Ukrainian soldiers are reinvesting their own salaries back into the armed forces for which they fight, through charity auctions they attend while spending time away from the front lines.

 I can help my brothers in arms with all they need,” a 52-year-old Special Operations Forces senior officer told Kyiv Post during a Kyiv event earlier this monh called “NaShapku.”

 The officer, nicknamed "The Nine”, brought along a Kraków Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt for the auction and purchased a KISS jacket for his daughter.

 “The t-shirt from Kraków is mine,” he says. “And I also donated some money, because I have to donate – we must help.”

NaShapku has been a weekly occurrence since 2015 and is the brainchild of Sonya Sotnyk, well-known host of the ROKS radio station morning show Kamtugeza.

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 In Ukrainian, NaShapku means "into the hat" – a musician's tradition of collecting money while busking on the streets.

 For the weekly events, Sotnyk gathers together friends, soldiers and Kyivans to raise money for a variety or causes.

“We started to do NaShapku in 2015,” the 47-year-old tells Kyiv Post. “There was this refugee center in Podil with a nice playground. A lot of children came there with their mothers.

 “So, we decided to entertain the children somehow. One of my friends constructed a stage and I remembered I had a lot of friends who are musicians. And that's how it started.

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“Now it is my big responsibility!”

 In 2015, refugees from Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions came to Kyiv dressed only in what they had time to put on before escaping. All the money raised was used to help them. Sotnyk focused particularly on helping refugee children with disabilities, along with those who needed palliative care.

 “Then came the COVID-19 epidemic,” Sotnyk continues, “and we had the largest fleet of free oxygen concentrators for Ukrainians. And now it’s a war. Now it’s our soldiers and tactical medicine for them. And palliative patients were still there."

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 Every NaShapku event starts with an auction. Sotnyk presents the auction lots, creates a starting price and the bidding begins.

The auction featured the two items mentioned above donated by “The Nine”, a bottle of Ukrainian pepper “horilka” (a Ukrainian word for vodka), various special postage stamps (Ukraine’s national postal service, Ukrposhta, regularly cooperates with NaShapku events), a hand-made scarf, a painting, a Mariupol steel bracelet and a copy of Time magazine featuring the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

 All lots were sold for more than 13,000 Hr (approximately $350).

Another soldier attending the event was Oleksa Sokil, a 45-year-old military chaplain and ex-commander of the anti-tank platoon of the battalion "Donbas-Ukraine."

 “I've been visiting NaShapku for many years with my family,” he tells Kyiv Post. “Even my wedding took place at one of the events and the person who is the driving force here – Sonya Sotnyk – is also the wife of my commander from the Donbas battalion, whom I respect and value a lot.

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 “War creates this type of family when the people you fight with become family to you, and their family also becomes your family. And we have such a big family here.

 “So it is very simple – when you are part of the family, you don't just keep and count your money if your mother or sister needs help – you help. Every soldier has a family. And today, all our country is fighting the war.”

 Sotnyk agrees that the events are about so much more than just raising money. For her, they are also about “uniting people” at a time when many Ukrainians feel so dislocated both mentally and physically due to the ongoing war.

 “You realize you are entering a place with your people where everyone wants to hug you, and you want to hug everyone,” she says. “People can look into each other's eyes and understand they are not alone.

 “And every Thursday, there is hope that you are not alone… you come here and immerse yourself. Just make it to next Thursday."

 Sotnyk and her big family collected 68,700 Hr, 50 euros, 20 shekels and 1.5 Romanian lei into the hat. They did it with the help of tango.

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 Next Thursday, it will be "Hedgehogs laugh" – a rock band from the liberated Kherson.

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