“I see more value in the volunteer work”. Pavlo Bondarenko – about war and “Radio Podil”

Pavlo Bondarenko about how war has impacted his life and the life of podcast community “Radio Podil”.

Pavlo Bondarenko about how war has impacted his life and the life of podcast community “Radio Podil”. 

Independent podcast community “Radio Podil” has stopped its operation since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russian Federation into Ukraine. The co-creator of the community Pavlo Bondarenko tells about how the war has impacted his life, why he has stopped producing podcasts for now, how “Radio Podil” became the “factory without its workers” and what questions war has posed before him. 

Our conversation is recorded in the space that Pavlo had rented for the operation of “Radio Podil” not so long ago. Here podcasts were recorded, team and community meetings were held. If before there were tables with recording equipment and sound proofing on the walls, now there are shelves of drones and active headsets, boxes which contain anything from reflector sights and thermal image cameras to flashlights and scotch tape. Now it’s a volunteer hub where Pavlo, his girlfriend, and his mother work and live. 

You can financially support the Ukrainian army through Pavlo and his colleagues — follow the link for details. 

This article is a retelling of the conversation held as a part of an episode of “NeRadio” podcast. 

You can read this text in Ukrainian as well.

Until February 24th “Radio Podil” was in the state of conscious madness. 

Meaning that I knew that the war was coming and spend two months preparing for it, but for RP (Radio Podil) we were preparing four new podcasts, going through website redesign and relaunch. There were lots of ideas on how to transform the organization from podcast-centric to community-centric. We were planning to make podcasts as only one of our products. At the same time, it was important for me to manage as much as possible before the war begun: archive everything that we could and show the most of what was going on inside our heads. Currently, because these podcasts are truly irrelevant, they gather dust on hard drives and cloud storage. I plan on showing them only to the patrons of RP that continue to support us. I’m currently going through a big internal conflict about the future of the community.

Our idea was to develop on the basis of community and trust. Meaning that people financially support the source of entertainment, information and meaning in their lives. The reference point of normalcy of sorts that helps them to navigate the world. And at the same time affirm to them that everything is okay, and they are fine, and maybe it’s the world that’s a little peculiar and not them. We were planning to build it by presenting objective information as well as opinion-editorials. We brainstormed, experimented and had plans to work towards a particular newsletter.

Furthermore, we were to become a small media company honed into the interests of the community and our geolocation, the context of Kyiv and the circle we are part of. We had an idea to grow the proactive position of members of the community through it, to plant the idea that you can not only consume, but also create. It all was programmed into the system where the person goes through all the presupposed steps also growing loyalty to our company and paying us more money, simultaneously developing soft skills that we would like to see in people. 

Currently, “Radio Podil” is a factory with all its machinery in place but without the workers. It’s a factory in the perfect condition put on the stand-by, it doesn’t produce anything and for that reason it’s starting to slowly decay (as anything left unattended). 

Everyone has moved out, everyone is safe. For some people, this phase of war caught them while they were abroad, so they stayed and help from there. At the beginning, we messaged everyone to check if everything was okay. I don’t go back to the topic of RP because I see more value in the volunteer work I do now. 

For the first three days I was totally stumped. I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what’ll happen next, but I was ready for different scenarios.

Theoretically speaking, I was ready to walk tens of kilometers. But when strangers started messaging, “hi, how can I send you money?”, I thought that I’m being irresponsible because of my stupor. If people trust me, I need to use it and do something. I had RP office that turned into a volunteer hub. It’s a warehouse and service center where we set up all the devices and equipment. We don’t simply give away the boxes, we check, configure and upgrade everything. The space has also become a logistic hub because we have a network of different volunteers from different cities that use this space in Kyiv. 

We have a need for the systematization, as we did with RP before: in the beginning we simply leap forward, and then we have to think it through. 

Pavlo Bondarenko in the Radio Podil studio

I gather my strength and try to normalize my routine to avoid the never-ending groundhog day. Now I sleep on the mattress I took off the wall of the studio because I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend every night at home for now. 

Less comfort, more work — that’s why currently I have no energy for producing intellectual work. 90% of video content I’ve watched before this phase of the war annoys me. I don’t even come close to podcasts because my ability to focus on anything, my attention span is really short. Now I do monotone work at most about 30 minutes a day. And only few times in several weeks when we have a big delivery of drones or radio sets. It’s actually my favorite time: at night when everyone is gone and nobody’s calling me, I turn on the music on the speaker and simply open the box, take something out, put it together and repeat 15 or 20 times. It’s the only time that I could listen to the podcasts. But I’m so overwhelmed by information that I just can’t do it. 

When you are in this state, it’s hard to understand that there are people that are doing lots of monotone work and would like to listen to something. Because I just mindlessly stare at the YouTube for ten minutes to calm myself down. My way of life has changed radically, and it’s a way for me to relax a little. That’s why I can’t see myself as the person that has a weekly YouTube show or a podcast. I thought instead that it would be smart to start gathering the material. Basically, as it once was with “Dostup”/”Access” (Pavlo’s podcast about technology and society — editor’s note). It was born from the period of observation. And maybe it makes sense to start systematically taking notes, writing down introspection and with time it can grow into a story. 

I feel like it’s not cool to introspect right now. There is enough introspection going on. 

There is a fine line between attention-whoring and introspection. I often feel as if there is too much of myself, I don’t think I have an intrinsic right to speak on these topics, especially abstract enough, to be understood by the wide audience. 

As a matter of fact, the war is the question: what am I actually doing with my life? What do I want to do with my life? And I realized that I have no concrete answer to that, as I had before this phase of war began. I feel the weight of expectations, because people around me are used to me being the voice of reason and moderation. They knew me as a person that speaks to the point, can calm you down a little, help you unwind even if it’s a total fucking disaster. I feel the pressure, but don’t completely understand if I want to. I have not a slightest idea what I want to do with my life. 

Now the new norm is when you make plans with five people to do something during the day, and they all arrive in 10 minutes. I started to steer away from that and thought that I need to have a routine, understand a rough schedule, have some time for myself again. 

From the point of psychology, I think that it’s important for everyone to understand that to stabilize we need to build the new routine and not go back to the pre-war Kyiv one. 

Generally speaking, we need to actively internalize that the strike can come at any time and not avoid thinking about the destroyed houses. Admit, that it is what it is and still try to realize your plans.

The biggest plan I have is three weeks away we have a goal of buying a drone, and now you can only buy them by ordering in advance. And you do all of this with a grab bag near to have an opportunity to leave at any moment and meet any new fucking disaster geared up and ready. 

Original text

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