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Make Furnaces, Not War: Ukrainian Blacksmith Helps Troops

#Furnaces #War #Ukrainian #Blacksmith #Helps #Troops

He wouldn’t tell a Beretta from a bazooka, but Anton Zaika certainly knows his way around a forge – and he’s helping the Ukraine war effort in his own unique way.

The talented craftsman had built a modest but successful business selling metal furniture to wealthy European customers, but five months ago war came and changed his priorities.

Now he makes anti-tank barriers to protect the local volunteer battalion in the north-west frontline town of Sumy and special iron stoves fitted to trenches to keep them warm.

His services are free to the local Territorial Defense Unit fighting the Russian invasion, and he’s even started buying battered old cars and converting them into makeshift armored personnel carriers.

“After the first day of the war, there were no police in the city and not much army left,” Zaika, 32, told AFP at his workshop in Sumy, a city of 260,000 people just 25 kilometers from Ukraine’s border with Russia.

“So we basically had a territorial defense. It was our citizens who took up arms and prevented the enemy from entering the city. I’m not good with guns, so I did what I was good at to help them.”

Sumy, which can trace its history back to its founding by the Cossacks in the mid-17th century, has been struggling to survive since Moscow’s attack on Ukraine began in February.

– urban warfare –

Almost taken by the Russians, the city quickly fought back through six intense weeks of intense street warfare as part of a broader Ukrainian counteroffensive.

But it remained surrounded and was bombarded daily by artillery – trains and buses abandoned from the city, roads and bridges pulverized and its people trapped, their food and water dangerously short.

Airstrikes continued into the summer as Russian ground forces made repeated attempts to retake the city.

Zaika, who has been running the business for seven years since he learned the metal trade from his father, had hoped to build another workshop with the metal he bought around 25,000 euros.

But he used up the entire supply within the first month of the war, when he began receiving requests for help from the local Territorial Defense Unit.

Since then he has made more than 500 stoves for fighters, but also to make life more livable for people in bomb shelters and in nearby towns and villages where gas supplies have been cut off by shelling.

Eventually, the public began to get involved, bringing materials they had found that could be used in the trenches or in military barracks.

– ‘Winter is coming’ –

Zaika says he remembers a patriotic donor who ran six kilometers in the snow with an electrode stack that weighed about 20 kilograms (45 pounds).

Others contributed via a donation page on Instagram, giving Zaika enough money to pay for an early 2000s Suzuki XL 7 people carrier, which he militarily overhauled and gave to the Volunteer Armed Forces.

“We’ve added frame protection and engine protection, we’ve strengthened the front bumper, radiator and trunk, and we’ve added metal grilles to the windows,” he told AFP.

“On the pickups, we also mount a metal frame that you can attach an awning to 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 them all to the front.

“I have no intention of stopping. Winter is coming soon so I’m sure we need to build more stoves,” he told AFP.

“And with the cars, if the guys come back and ask for more help, we’re here to help them.”

Social Tags:
#Furnaces #War #Ukrainian #Blacksmith #Helps #Troops

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