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Rescues with driver and rental car in kyiv

A driver for Uklon (Ukrainian Uber), whose company has become a lifeline for many citizens during the war. / z. aldama

Car or food delivery services solve logistical, mobility and even security problems for Ukrainians in the midst of war thanks to the digital economy

ZIGOR ALDAMA Special Envoy Kyiv

Until Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine on February 24, Mikhail worked at an agricultural company in the east of the country. “With the offense, we had to shut down and almost all of us were kicked out. I was desperate for a few days, because we hardly have any savings and I have to support my wife and two children », he recalls. It was then that a friend told him about the possibility of making his vehicle, a silver Hyundai, profitable. «He already knew Uklon (Ukrainian Uber), but had never thought of driving for them. I thought that during the invasion no one would use it, but I was wrong,” says Mikhail.

With most public transport suspended and emergency services overwhelmed, digital platforms like Uklon itself and its foreign competitors Uber and Bolt have become a lifeline for many. “We have taken people to the hospital and rescued those who could escape from the invaded villages near kyiv. You have to lend a hand when you can, ”says Mikhail, for whom the platform is providing vital support. “I want to go back to my original job, but that requires the Odessa port to be reopened, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon,” he lamented.

On the other hand, Uklon has launched two solidarity initiatives: through its application it collects donations from users for projects in the areas most affected by the war, as well as for the territorial forces made up mostly of non-professional soldiers. In border towns, it offers “repatriation” trips at reduced prices for those who want to leave the country. For example, the trip between Lviv and the Polish border can be done for less than ten euros per passenger.

For residents who have preferred to stay in major Ukrainian cities like Oleksandr and Mariiana, another key to getting around has been electric scooters from Bolt, which reinstated service at deeply discounted prices in April. “We have a car, but getting gasoline is almost impossible. The queues last hours, sometimes we do them for nothing because the fuel runs out, and the prices have gone up a lot. These electric scooters have become a very good alternative in a city with so many hills », he says.

The Estonian company offers them for an ‘unlocking fee’ of 5 hryvnias (14 euro cents) to which you must add 1.5 hryvnias (4 cents) for each minute of use. “It is more expensive than the metro or the tram, but it gives much more flexibility,” Oleksandr points out.

With almost all restaurants closed and the population terrified in their homes, applications for home delivery of food have been equally relevant for the hospitality sector, among which the Spanish Glovo stands out. Although it suspended its operations on February 24, on March 9 it decided to restart its services with some 700 ‘riders’ who have risked their lives supplying the logistical shortcomings of a country at war. There are already around 2,000. In the first week alone since resuming its services, Glovo completed 10,000 orders.

Ingenuity

A company leases electric scooters due to difficulties in obtaining fuel

Many shipments were from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but there was also controversy over a photograph showing a Ukrainian soldier with several ‘Kalashnikovs’ in one of the platform’s characteristic yellow backpacks. In any case, for several weeks, the ‘riders’ were key to the survival of numerous families. “We made the decision to reopen due to the great demand for food, medicine and other basic products,” explained the Barcelona-based company through a statement in which it added that its operations in Ukraine do not bring benefits and that it is not charging their usual fees.

“We don’t stop all day”

Ivan is one of his ‘riders’ in kyiv. At first he pedaled as a volunteer. “I had signed up for the territorial forces, but they told me that they didn’t need more people, so I looked for a way to help those who need it. At home we had problems getting food, so I thought we weren’t the only ones », he explains. And boy was he right. “We do not stop. The company shortened the workday from ten in the morning to six in the afternoon to adjust to the curfew and asked us not to work when there were attacks, but in the end we have all got used to the anti-aircraft alarms and, little by little, we have been able to work longer hours,” he says with a mischievous grin.

Currently, the curfew in kyiv is extended from eleven at night to five in the morning, a much more suitable time for the hotel industry, which is beginning to raise the blind and is grateful for the existence of shipping ‘apps’ at home For Ivan, Glovo has also become a welcome source of income since he stopped volunteering. “The rates have tripled or quadrupled, and they are paid in just one or two days. My whole family lives with what I earn, because my parents are unemployed », he says. Before, it was he who lived off them.

fundraising

“Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, I bought the bulletproof vest,” says a civilian combatant

OA did get accepted into the Territorial Forces when he signed up to fight the Russians. However, his superiors warned him that he would not have the most adequate protective equipment. “So I started a ‘crowdfunding’ campaign on the internet,” says this 20-year-old computer scientist, who prefers to remain anonymous. “Within a few hours, people had donated more money than I needed for the bulletproof vest,” he recalls. Others followed in his footsteps with equal success.

Countless campaigns in cyberspace have raised “heavy” funds for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, although the Ministry of Defense does not detail how generous they have been. “The diaspora is being very active and the resources are very welcome. Many donations with cryptocurrencies are even arriving », comments the young fighter, who has already returned to his house in kyiv and has donated his vest so that whoever relieves him does so with a certain guarantee of security.

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