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One Seat in Coach, 36 Suitcases and Enough Kevlar to Fight a War

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One Seat in Coach, 36 Suitcases and Enough Kevlar to Fight a War

The Ukrainian Americans supplying an army on their own.

New York Magazine,

5 min read
2 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Ukrainian Americans provide materiel to Ukrainian fighters via an informal chain of volunteers.

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Ukrainian-Americans have sent military gear to their countrymen to combat Russian-supported separatists since 2014. Now, their push to get helmets, boots and body armor to Ukrainian civilian-soldiers has ramped up, but traditional shipping companies can no longer fly into Ukraine. As Matt Stieb reports in New York Magazine, getting bags of equipment into Ukraine requires a symphony of coordination, generosity, lack of sleep and, once there, bravery. He traces the delivery of 36 checked duffel bags from US supporters to a traveler headed to Warsaw and then to the van driver who ferries them over the border into Ukraine. Once the hardy driver delivers the shipment, the cycle starts again.


Ukrainian-Americans are outfitting newly recruited civilian fighters in Ukraine by sending military supplies with travelers on commercial flights.

Ivan Sikorskyi, 33, has been driving back and forth from his home in New Jersey to JFK airport in New York two or three times a week to deliver stockpiles of packed military gear to passengers flying to Poland, where the supplies are picked up and taken over the border to Ukraine.

A plumber who grew up in Ukraine, Sikorskyi is one of many Ukrainians in the United States who supply body armor, helmets, medical supplies and clothing to civilians-turned-soldiers in Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders.

Sikorskyi doesn’t always know the people who bring him supplies to ship. He makes frequent trips to take the goods to the airport, this time with 36 duffels and a suitcase he will soon put on a flight to Poland – all checked in by a single traveler. His partner, Dima...

About the Author

 Matt Stieb, an associate editor and writer for New York Magazine, has also written for The Baffler and

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