Donated protective gear saves Ukrainian soldier’s life


A global mission is underway to protect those in the line of fire as the war in Ukraine continues to leave millions vulnerable to advancing Russian troops.

Organizers at the Ukraine Aid Operations Center in Sarasota are trying to secure items to help save lives – and it’s working.

A steel plate that was made into a piece of body armor did its job for a fighter in Ukraine. The plate was from Ukraine Aid Operations.

“He didn’t penetrate, he stopped the bullets and saved a life,” said Alan Rybak. “That’s what we’re here to do. We’re not here to arm anyone, we’re here to save lives.”

The group was started by an Estonian special forces veteran named Harri.

The group’s roots stretch all over the world, including Sarasota where Alan Rybak collects supplies.

“We all had to step in and do what we had to do from here,” he said.

Rybak’s family comes from Ukraine.

Her stepfather is out there, looking for what people need to protect themselves.

“Items are sent directly to Ukraine. We put them directly into the hands of the people who need them most,” Rybak said.

They helped buy an ambulance, 15 tons of steel to make into skid plates, drones and more.

They need items like old military uniforms, helmets, knee pads, rations, hydration packs, trauma kits, gloves, boots, and other tactical items.

All items can be dropped off at Dive Wine and Spirits off Clark Road in Sarasota.

“We are looking for good causes to align ourselves with. There are many, but this one seems to be the most urgent,” said Broc Smith, owner of Dive.

His store offers premium spirits and one-of-a-kind cocktails, but now also focuses on protective gear. Anyone who drops off supplies will receive one purchase, one free cocktail coin.

“We’re against innocent people dying, really. It’s just that no one should lose loved ones, children, it’s horrible,” Smith said.

Ukraine Aid Ops has already saved more than one life from a steel plate. Their mission is far from over.

“We have saved several lives so far and we will continue to do so,” Rybak said.

For more information, visit linktr.ee/UkraineAidOps.

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