Oleksandr Kramarenko 

The man who started the B50 Volunteer community. A man who always has a plan for everything. Today, in the #B50 heroes section, we tell you about Oleksandr Kramarenko, the leader of the training department and organizer of the first rubble removal in the de-occupied cities of Kyiv region.

Sasha believes that every second that Ukrainians do useful things brings victory closer by 2 seconds!

In the interview with Oleksandr, read on:

  • how he organized weapons training for thе Territorial Defense  and reserve in three days in the midst of the war;
  • how he realized that sales and logistics were his calling;
  • about meeting other B50 leaders and his first trips to Irpin;
  • what courses to expect from the B50 Training program.
ПІБKramarenko Oleksandr Oleksandrovych
Містоwas born in Kramatorsk, but almost immediately the family moved to Dnipro. He has been living in Kyiv for the last 11 years.
Вік35 years old, birthday – September 23
Фах, професіяfounder of CF “B50 Volunteers”; works in logistics at KastaPost (part of the Kasta clothing and footwear marketplace)
Хобіcoin collecting (before the war)
Море чи гори?loves our green Carpathians and the openness of the people there 
Спорт дитинстваhe played football professionally for 3 years, wore his hair long, did a lot of tackling, and was nicknamed “Milievskyi” 
Улюблена страва borshch (can be eaten 3-4 times a day)

– Sasha, where were you on February 24? How did you know that russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun?

– I was at home, at about 06:30 my daughter woke me up and said, “Dad, the war has started!” I didn’t have a plan for this. I didn’t know what to do, where the enemy was. It was unexpected for me, but the main thing was my girls…

I went to look for a bomb shelter for them. I found one, but the door was closed. They told me that there was not enough space for them, so I had to keep looking. I was numb from the answer… I ran home…

After the bomb shelter, I planned to go to the military enlistment office. A call from my friends changed everything a bit. They said they were taking girls out of the city and offered to join them. So we left. And before returning to Kyiv, I had already made a plan!

If it’s not a secret, what was your plan?

– First, I had to enroll in the Territorial Defense. At the military registration and enlistment office, they sent me to a strange address, B50. Then my friends told me that this was the address of the Territorial Defense headquarters, which was classified.

I signed up, but from the Territorial Defense they never called, so the next step was to volunteer. I was not accepted as a volunteer either…

The third step is to donate blood. I failed the first time, it was no longer needed. 

So all my three points went down the drain. I started to feel depressed. I was very upset and felt useless to anyone.

But little by little something started to work out! I still donated blood, made a Google form for the Kyiv City Clinical Emergency Hospital for those wishing to become donors, which I sent to all the chats in the district. I was on duty at the checkpoint several times!

I realized that I had to find something to do for myself.

The B50 Volunteer community started with you. In the second week of the war, you organized a large-scale training on weapons handling and tactical medicine. What helped you not to give up after so many rejections and decide to organize your own project?

A lot of people signed up for the Territorial Defense, and the situation was a little nervous – there had already been skirmishes with kadyrov’s men, explosions, and the threat of encirclement on the radio. We had no weapons, and even if we did, what would we do with them?

In one of the Territorial Defense chats, reservist Yura suggested that we do some training for ourselves. I replied: “Let’s do it”. Yura made a chat, I made a plan, and we started moving. None of us had ever held a weapon or organized training before, but who said it would be easy.

The first step was to find AKs (Kalashnikovs), the second was to find a room, and the third was to find instructors. At each stage, there were only rejections and rejections… And so on, day after day… I realized that it might not work out, but we did not want to give up… And gradually something began to become clear.

It took only 3 days from the plan to the launch of the first lesson!)

We posted a questionnaire to fill out, and in 40 minutes we gathered more people than we planned to teach – as many as 380+ people! So later we organized additional groups and worked beyond our capacity!

There were classes on AKs (assembling/disassembling the assault rifle, general information), tactics (how to shoot in different positions, commands, working at a checkpoint, carrying weapons) and tactical medicine (what are the combat zones and what to do in each of them).

We are the first reserve of the Territorial Defense to organize a course in AK and tactics on our own. The course was attended by 650+ people, and we conducted more than 70 training sessions. Later we found out that there had been only unsuccessful attempts before us.

We need to thank everyone who joined and helped – both at the beginning and later. Special thanks to the instructors who were tired but did their job.

– How did it happen that you decided to work in rubble removal? Because learning the basics of military affairs and working with a rake are completely different directions…

– I had to move somewhere. There was still time before the next stream and I didn’t want to waste it. My wife suggested that I go to cities in the Kyiv region to clear the rubble. I made a list of cities and started to make arrangements.

The first was Irpin. We gathered 20 people for the test trip, 20 on the second day, and a little more on the third.

How did you assemble the team? How was everything organized during the first trips? What is similar/different with the current volunteer trips?

– People came along on their own: some out of curiosity to see and take photos, and some to help. We met near the Epicenter (on Bratyslavska Street, next to the headquarters of the B50 Territorial Defense, from which the charity organization got its name). We drove in a caravan along a previously agreed route. We would leave when everyone was ready. Something worked out, something did not. Often there were not enough cars. We looked for one…

In the early days, we were forbidden to take girls, but Adel defended this opportunity!

You mentioned Adel, another one of the first volunteers of B50. Do you remember how you met the current team and volunteers of the foundation?

– We met Adel just before the start of the training. She, like Denys and I, is the leader of her twelve of Territorial defense reserve. Adel joined the first trip to Irpin, although she had already helped out several times during the first year of training.

I remember Denys as the person who helped us find a place for the first training, helped with the posts, arranged a chat with the instructors, and then with the schedules for the trips.

But Yura was the first. He was also good at helping with tables and organization.

During this time, I used up my Mivina supply (brand of instant noodles – ed.) and decided to go to my girls for the first time. Here I would like to thank Adel and Denys (there was also Illia, Antonina, who became an accountant, and several other people joined in) – they just replaced me and were very actively involved in the process. I have to thank a lot of people, many helped, traveled, borrowed or bought tools, etc.

Later, we decided to officially register a charitable foundation to make it easier to pass checkpoints. “B50” is different from other organizations. Because we have several areas of focus: rubble removal, training, making camouflage nets and trench candles, helping to find ammunition, and I think there will be more))) We formed friendly relations with other foundations and helped each other without competing.

– We haven’t seen you among the volunteers on our working trips for a long time. And your studies have just resumed. How are you living now? What do you do now?

– Unfortunately, I had to move to another city very quickly for a while on important business. But even there I found a “job” for myself – ammunition, ammunition, ammunition.

Now I am not traveling with volunteers, but we have started training again, but only in tactical medicine. The plans and ideas are incredible! We have already started implementing some new things.

We held the first lesson on tactical medicine. I also want to teach AK and tactics, mine discipline. And let the rest of the courses be a pleasant surprise)

I know you came to the public sector from business. Who are you by profession? Where do you work?

– Most of the time I worked as a sales manager in logistics companies. I managed to work for Nova Poshta, Ukrposhta, Justin, and others. Now I work at KastaPost. This is one of the Kasta companies (a marketplace leader in the sale of clothing and footwear). I hold the position of Head Of Product (that is, I built the product and now I sell all the services that Kasta has). Because sales are something that should somehow pull Ukrainian businesses out.

I realized that sales was my thing at the start, when I was working in the market. I was selling movies and cartoons. One day, some guys came to me, like hoodlums, and said, “Do you have any porn?” We didn’t sell it, because it was a banned video (not only a fine, but also a felony). I answered: “Guys, look, why do you need this thing? Well, you’ll watch, you’ll want some kind of development, and what kind of development can there be if you’re two guys? Take this novelty from the stand and invite some girls you know. They will realize that you are normal guys and maybe you will have normal relationships with girls.” I tried to speak their “language,” with their accent. The guys waved their heads, saying it was a good idea, turned around and left. I didn’t understand why: I put my heart and soul into getting them interested, and they left? A few hours later, the hoodlums returned, gave me 200 hryvnias and said, “Please, give us two new items! We’ll give Dimon some also.” And then I realized that I was doing very, very well with sales!

The first company I sold services for was MTS Ukraine. Then I wanted something more interesting, and I was offered to work at Nova Poshta. I realized that it would be interesting, it’s a big company that even my grandmother knows about. I generally like companies with a challenge!

I joined Ukrposhta because Ihor Smelyansky, the company’s CEO, had just appeared there. I thought it was a patriotic idea to work for a state-owned company, even though the salary was lower. It was harder to persuade a client to cooperate with you there. I realized I had enough and moved to Justin. It was a startup back then, and before the war, the company was already big!

Now is the time when many people are not doing well with sales, so in my free time I help to bring products to marketplaces. I help with contracts, prices, photos. I also help my friends sell their goods and services. Sometimes with my hands, and sometimes at the level of an idea.

– What do you think B50 should do in the future? What will happen to the rubble removal when late fall and winter arrive?

– How do you come up with interesting projects? You see that there is a problem and start solving it. We had such a problem with training and with the consequences of the invasion.

The headquarters already has some ideas. I think we will surprise with our creativity again.))

How do you see the future of Ukraine?

– Ukraine is the No. 1 European country in terms of technological development. Everyone travels to our resorts in Crimea, and children learn the right history about their heroes at school. People from the United States and around the world come to study at our technological universities. We are the best country in construction and the first to mass-produce aircraft of various sizes, our “Mriya” is back in the sky, and Ukraine is the safest and most developed country in the world.

And now – from the sky to the ground… Who wants to/can join our big family? Here are the links to our groups. And remember that by doing a good deed for at least one second, you bring the Great Victory closer by two seconds!

The interview team:

  • Interviewer – Nataliia Hryniuk
  • Editor – Kateryna Lehka
  • Translator – Anastasiia Lypchak