CHICAGO — It’s been more than a year since Russian tanks moved into Ukraine to serve as a symbol of aggression and invasion.
Alex Zatvor, who emigrated to Chicago from Ukraine when he was 12, is now using the Russian tanks to support families.
“These are normal families who were leading normal lives and in one day, just like that, their lives were flipped upside down,” Zatvor said.
He started thinking about the tanks as a way to turn them into something to help families 5,000 miles away.
He tried everything, every contact he had and every contact others had to try and make it happen.
“After seven of them failed, I just said ‘This isn’t going to go anywhere’ and the eighth one was like, ‘Hey, I think we have a way,'” Zatvor said. “Ultimately, we end up going to the main general of the Ukraine armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi and he said ‘Look this is just not possible during war. We’d like to help you but we cannot do it.”
But there was a way.
“Somehow the defense intelligence chief, like their CIA director, found out and said ‘Oh, we can totally do this, we can do it through one of our brigades and help crack it,'” Zatvor said.
The tank made a 14 hour journey from Kharkiv to a factory away from the front lines.
There, the symbol of war is being disarmed, disassembled and distributed for donations.
500 metal rings, machined from the tank’s gun, are being sold online for a $250 donation. The money goes right back to help.
The other parts will be used at a later time.
“We help a lot of families with children so a lot of them write us messages and say ‘I was able to go to the store and buy my kids bananas for the first time in six months,'” Zatvor said. “Just heartbreaking messages but that’s where it’s going.”
It’s a silver lining coming from a silver circle, bringing a symbol of war, full circle, as a symbol of hope and help.
“It feels very humbling because we’re just such a tiny drop in the bucket,” Zatvor said. “We’re trying our best but it’s the Ukrainian people who inspire us and we’re just trying to do our little part.”