Sumy, Ukraine, Aug 3 (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – Aug 3, 2022): He would barely recognize a Beretta from a Bazooka, but Anton Zaika can certainly find his way into a blacksmith’s forge – and he’s helping the war of Ukraine effort in its own unique way.
The talented craftsman had carved out a small but successful business selling metal furniture to wealthy European customers, but the war came five months ago and changed his priorities.
Now he is making anti-tank barriers to protect the local volunteer battalion in the town of Sumy, northwest of the front line, and special iron stoves suitable for the trenches to keep them warm.
His services are free for the local territorial defense unit fighting the Russian invasion, and he has even started buying and converting old battered cars into makeshift armored personnel carriers.
“After the first day of the war, there were no police left in the city and not much of an army,” Zaika, 32, told AFP in his workshop in Sumy, a city of 260,000. inhabitants just 25 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. with Russia.
“So we mainly had territorial defence. It was our citizens who took up arms and stopped the enemy from entering the city. I’m not good at weapons, so I did what I was good at helping them.” Sumy, whose history dates back to its founding by the Cossacks in the mid-17th century, found itself struggling for survival as soon as Moscow’s assault on Ukraine began in February.
– Urban warfare – Almost captured by the Russians, the city quickly fought back during six intense weeks of fierce street-to-street urban warfare as part of a wider Ukrainian counter-offensive.
But it remained surrounded and bombarded daily by artillery – with out-of-town trains and buses suspended, roads and bridges pulverized, and its population trapped, their food and water running dangerously low.
Airstrikes continued through the summer as Russian ground forces repeatedly attempted to retake the city.
Zaika, who has run the business for seven years since learning the metalworking trade from his father, had hoped to build another workshop with around 25,000 euros worth of metal he had purchased.
But he ran out of stock in the first month of the war as he began to receive requests for help from the local Home Defense unit.
It has since made more than 500 stoves for the fighters but also to make life more livable for people in bomb shelters and in nearby towns and villages where gas supplies had been cut off by bombing.
Eventually the public began to participate, bringing materials they had found that could be used in the trenches or in the military shelters.
– ‘Winter is coming’ – Zaika says he remembers a patriotic donor walking six kilometers in the snow with a pile of electrodes weighing about 20 kilograms (45 pounds).
Others contributed via an Instagram fundraising page, giving Zaika enough money to pay for an early 2000s Suzuki XL 7 people carrier that he militarily revamped and donated to volunteer forces.
“We added chassis protection and engine protection, we reinforced the front bumper, the radiator and the trunk and fitted the windows with metal grilles,” he explained to AFP.
“Along with the pickups, we also install a metal frame to which you can attach a canopy and a mount for a machine gun.” Zaika, who has a six-year-old son and a 16-week-old daughter, has converted 10 cars so far – adding Dodges, Fords and Mitsubishis to the Suzuki and sending each to the front.
“I have no intention of stopping. Winter is coming soon, so I’m sure we’ll have to make more stoves,” he told AFP.
“And with the cars, if the guys come back asking for more help, we’re here to help.”