From the first days of the full-scale invasion, Ukrainians united to repel the invaders. Those with military experience and at least knew how to hold a weapon went to register at the military commissariats and ranks of territorial defence. Ordinary Ukrainians made donations to the army. Ukrainian businesses immediately got involved: from small coffee shops to powerful system enterprises. Lviv businessman and philanthropist, former honorary president of the “Ruh” football club Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy is convinced: it is this unity, joint work in confronting the enemy, as well as the high fighting spirit of the nation that became the critical factors for Ukraine not only not to lose the war, but also to gain significant advantages and increased chances of winning. In an exclusive interview, Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy told how he helps the army when the war is over and how the soldiers he cares for call him in his own way.
Mr Hryhoriy, tell us how you started helping the military. Have you ever wondered whether to do something in this direction or not?
Such a question did not arise for me: I have been systematically helping the army for eight years without unnecessary noise and publicity. It’s not my thing to “publicise” such things. But it is evident that the first days of the war caught millions of Ukrainians by surprise. No one knew what to do, where to run, and whom to help. People intuitively lined up at the military commissariats and signed up for the territorial defence to help the country in difficult times.
For business, the war was also a terrible blow, especially for those entrepreneurs who forgot that the war started not on February 24, 2022, but in the winter of 2014. Fortunately, the business made the right decision – all efforts were directed toward helping the army and displaced people. It was logical and predictable: most entrepreneurs – from small to the largest – came to the logical conclusion that if the Russians succeed in capturing Ukraine, they will not have any business at all and, in general, the opportunity to continue living on their land.
How do you know what the military needs most?
After all, needs are constantly changing. As a person who has been supplying the army for years, I have concluded trial and error. Before collecting funds for something and delivering it to the front, you must study the basic needs carefully. Therefore, I decided to act differently: establish contact with the military, find out what is most needed, get it (sometimes – abroad, with the help of my international connections) and quickly send it to the frontlines. And this strategy has worked: we have established contact with several military units, we are in constant communication with them, and they can count on us.
Yes, we are friends and actively cooperate with the 45th and 47th separate artillery brigades, the 184th Training Center, the Lviv Regional Territorial Center for Manpower and Social Support, etc. Thanks to constant contact and communication with these formations, I have operational information about the urgent needs of the army and do everything to satisfy them.
Please tell me what exactly was done and purchased and for whom.
The army needs cars the most. Unfortunately, as guys from different brigades tell, this is practically a disposable product at the frontlines: machines quickly break down and often come under fire, turning into scrap metal. The wheels suffer a lot – the debris that litters the front-line roads cuts the tires, and there is often nothing and nowhere to replace them. Therefore, one of the military’s constant needs is repairing equipment. Knowing this, I financed the overhaul of about 15 vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and I intend to continue this work. In addition, on my initiative, wheel balancing equipment, mobile tire changers, compressors, batteries and other equipment were delivered to hot spots.
If we list the specific types of assistance, then we handed over to our defenders two multifunctional training complexes, a minivan, six military trucks, an excavator, nets, 20 walkie-talkies, 250 artillery tablets, 70 radio stations, 50 generators, about 2,000 minesweepers, hundreds of angle grinders, laptops and tablets On the eve of winter, the issue of heating our soldiers arose acutely. There was a tremendous demand for boiler stoves – he sponsored the installation of 500 such boilers. Fortunately, we had time before the onset of cold weather.
The 45th Brigade was recently given a hydraulic press, a drilling machine, climbing equipment, and truck winter tires. By the way, I had to deal with the tires – I had no idea that we had such a shortage of winter cargo wheels and such a problem getting them. We used to buy rubber from Belarusians, but now, for obvious reasons, this market is closed to us. So it took some effort, but we did it, and now the boys can put their “battle buddies” in boots, getting them ready for snow and ice.
And for Christmas, I’m preparing another gift for the military – we’re buying them a Poseidon drone. This is a reconnaissance complex of three UAVs equipped with two cameras that allow you to enlarge the image 40 times and conduct observations from a great height. It will serve as the “eyes” for our artillery – while remaining invisible to enemy radars, “Poseidon” sees everything down to the smallest detail.
Your example is worth following, or are you thinking about encouraging others to contribute substantially to the needs of the Armed Forces, territorial defence, displaced people, etc.? How do you attract donations for essential purposes?
Not only have I made the day-to-day assistance of the Army my top priority, but I actively involve others in this. For example, recently, together with the city authorities of Lviv, I co-organized a charity evening auction in support of the military. Thanks to private collectors, dedicated art connoisseurs, and our military, we collected 100 absolutely unique lots that represent artistic and historical value. Many businessmen, politicians, and collectors joined our auction. As a result, it was possible to collect more than UAH 7 million for the needs of the armed forces of Ukraine. Our family – I and my wife Yuliya Dumanska – bought lots for 30 thousand dollars. Most of them will go to charity. For example, we will give the ancient Gospel of 1891 to the church for the procession. We decided to leave only the old edition of “Kobzar” to our children – it is essential for us that the younger Kozlovskyy experience the greatness of Ukrainian culture and its history from an early age. After all, he who does not know his past and does not respect his culture has no future.
Another event we recently held on the “Ruh” Academy field was a charity-friendly football match between the “All Stars” teams and the national team of artists of Ukraine. People sent donations during the game, which was exciting and spectacular. But I was pleasantly surprised that funds continued to flow even after the end of the game. As a result, we managed to collect almost 300 thousand UAH. It was a positive experience, and we plan to hold similar competitions in the future.
Do you only fundraise for the military, or do you have other charities you support?
I am pleased that my wife, Yuliya Dumanska, supports all my charitable initiatives and inspires new good deeds. Recently, we financially supported the renovation of the Yuri Lypa Lviv Regional Hospital for War Veterans and Repressed People – we restored the rehabilitation department and the second row of wards. In addition, new furniture, air conditioners and air purification systems were brought there.
In short, everything was done to ensure that our soldiers, who were receiving medical care and recovering after brutal battles, were treated in the most comfortable conditions. Furthermore, to support the fighting spirit of our defenders, a themed mural from the “Ruh” football club with encouraging and inspiring inscriptions was painted on the wall in one of the wards. As a sports fan, I believe that it hardens the body and spirit, makes it possible to cope with life’s troubles more efficiently and recover faster. I want Ukraine to be represented in the world as a solid and brave sports nation.
Do you get feedback from the units you’re helping, maybe commanders or individual troops?
Yes, this is already a meaningful direction. After all, to understand that we are moving in the right direction, it is necessary to communicate with the recipients of our assistance constantly. Requests are received from the military, which we promptly satisfy. I am very pleased that our defenders – courageous boys and girls – know me, call me “Petrovych”, and constantly celebrate with awards and thanks.
Recently, I have received several prestigious awards, which I am very proud of. In particular, the commendation-medal “For special service III degree” from the Ground Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, thanks from the 45th and 47th Separate Artillery Brigades, a certificate from the 184th Training Center, Lviv Regional Territorial Center for Manpower and Social Support.
I am a little embarrassed by this – I am not used to advertising my good deeds; I believe that real help is silent. But, of course, I am very pleased with it: I feel I am in my place and doing what is necessary. So convinced: any work that brings our victory closer is essential and necessary. And I will do it not as much as I can but as much as needed.
Finally, Mr Hryhoriy, please give a forecast: how and when the war might end?
I know that diametrically opposite attitudes prevail among Ukrainians: some are convinced that the war is about to end, and others think it will last forever. I consider both such strategies losing. I think it is better not to dwell on when this scourge will end and just do your job well. As for me, I manage my businesses, support the state’s economy, take care of my employees and pay my taxes. After all, I believe the economic front is no less important than the military one. In addition, I am engaged in helping the army and charity, which I contribute to the victory. And also – I raise my children in a patriotic spirit, instilling in them a love for Ukraine and pride for the nation.
If we talk about how this war can end, there can be no two opinions – an indisputable victory for Ukraine. If in February 2022, no one believed that we would hold out for at least a few weeks against the numerous and well-armed Russian army, today there is no doubt that we will win this confrontation. Another question is under what conditions. The enemy is deliberately hitting critical energy infrastructure facilities to cause panic among Ukrainians – to force them to flee abroad or to pressure the authorities, demanding peace talks with the Kremlin on their terms. But they weren’t attacked like that! If we conclude a peace agreement, then only on the condition that we return to the borders of 1991, Russia withdraws all troops from our territory and pays reparations. Putin and other war criminals end up on the bench of the Military Tribunal in The Hague. And I would already raise the issue of the demilitarisation of our crazy neighbour and the denuclearisation of Russia. Because as long as the nuclear briefcase is being waved in the Kremlin, no one in the world will have peace.