Opinion | Homemade body armor and anti-drone applications. This is the civil defense of Ukraine.

Opinion |  Homemade body armor and anti-drone applications.  This is the civil defense of Ukraine.

In February, bulletproof vests were improvised from what was on hand. Historian Alexander Babich, who worked as a tour guide before the war, was given sleeveless men’s jackets with sawn-off pieces of plow iron in the hope that they would act as ballistic plates. At first, the metal plates of these home-made jackets were uncovered, with nothing to absorb the impact; some soldiers were injured. The solution was quickly found: by cutting the drive belts of the grain loaders in the port of Odesa into pieces, it turned out to be the right rubber damper. The sheet metal and rubber shock absorber were held together by duct tape, but the ensemble looked surprisingly orderly.

Today, the down jackets are produced locally, and the vests carrying the plates are sewn from professional-looking khaki, camouflage or “pixel-patterned” non-flammable material, both front and back. These vests are covered in pockets and pouches for tourniquets and everything else a soldier needs to carry. The sewing work could be more organized, but many women, especially mothers, who had the most experience with needles and threads, left Ukraine with their children at the beginning of the war, so the workshops lack staff with nimble fingers.

Another important military equipment issued to the volonteri was the periscope, which soldiers used to observe the terrain from trenches and under cover. The first ones were made on 3D printers, but this was an expensive and slow process, only five were produced per day. They soon found a low-tech replacement: a water pipe, two mirrors at each end of the pipe parallel to each other at a 45-degree angle, and voila.

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Engineer Igor Yakovenko, who produced 3,000 periscopes, invented another piece of equipment to deal with another problem Ukrainian soldiers faced: the cold. The Russian attack began in the coldest days of winter, so a heating system was urgently needed for the troops in the field. Mr. Yakovenko started making portable stoves made by welding together two empty gas bottles from the back of refrigerators (surprisingly always found in pastel colors – baby blue, light green, pink or orange), fitted with a metal pipe and a door. hinge for stuffing the firewood. Last winter, these “bourzhuyki” (“bourgeois”, due to their pot-bellied appearance) were used by soldiers in the field, but since October, when Russian attacks on the power grid became more frequent, the whole of Ukraine began to live “in the field”.

During the long hours spent in the bomb shelters, the women weave camouflage nets by stitching pieces of cloth together to cover tanks and other vehicles, as well as soldiers. The Ukrainian version of ghillie suits—full-body camouflage designed to help soldiers blend in with the bushes, trees, and grass piles around them—are highly sophisticated. But these are mostly worn by snipers, so they are not often deployed.

Ukrainian teams appear to be a motley group due to the varied sources of their uniforms; local volunteer groups that raise money to buy equipment will buy any uniform—at least a dozen foreign models are used—as long as the colors are not too similar to those used by the Russians. To avoid confusion, Ukrainian soldiers place a large, brightly colored tape on their helmets, as armbands, or attached to their jackets. It changes at the command of the commanders; first it was green, then blue, now yellow.

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Even tablets, smartphones and laptops have been deployed as part of civil defense since the earliest days of warfare. Many apps warn of air raids; the message will also appear on most local Telegram channels. Ukraine still has ample internet access thanks to Starlink, a service created and largely paid for by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But after stated at the beginning of October (on Twitter, which he did not yet own) that Crimea would be Russian and that the fate of the Ukrainian regions would be determined by new “elections”, Mr. Musk himself was persona non grata. His face was covered on billboards around Odesa, which had previously expressed gratitude for his support.

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