Jim’s Journal: Aurora resident documents third trip to Ukraine

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Aurora resident Jim Gamache is currently on his third trip to Ukraine. 

He arrived in late March and is volunteering with organizations and connecting with locals during Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia. As he travels, he’s chronicling his journeys for NCTV17, which we’ll be posting as he sends his reports. 

Gamache’s experience in Kharkiv during airstrikes

In the early morning of Thursday, April 4, Russian forces fired drones at a power plant and two apartment buildings in Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine. 

Local officials said four people were killed and 12 were wounded in the attack. Gamache was only blocks away from the strikes.

“We are in Kharkiv… in the shelter, it’s about 5-5:30 a.m.,” said Gamache. “Just had some major explosions here. We were just talking about how close (we) were. Figuring anywhere from two to five kilometers. Power’s out here, at least have cell service for right now. But we’re safe.”

Gamache provided an update on the state of Kharkiv the following week.

“I’m here again reporting out in front of a building where the Kharkiv media hub folks are located,” said Gamache on Thursday. “We don’t have any power, but they’ve got generators working and actually have some wifi service. Even though power’s out, I think for the majority of the city, life goes on.”

Kharkiv has been subject to multiple Russian attacks this year. The city was hit with aerial bombs on Wednesday, March 27, for the first time since 2022.

The April 4 drone strike was followed by a missile strike on Saturday, April 6, and a missile and drone attack on the Trypilska thermal power plant on Thursday, April 11. The facility provides energy for the most populated regions in Ukraine.

Next stop: Kyiv

On Friday, Gamache set out for Ukraine’s capital: Kyiv. He plans to meet with “business people and those focused on humanitarian efforts.”

“It’s about noon here in Ukraine, I’m in a van with a friend Vitaly,” said Gamache. “We are on the road to Kyiv. I decided to provide Vitaly with some company, rather than taking the train in the next day or two. So we’re traveling about a six, seven-hour car ride.”

On the way to Kyiv, Gamache and Vitaly stopped for a meal.

“We’re taking a pit stop, we’re stopping for lunch in the city of Poltava,” said Gamache. “As you can see, you can dine outside the apartment building right behind us. But my friend Vitaly is taking me to a super nice restaurant here. We’re going to eat super tasty food, and we’re probably about four hours from Kyiv.”

Gamache has since arrived in Kyiv.

Jim’s first two trips to Ukraine

Gamache’s first trip to Ukraine took place in May 2023, as he spent four weeks volunteering with a kitchen and Brave to Rebuild, an organization that restores Ukrainian cities and villages.

Gamache returned to Ukraine in September 2023 for another month of service, working with Front Line Kit, an organization in Kharkiv that provides items of need to those around the country.

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