinking about it. Moreover, thanks to our friends, we learned that some frontline towns had already had similar centers in the railway stations so that the soldiers could stay there for some time, wait for the train or bus in a warm and safe space, to spend time in a cozy place”. Then, Halyna’s idea was supported by the local authorities who arranged it with Prydniprovska Railway and the volunteers got the premises. They were practically rebuilt.

The idea united all the citizens. “We have many volunteers in the city and everyone had their own contribution, everyone did what they could, they engaged entrepreneurs and farmers. Even today, to ensure the life of the “Rest Halt” we get huge support from the entrepreneurs, farmers, regional towns, regional authorities, and the Fund of Defense of Zaporizhzhia Region”.

The “Rest Halt for the Soldiers” is a group of about 60 volunteers who meet warriors, cook meals, clean. For each and every of them, the center has become an extended family where people share the moments of joy and sadness, support and condole each other sincerely. Personal sorrows united many of them; Halyna lost her son at war. At that time, volunteering saved her. It was necessary to do something, to survive the pain, to keep living. Women in similar situations joined her, women who suffered pain, who had lost the dearest, but had the strength to help others. “As a doctor by profession, with connections and friends, my first steps were to help with medicines. They were pills that cost high prices. Admittedly, this was a huge help, a very tangible help. At that time, the sums could reach tens of thousands per month, because there was nothing at all.

Over the three years, almost 9000 people have stayed in the “Rest Halt for the Soldiers”. They include soldiers, volunteers, and their relatives. Today the “Rest Halt” is far more than just a hostel for the Ukrainian soldiers; this is the volunteering center of the whole city of Zaporizhzhia. This is the point from which Halyna Honcharenko, together with like-minded people, departs to the front. The volunteers deliver food supplies, military equipment, medicines, spare parts for vehicles etc. to the boys who defend the Ukrainian territory. The war has shown that the Ukrainians are not alone in their grief; the help has come from Canada, the USA, the UK, Germany, Australia, Georgia. Halyna gets emotional when she remembers these moments and she tries to keep them alive in pictures. They are like jigsaw puzzles that render the story of the good and support from the “Rest Halt for the Soldiers”. “Some can knit socks while others can buy a car for the front. Different people have different resources and means, but they all have the same aspirations. This is important, it matters and unites, and we are of the same blood.” In my opinion, these words fully show the aspirations of such people as Halyna Honcharenko. The cohort of volunteers includes Liudmyla Volter, Maksym Kuzmin, Oleh Skvortsov and many other Zaporizhzhia citizens. They are able to contract others with their ideas, lead them, and sacrifice their personal happiness for their life mission, for the peace, for Ukraine.