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War Diaries 
A radio amateur in Kyiv...
I took this photo for a post that never got written. In the image are two radios. My oldest and my newest. There are 65 years between the dates of manufacture. 1956 and 2021.
The big one, the Nora Mazurka 56 W940 is the first radio I ever got to play with. It lived at my Grandparents house. My grandad loved it. He was born in Ukraine 1912. At the same time that Marconi was opening the world's first purpose-built radio factory in Chelmsford, England. Some countries still didn’t have radio regulations back then.
My Grandfather was eight years old when the first radio news program was broadcast. But he’d have to wait another 36 years till he could afford to listen to the news on his very own state of the art radio.
When my Grandad bought a more compact shortwave radio in the 70’s he let me play with the Mazurka. It’s a valve receiver receiving 452 - 10700 kHz, covering broadcast, long wave, short wave, plus FM and UHF.
I was about 4 years old when I was allowed to dial the tuning knob myself. The radio already being 20 years old at that point. It would be a few more years before I was allowed to take the back off. Whether he should have let a kid tinker in the back of a valve radio is another thing all together.
My Grandad was an avid short wave listener for as long as I can remember. Even before he went blind. I wish i’d been into amateur radio when he was alive as with his background as an electrician and handyman, he’d have loved to get involved. And I would have loved to have helped him get back in touch with his fellow countryman. There was also his language advantage. As he was a well travelled Ukrainian, he also spoke Russian, Polish, German, Italian and English.
While I was mainly interested in listening to music from around the world, he was the news junky and would always turn to his short wave radio whenever news was breaking. He preferred radio journalism. Free from distracting images, he wanted to picture the events in his own mind and hear the emotion in the voices of the reporters.
"Radio is the theatre of the mind; television is the theatre of the mindless." ~ Steve Allen
The Mazurka pictured above now lives in my attic. It was first replaced with a little Sony ICF-SW20 that my grandad helped me buy. I loved/love that little radio. It came with a clip on retractable wire antenna (since lost) and I took it all over the world. My pocket portal to voices and melodies.
I cherish my continued fascination with all things radio and these magical devices. Ultimately I owe my Grandad for getting me hooked, and every time I hear a Ukrainian on the air I think of him.
I may have mentioned in past emails how much I was glued to the radio when Ukraine was invaded. SSB, FM, AM, I was listening in all the usual places, as well as some new ones. I also had the luxury to be able to watch the news on the TV and online.
I often wondered how Ukrainian radio operators were coping and after the initial ban I was pleased to start hearing that despite the invasion, radio operators were managing to get on air. I think Sergey UT2IF was one of the first I contacted during that time.
Then the other day I heard this wonderful BBC ham radio focused documentary called Call Signs. And everything I just shared above came flooding back. It documents a ham radio operator in Kyiv called Wlad (US7IGN) and how he was coping during the war. Coincidentally Wlad is an old friend of UT2IF. Testament to how radio shrinks the world.
I have linked the documentary above and you can also find it on BBC Sounds but to make sure you really do listen to it, I will drop it here.
After listening I felt compelled to write to Wlad. So dropped him a line with a few questions asking about his life today.
He came straight back to me and told me he is still in Kyiv. And then went on to tell me that since the documentary he mostly communicates with family by phone.
When possible, every couple of months his wife makes the arduous 24 hour bus trip to see him. She then has 24 hours back again. It’s a difficult journey so the kids stay in Poland. The war has taken its toll in so many ways and countless families are struggling with this separation.
Vlad’s son in now the head of the family while they shelter in Poland and Wlad told me of how proud he is of how his son has coped. Of how he quickly learned a new language so he could attend university.
Right after the 2022 invasion Wlad was unable to communicate on his amateur radio because of the transmitting ban. The radio ban seemed crazy to many when there are so many ways to communicate now. But in territories close to military operations, any radio transmissions can be dangerous. What with the need for information control and national security concerns. But the ban only lasted for about a month after the invasion.
Wlad went on to tell me that back in 2014 he didn’t have any decent antennas or high power gear, so he learned morse code. If you are around on 21 MHz he still has regularly QSOs with the UK. I asked him if we might be able to chat with voice and he told me he’d have to find his microphone.
His main radio is the Icom IC-756pro3 and trap GP antenna.
During power cuts he has a few small-capacity batteries. Just enough to listen to the radio or transmit QRP till the power is back on. Electricity blackouts can also mean no internet. So he spends his time reading books and of course, listening to the radio.
I tentatively asked him about Mouse. His daughter’s hamster. I know hamsters don’t live long and wondered if she still kept him company. They can usually live around two years, and as Mouse was born shortly before the new year in 2022, he tells me she is still with him. Still his only companion. But showing signs of age.
She is still able to run around the cage, but her eyes hardly open and her fur has become sparse and dull. He tells me he will be very sad to lose her and hopes she live long enough to see in the new year with him.
With around 10,000 Ukrainian civilians already killed in this war, Wlad knows he is one of the lucky ones and will do what he can to ensure his country can be free.
Wlad also has a blog at www.us7ign.com.
Thanks again to US7IGN for his time. (Якщо ти читаєш це, Владе, будь ласка, передай мою любов твоїй родині та бережися.)
When not writing here, I am writing here.
And thank you for reading. You are some of the more curious people in radio. And I thank you.
73 de Christian G5DOC
“As a boy of 14, at night under the bed sheets, I secretly travelled all around the world, with an ear glued to my shortwave receiver. That way I learned more than during the day at school.” ~ A.J. Beirens
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