A middle-aged woman wearing a bright yellow hat and her middle age stepped out from a van near Bakhmut, a frontline Ukrainian city. This is one of the most dangerous areas on the planet.
Liudmyla Bila smiled cheerfully and handed out a variety of supplies, including woolen socks and metal saucepans as well as dried noodles and cans full of beans to a small group grateful soldiers.
They were even given periscopes, which are useful for looking over trenches. Also, she gave them heart-shaped biscuits.
Liudmyla (45) said that the guys were helping her [the troops gave her fuel] and she is helping them.” She then jumped back in her van with two of her companions and headed into Bakhmut.
This trio is part of a group of volunteers who brave the treacherous journey in order to help the few thousand people still living in the town, despite the months-long bombardments from Russian forces.
The volunteers offer to drive the residents out of danger and help them with their supplies.
Bakhmut is without electricity or running water, and there is always the danger of being killed by the incoming rounds.
Russia wants to seize Donetsk, eastern Ukraine after humiliating defeats elsewhere.
Although the Ukrainian troops are fighting hard, the bloody battle – one of the most fiercest in the war – has been called a “meat grinder”, due to the large and increasing number of casualties.
Local residents caught in the middle face additional danger when winter falls and temperatures fall below freezing.
Even entering the town can be dangerous because of active combat.
Liudmyla stated that her 22-year-old son is a soldier fighting in Bakhmut. She stated that she would like to be near, and added: “I’m not afraid.”
Wings of Liberty is her voluntary group of around 20 people. It is located in Dnipro about five hours from Bakhmut.
Every week, she makes the round trip to the village.
Sky News followed her along with her team, Olha Ekzarkhova (35), whose brother died on the frontline two month ago and Ian Boiko (39), who drove the van into Bakhmut Wednesday morning.
They came to a residential area surrounded by concrete apartment blocks.
Glass was broken across the ground, a sign of previous blasts that have blown out windows.
Volunteers had to work quickly in order to minimize their time on the ground. You could hear distant explosions and gunfire.
“People!” “People!” shouted Liudmyla, as she and Olha ran from the van to one block, carrying water bottles, candles, blankets, and food.
Nobody appeared immediately.
They found the aid at the bottom of a flight of steps that leads down to the basement shelter. Liudmyla stated that people live there.
We tried knocking on the door of the shelter, but no one answered. They had moved to another location in the town, where they could still receive mobile phone signals.
An elderly man was seen stumbling around at the entrance to the apartment block next to him.
Sky News approached him but he refused to talk and stated that no one was around.
Liudmyla, her team and Aid arrived in town.
We walked off to talk with people in small groups along a main road.
They were desperate and weary and waited at a window to get stoves to heat their homes.
Ukrainians fight Russian mercenaries and plummeting temperatures in the Battle for Bakhmut
One woman left the window empty-handed.
When Oksana was asked how Bakhmut is, she replied: “Very difficult.” Very difficult.
Her face sags and her voice cracks.
She said it was “impossible, very cold” without blankets.
This is terrible. It is freezing. It is only 3 to 5 degrees in our home.
“We are still waiting for a stove. They said to us to wait and put our names on a waiting list. When will it all end? When will it stop? Thank you, God.
“Why is it that they [Russians] are so stubborn about our Bakhmut?” Here’s the thing: war, war and more war. They’ve been hitting us continuously for over half a year.
She said that she lived with her husband, who is 82 years old and too frail for evacuation.
“How can he be left? There are no doctors in this area. No nurses. There is nothing here.
Oksana stated that she was concerned about living through winter. Booms from the incoming rounds could also be heard as she spoke, but this time in the distance.
“We are still in the Stone Age. It’s terrifying to live in this 21st century. We can’t get help from anyone. It is impossible.
We decided to leave as the explosions grew louder.
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As we were leaving town, an artillery shot or another type of munition exploded ahead. Although we didn’t see the impact, we could see the smoke.
Our vehicle vibrated suddenly and there was a loud blast.
The second round hit the ground just to our right, sending shrapnel all over the road. The bullet narrowly missed the small car just ahead of us, a reminder of both the reality and randomness of this war.