Ukrainian Anya Nabiulina risks life to take supplies to war-torn country
A Ukrainian living in Bermuda has risked life and limb making visits to her war-torn country to provide aid and military provisions.
Anya Nabiulina, 31, whose family are living in Ukraine, has made four trips there since April to provide aid to the liberated people of Kherson and provisions to conscripts who have been fighting on the front line.
Despite witnessing missiles shot down close to her family home, she was due to leave on her fifth trip on New Year’s Day.
Ms Nabiulina has also set up a registered charity in Ukraine enabling funds to go directly towards the needs of Ukrainian troops, including bulletproof vests, helmets, tactical gloves and support vehicles.
“My brother is there and we were trying to get him out. He said: ‘No, I am Ukrainian, I am staying and ready to go to war.’ He didn’t get pulled as he works for the media but like everyone from Ukraine, we are like a big family. We try to help where we can.
“My brother made friends with people on the front line so he gets requests directly from real people of what they need.
“We are giving our salary to these men. Whatever we make from our jobs we look at the requests and put it towards military shoes, provisions, bulletproof vests, helmets.
“We get the provisions from different places – some in Ukraine but everything is way more expensive there. I am American as well so I would source from there and Europe, and ship to Poland. From there, there is a truck to go to Ukraine.
“As Ukraine is a no-fly zone – sometimes it took me 35 to 40 hours to get there. You fly to Warsaw, take a car or train, and then cross the border. The border is very tricky – it is hard to get in and out.”
In November, the last time Ms Nabiulina visited Ukraine, she went to Kherson, which had been liberated for about ten days before her arrival. She believed that because it had been liberated, it would be relatively calm but she was in for an unpleasant surprise.
“When we were there we were just 3km from the front line. I heard artillery gun shots and when we were trying to leave we had an artillery shot 100 metres from us. That was absolutely terrifying. We got out on time.”
“When we drove out of Kherson we had to go through a checkpoint. Just as we were pulling up I head a loud whistling sound followed by an explosion. The soldier screamed ‘helmet on quickly’ and stepped on the gas as a 120mm artillery shell landed less than 100 metres from our car.
“It was surreal, my heart was beating so fast I thought it was going to escape my chest as we accelerated over the bumpy road. I felt my body heat up and the stress made me freeze.
“I couldn’t say a word. Instead I prayed. After 15 minutes, which felt like a lifetime, we slowed down when we were out of artillery range. It turned out we had been only 3km from the front line when the shell hit.”
On another occasion, she was in Kiev with her family when she witnessed one of the biggest air strikes she had ever heard.
“There were missiles over my head being shot down,” she recalled. “When missiles go over Ukraine we have machines that shoot them down. They explode in the air but the remains land wherever the missile was shot down. Sometimes it lands where there are people and that time some landed close to my family home.
“That day I was so shaken – my mum had to give me valerian root. I know about Ukraine and all that but when you see it you don’t know how you will react to things. For them it has become normal and it is shocking that it is normal.”
“An elderly man who burst into tears when I asked him if he had anything to cook on. He returned to his wife laden with tinned food, bread, milk and toilet paper.
“A 10-year-old boy, whose childhood was long behind him, needed food and diapers for his 10-month-old brother.
“A grandmother who was asking for adult diapers for her disabled and bedridden son. About 20 per cent of people who stayed did so because they had relatives who were unable to move.
“A grandpa who brought us a bag of handmade socks that his wife was knitting while being under occupation. He wanted to give it to fighters at the front lines to keep them keep warm this winter.”
At the end of her November trip, Ms Nabiulina travelled to Lviv to visit her 3-year-old nephew and baby niece, who was born in a bunker during an air strike.
She said: “On arrival I received the biggest, longest hug from my nephew, which I will cherish for ever. It reminded me of what we were fighting for.”
On her fifth trip, she said: “This time, in addition to bringing provisions to those who need it, I’ll be bringing my nephew back to Bermuda to spend the winter in safety.”
Ms Nabiulina, who lives in Hamilton Parish, said that her friends and members of the Ukranian community in Bermuda had united to help raise funds in the thousands of dollars for the cause.
“The people of Bermuda were super kind. On December 23, we had a Ukranian Christmas, where people could donate. Everyone was generous and helped out. Donations are the best way to help.
“We get requests from different divisions on the front line – we can directly order things they need and transport them to Ukraine. If we are helping them, mothers are not going to lose their children. We can be closer to victory and this war will be over.”