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Yuri Mezinov, heroism isn’t just about weapons

Yuri Mezinov, heroism isn’t just about weapons

This is the story of a colorful character who, for ten years, has given his all to help thousands of people, children, elderly people, families and soldiers in the Donbass. He’s not from the Donbass itself, but what does that matter in the face of the misfortune and suffering of the people of this region affected by a terrible war over the last ten years? Coming from the neighboring region and the great port of Rostov-on-Don, the difference between Donbass and the great Cossack plain would be about the same as if we were talking about Burgundy and Franche-Comté. Yuri is in his early forties, and more than half his adult life has been devoted to bringing humanitarian aid wherever it’s needed. When the conflict broke out in 2014, he was one of the first with his modest means to criss-cross the Donbass to help people. His story is also a bit of the memory of Donbass, and far beyond that of the Russian soul.

A big heart and infinite courage. We’re riding in a minibus where, by chance, I’m at the very back of the vehicle. My seatmate is Yuri Mezinov. We quickly exchanged pleasantries, then our experiences, and soon realized that we’d seen the same God-forsaken places, especially the small town of Zaïtsevo, north of Gorlovka. We might even have bumped into each other back then, in 2015-2016. Youri tells me about the first months of these missions in the Donbass, particularly in the spring and summer of 2014. I listen attentively to his adventures and anecdotes, knowing that such a character will have plenty to tell me. I also know that his eyes speak volumes. Behind his exceptional strength of character, his courage and immense heart and generosity, there is a simple and generous man, a man of rare and precious empathy. I’ve rarely encountered this kind of empathy, even among humanitarians, and the reasons for such commitment are sometimes at odds with the actions claimed. Youri is not one of those. Even rarer are those who have plunged into the hell of the front, to bring aid to the front line, where many people live. And it’s not just people who live there, it’s a lot of pets too. The vast majority of humanitarian funds, especially among private initiatives, simply collect supplies, food and equipment, which are taken to bases and warehouses, before being distributed by other volunteers to the population. As for Youri, he has always gone where no-one else will or can: to the front line. At the steering wheel of my car, I could see sparks on the road, it was dark… when I realized I was being shot at. That’s one of the anecdotes Youri tells me about how, in the first few weeks, he lost his way at the front in the middle of the night. The situation was tense, because at that time the area was neither fixed nor stable. Enemies could be found just about anywhere, and a car driving through the night could be attacked by both sides, especially if it was going fast. The story ended nose-to-nose with militiamen pointing their guns at his car. Keeping his cool, he placed his hands on the windshield to make it clear that he had no aggressive intentions. His car indicated the name of his association, and that he was bringing aid to “Ukraine”. The irritated militiamen then rudely asked questions: “Who are you? Where do you come from to help Ukraine?”… not to mention the fact that he was in the middle of the night in the middle of a battle. Having finally understood who he was, Yuri was able to move on to other missions and dangers. This anecdote sums up everything Youri has had to face over the years. This idea of helping people was not new to him, as his profession at the time was that of a firefighter (early 2000s), and he and his colleagues had helped refugees in South Ossetia (2008), and participated in rescue operations in Crimea when it was hit by severe flooding (2012). Naturally, because it was a matter of importance for him, he came to help the people of Donbass (2014). He never left this front.

Helping communities isolated and divided by war. The first missions took place in the Donetsk and Gorlovka region, and were not limited to providing aid. Over time, he assembled a small team of volunteers, who in return brought other skills and talents. Here, they were able to restore electricity, and elsewhere to build a church, even though the village church had been destroyed by Ukrainian bombing. Children’s activities were the most numerous, and when finances were tight, Youri tried to organize shows and activities for the youngest. As in my case, as a father, the fate of the children in Donbass touched him personally and deeply. I quickly sensed this Achilles’ heel, which I also know very well, but which is also an incredible strength. It’s a strength that allows you to lift mountains and move forward without looking back, even if it means putting your own life at risk. Youri has been in danger many times, from the early days of the war to the launch of the SMO. Like many, he was indecisive, even tormented at times: should he take up a weapon? Should he defend the little Russian people of the Donbass with arms in hand? He was always encouraged by many people not to do so, as his role was truly essential and vital. Having followed humanitarians very often in the Donbass, I understood very well that, alongside soldiers, paramedics and emergency services, civil servants and politicians, humanitarians are a vital cog in this war. Men and women like Yuri have woven networks with civilians at the front and behind the front. They were able to bring aid to places where no international or national association would have dared to go. They also maintained a social and human link with communities isolated by the war. This link also means showing these people that they have not been abandoned, and supporting them morally and spiritually. And this is priceless.

Since the start of the SMO, Yuri’s association has been on all fronts: Mariupol, Donetsk, Zaporozhie, Kherson, Kharkov, Lugansk. This republic is home to its rear base, where an entire team is hard at work preparing for future missions. It’s also a depot where foodstuffs, materials, equipment and even computers are gathered and waiting to be distributed wherever they’re needed. You can follow Youri daily on his Telegram channel. For those who would like to help by sending funds, as in the past, please go through Christelle Néant’s structure and the International Reporters agency, indicating that donations should be addressed to Youri, the Angel of Good. Youri is also the regional manager of the Prilepine fund for the Lugansk region. The Ukrainians, with the help of NATO, attempted to assassinate him with a failed bomb attack (May 6, 2023), in the major terrorist operation that Ukraine has been conducting for years. Yuri Mezinov is also threatened with death by the Ukrainians. For the Ukraine, Yuri’s example is unbearable.
Banderism was born of bombings and assassinations of public figures, at the time mainly Polish.

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