Adding to the list of individual acts of incredible bravery and dedication, in response to the ongoing tragedies triggered by the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, comes another. One heroic British-Ukrainian man has helped rescue dozens of the most vulnerable Ukrainians fleeing the conflict—including the disabled elderly, pregnant women and even a newborn baby—in none other than a London black cab.
Roman Tymchyshyn, 31, began his efforts on 28 February and has since rescued around 80 people, transporting them across the Polish border in his black cab—clocking over 2,800 miles so far in the taxi while travelling up to 300 miles per day. Tymchyshyn, who resides in Portadown, Northern Ireland, originally heralds from Lviv in Western Ukraine and decided to make the trip back to his birth country when the war broke out to help in any way he could.
The 31-year-old software engineer took a month off work to aid in the transportation of people escaping the crisis with his wife, Ulyana Vovk. Tymchyshyn told the PA news agency, “My employer is very generous and has allowed me one month’s paid leave so I relocated to Ukraine mainly to help people evacuate.”
“Until they cross the border or reach their final destination, the passengers feel frightened but they are sometimes more relaxed when they are gathered together with different families as I form groups of random people,” he continued, “They discuss their stories and cry together about the losses or talk about their family members who have been split up.”
The classic car enthusiast described his black cab as “comfortable and spacious” enough to help transport those who are disabled and carry up to six passengers. “I do all of that currently using my London taxi daily (as [an] owner of [a] few classic cars) this car has access for disabled people but no good for injured people (no room and not fast enough),” the software engineer wrote on his fundraising campaign for a new vehicle.
“When you see things like this happening on your TV screen it’s one thing but when you experience it in person, it’s heart-breaking,” he continued, “Very old people are scared of the bombing and airplanes as some of them experienced World War Two… most of them don’t talk but pray while I’m driving for two hours.”
The driver, along with his sister Mariya, have also set up a fundraising campaign to raise money for a larger vehicle to help transport displaced people. “With my local Ukrainian/volunteer community we decided to raise some money for 4×4 SUV which we can use on the battlefield (to be driven by someone else not myself personally) to evacuate injured civilians. Used cars in the UK are more affordable and we have a green light at [the] Polish/Ukrainian border who can let us in without paying any taxes and duties (humanitarian help),” he wrote on the fundraising page.
If you wish to contribute and help their cause get their target of £8,000, you can donate here. Tymchyshyn also promises to share reports and photographic evidence of this progress.
On Tuesday 1 March at 4 am, Kyiv-based cybersecurity company Cyber Unit Technologies officially launched ‘Fuck Hack Russia’, a global ‘hackathon’ calling for volunteers to help expose Russian software vulnerabilities. In exchange, the company is promising $100,000 in cryptocurrency to the best online attacks conducted against Russian websites.
The mastermind behind this unprecedented cyber effort is Cyber Unit’s co-founder Yegor Aushev, who called it a “decentralised cyber army [drawn] from the whole world.” He says over 500 people—including Ukrainians who work in the country’s technology sector as well as outsiders—have come forward so far to volunteer. Aushev’s firm is known for working with Ukraine’s government on the defence of critical infrastructure.
This initiative follows the highly unusual call on Saturday 26 February, made by Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, for global volunteers from the country’s hacker underground to help protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber spying missions against Russian troops—forming an “IT Army.” Fedorov added that the army in question would be organising on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, where volunteers would be able to complete “operational tasks.”
The government’s effort, which even has its own Twitter account, is openly calling for hackers to work with the international hacktivist collective Anonymous. The group has also joined forces with a band of Belarusian activists called the Cyber-Partisans whose cyberattack on Belarus’ train network allegedly disrupted Russian troop movements into Ukraine—the first time ransomware has been used this way if proved true.
Reporting on the topic, Sifted added, “Other hacking groups include the Georgian Hackers Society, whose members are swapping disruption tips on social hub Discord. ‘We are ghosts attacking Russia and Russian occupiers,’” one anonymous member told the publication.
While it’s unclear so far how effective the community-driven cyberattacks will be at slowing down Russia, the message of resistance they promote has been helpful in itself for Ukrainians. At the very least, the defensive cyberattacks will “certainly cause annoyance and frustration,” Tim Stevens, director of the Cyber Security Research Group (CSRG) at King’s College London, told Sifted. “What we have not seen so obviously [before] is [the] mobilisation of domestic hacker and IT communities in defence of a sovereign nation.”
Cyber Unit Technologies is also calling for donations to grow its reward pot.