I've taken a bit of a backseat regarding on-field trips to Ukraine and its border regions to switch to a position that is more remote friendly over the coming weeks. The consequence is that the stuff I am taking care of is a lot less spectacular in terms of imagery and I've been posting less these weeks but there is still a lot going on in the #pokersolidarity back office.
I don't know David apart from a few lines exchanged online.
'This might be my last trip.' With these words, David Hendrix is making a strong statement and sets the tone. David has a rare neuromuscular disorder that affects his ability to control voluntary movements. He wasn't supposed to live past two years yet here were are: David is 31, which is probably more rare than his spinal muscular atrophy type 1 but his condition is getting worse.
Recently, fellow photographer, Christophe Mendes, from Luxembourg left to Medyka (Poland) again. This time, with Morpheus. The mission was to fill two cars with animal food and care products for humans and to drive to the Poland/Ukraine border town. From there, they evacuated some pets out of Ukraine and helped giving the animals they were taking care of some care and affection.
A few weeks ago, pretty quickly after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we planted the seed of the idea of training and relocation Ukrainian exiled women in order to give them the opportunity to build a new existence in Slovakia - not as refugees, not in shelters but as casino workers to build a new future.
Flying drones is a lot of fun and I am really glad I went through the legal and administration hassle in order to become a legal drone pilot. Flying as such is not that difficult - at least not for me because I have had flight training and experience as a glider pilot since I was a young adult. What is a bit more tricky, is understanding where how and when you are allowed to fly your UAV or UAS. Over late 2021 and the beginning of 2022, I went through the processes of studying and passing aviation exams in order to get both my international drone pilot and drone operator licenses.
I’ve been a Christophe Mendes follower for a while. For those who don’t know, I was born in Luxembourg and Christophe’s street photography allowed me to follow the evolution of things back in the Grand-Duchy while I am away since I am on the move so much. Turns out, his heart is at least as big as his photo talent and skill.
I am spending my past days in Luxembourg while David is still in Ukraine. I'm going to be heading back to Slovakia on Monday. No idea when I will be able to meet again with David who is relentlessly covering the dramatic situation of many civilians in Ukraine. We knew we would come across tough stuff after the Russian retreat. Yet, it's hard to be prepared for these kinds of things.
Lately from Borodvanka, a small town in the Kyiv suburbs:
'Borodyanka is a site of unbelievable destruction brought by the Russians onto a town which was not a military base but a civilian living area.'
'There is rubble which has not been cleared and it’s almost certainly bodies underneath, Ukrainian bodies, civilian bodies.'
'We had a team of professional deminers with us, who were photographing evidence that Russia is breaking Geneva convention.'
Quotes by Sviatoslav Yurash, Borodyanka April 5th 2022
The Russian retreat from the Kyiv suburbs is leaving Ukrainians with the horrific acknowledgement of what looks like a series of war crimes similar to the ones discovered in Bujah.
Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, member of the parliament and spokesperson for foreign policy, migration, human rights and LGBTIQ+ for the Austrian Green party, is working on the matter and is in touch with David Pichler in Ukraine.
David is still in Ukraine, still delivering meds, still hardly sleeping, still shooting ... awesome pics. It's hard to tell whether the war will still worsen or if we are on the path to peace these days so while the white males on a power trip with their disproportionate egos are still looking for a way to talk to each other like civilised monkeys, we remain alert and cautious.
This is it! The perfect illustration of the direct actions we've been working on with one of my favourite humans on the block, David Pichler, who is still in Ukraine.
Earlier this week, before leaving Slovakia, I got notified that nine Ukrainians from the Kharkiv and Odesa regions were about to start their training in the Kosice and Bratislava casinos and that they were being assisted to find decent homes in order to start a new peaceful and independent life. GG and thank you again, Jan Packa at Banco Casino, for your open mind.
The original plan was to spend 10 days or so in Bratislava ... then shit got really weird in Ukraine so I decided to stay closer to where the action is and I spent almost the whole month in Slovakia to play Poker and to help getting humanitarian projects going.
Over the past weeks, our tightly knitted network of independent reporters and activists wasted no time and resources to enter Ukraine days after the Russian invasion and offer direct help to the most vulnerable while being backed by a series of additional private individuals on the outside that were taking care of communication and logistics support. We are friends, old travel partners and like-minded media buddies believing in quick direct action leaving slow bureaucracy in the hands of bureaucrats.
It has been repeatedly reported that human filth is at work on the Ukrainian borders. Honestly, I'm speechless ... but being speechless is not what is going to keep people safe.
My fresh start in Bratislava is very exciting! I'm working on my own plans of setting up a base in Slovakia for the months to come and I am getting involved in various networking and support initiatives in order to assist the still growing flow of Ukrainians seeking a new start too.
We're having a lot of fun in Slovakia but it's hard not to talk about the war in Ukraine, especially since both countries share a border of 100km.
When discussing the situation with Jan Packa of Banco Casino, he explained: ' We have a hard time calling these people 'refugees'. They are our direct neighbours and are already part of Slovak society. It's a very natural thing for us to assist them where we can in this tragedy since there are already so many links and ties between us anyway.'
I am using my time in Slovakia to play cards and to shoot Poker photography but I am also doing a lot of networking over here with locals who can provide shelter to UA refugees and I am in touch with various international organisations and private individuals joining us in this colossal effort of handling the war in Ukraine.
Every day has been bringing its share of bad news from Ukraine over the last week and it looks like the worst is still to come unfortunately. Support is getting organised outside Ukraine and I'm still in Slovakia building networks of people who are willing and capable to help and trying to stay in touch with and assist all the Ukrainians I know while my dear friend, DaPic (David Pichler), made his way inside Ukraine. He arrived in Lviv yesterday to provide an inside view.